Democrats vow court victories won't slow impeachment timeline

Democrats won a crucial court ruling this week in their impeachment inquiry into President TrumpDonald TrumpRomney: 'Pretty sure' Trump would win 2024 GOP nomination if he ran for president Pence huddles with senior members of Republican Study Committee Trump says 'no doubt' Tiger Woods will be back after accident MORE, but they're sending a warning to the White House that even legal victories will not slow down their hard-charging investigation into Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.

Behind House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffBiden administration open to restarting nuclear talks with Iran Kinzinger calls for people with info on Trump to come forward House Democrats renew push for checks on presidential pardons MORE (D-Calif.), Democratic impeachment investigators have laid out a brisk timeline to release a report on their findings shortly after Congress returns to Washington next week from their Thanksgiving break, shifting the process to the Judiciary Committee, which is charged with drafting impeachment articles.

That schedule remains unchanged despite Monday's ruling by a federal judge that former White House counsel Don McGahn must testify before Congress, according to lawmakers and aides.


The Department of Justice (DOJ) quickly notified the court it planned to appeal the ruling, and Democrats have made clear they won't allow a long drawn out legal battle to hamper their timetable, which seems set on sending articles of impeachment to the Senate before Christmas.

"This will take weeks and weeks. So I think that we will not wait," Rep. Adriano EspaillatAdriano de Jesus Espaillat CabralLawmakers remember actress Cicely Tyson Over 40 lawmakers sign letter urging Merrick Garland to prioritize abolishing death penalty The Hill's Morning Report - Biden asks Congress to expand largest relief response in U.S. history MORE (D-N.Y.), a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, told CNN following the McGahn ruling.

Democrats had subpoenaed McGahn in May, seeking his insights into allegations that Trump had obstructed former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerWhy a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel CNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump MORE's probe into Russian interference in the 2016 elections. Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia ruled Monday that McGahn must comply — essentially asserting that congressional subpoenas eclipse White House claims of executive immunity.

On its face, the decision could compel the testimony of a long list of other prominent White House officials who have refused to cooperate in the Democrats' investigation, including Energy Secretary Rick PerryRick PerryOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Five things to know about Texas's strained electric grid | Biden honeymoon with green groups faces tests | Electric vehicles are poised to aid Biden in climate fight Five things to know about Texas's strained electric grid Rick Perry: 'Texans would be without electricity for longer' to 'keep the federal government out' MORE, former national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonTrump offered North Korea's Kim a ride home on Air Force One: report Key impeachment figure Pence sticks to sidelines Bolton lawyer: Trump impeachment trial is constitutional MORE and acting White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyMick MulvaneyOMB nominee gets hearing on Feb. 9 Republicans now 'shocked, shocked' that there's a deficit Financial firms brace for Biden's consumer agency chief MORE. But the DOJ's appeal is an indication that any flood of new witnesses won't happen overnight, and the White House is already dismissing Jackson's ruling as merely an early battle in a much longer fight.

"This is one judge, an Obama-appointed judge. This is not unexpected but it’s also not sustainable,” White House counselor Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayGeorge Conway calls for thorough Lincoln Project probe: 'The lying has to stop' Claudia Conway advances on 'American Idol,' parents Kellyanne, George appear The swift death of the media darlings known as the Lincoln Project MORE told reporters Tuesday morning. “I think that opinion, frankly, butts up against long-standing precedent by administrations that are both Democratic and Republican … who have long asserted these privileges."


As another sign that the dam of new witnesses isn't set to break anytime soon, Bolton's lawyer, Charles Cooper, quickly weighed in on the McGahn ruling to say it doesn't apply in cases related to national security. Cooper is also representing Charles Kupperman, Bolton's former deputy, who has also refused to testify pending a separate suit brought by Kupperman, asking if Congress's subpoenas or the White House claims of immunity hold more legal sway.

"[A]ny passing references in the McGahn decision to Presidential communications concerning national security matters are not authoritative on the validity of testimonial immunity for close White House advisors, like Dr. Kupperman, whose responsibilities are focused exclusively on providing information and advice to the President on national security," Cooper said Tuesday in a statement.

With that in mind, Cooper added, Kupperman is awaiting the outcome of his case, which is set to have its first courtroom hearing Dec. 10.

Democrats aren't waiting even that long. Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiFive big takeaways on the Capitol security hearings Curator estimates Capitol art damage from mob totals K Democrats want businesses to help get LGBT bill across finish line MORE (D-Calif.) has made plain that she deems the legal fights to be yet another stonewalling tactic by the White House — one that could emerge as a separate article of obstruction as Democrats weigh specific charges against the president.

"They keep taking it to court and, no, we're not going to wait till the courts decide," Pelosi told reporters last week. "That might be information that's available to the Senate in terms of how far we go and when we go. But ... we can't wait for that because again, it's a technique. It's obstruction of justice."


Democrats, over the course of their weeks-long investigation, heard from 17 diplomats and national security officials behind closed doors — many of them under subpoena — and a dozen of those witnesses testified more recently in public hearings before Schiff's Intelligence Committee. On Monday, Schiff sent a letter to Democrats vowing to produce a report in early December and send the process to the Judiciary Committee, which will decide if impeachment articles are warranted.

Trump's Republican allies have argued throughout the process that most of those witnesses are unreliable, since much of their testimony hinged on secondhand accounts of Trump's handling of foreign policy in Kyiv. And some Democrats have acknowledged that the McGahn ruling holds the enticement that more firsthand witnesses might be compelled to appear, thereby bolstering their case.

"It sounds inviting," Rep. Mike QuigleyMichael (Mike) Bruce QuigleyOn The Money: Biden signals he'll move forward on COVID-19 relief without GOP | Economy adds 49K jobs in January | Minimum wage push sparks Democratic divisions House bill introduced to give gyms B in relief Biden reverses Trump's freeze on .4 billion in funds MORE (D-Ill.), a member of the Intelligence Committee, told CNN.

He quickly added, however, that while Democrats are open to hearing more voices, McGahn's case won't slow down the timeline previously outlined by Schiff.

"We can do more than one thing at the same time," he said.

Espaillat delivered a similar message.

"We would love to hear from McGahn or Bolton, of course. I think they have evidence to share with us," he said. "But at the end of the day, I think we'll package the entire body of evidence and we'll send it to Jerry NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerNadler presses DOJ to prosecute all involved in Capitol riot Pelosi names 9 impeachment managers Republicans gauge support for Trump impeachment MORE and the Judiciary Committee."

Morgan Chalfant contributed.