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House lawyers press court to enforce subpoena against Trump aide

House lawyers press court to enforce subpoena against Trump aide
© Greg Nash

Lawyers for the House Judiciary Committee on Friday urged a federal appeals court to enforce a subpoena against former White House counsel Don McGahn, saying the aide’s testimony could give Democrats a basis for new impeachment articles against President TrumpDonald John TrumpVenezuela judge orders prison time for 6 American oil executives Trump says he'll leave White House if Biden declared winner of Electoral College The Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation MORE

While McGahn’s anticipated testimony would largely fall on the margins of the articles of impeachment that last month passed the House, lawyers for the Democratic-led committee said his evidence could shed new light on misconduct by Trump.

“We remain here because of the impeachment,” Megan Barbero, an attorney for the committee said during oral arguments before a D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals panel.

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Barbero read from a Dec. 23 brief to the D.C. Circuit Court requesting McGahn’s testimony.

“If McGahn’s testimony produces new evidence supporting the conclusion that President Trump committed impeachable offenses that are not covered by the articles approved by the House, the committee will proceed accordingly — including, if necessary, by considering whether to recommend new articles of impeachment,” she said. 

The argument marks Democrats’ latest attempt to persuade the court that concealed evidence related to former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE’s investigation has a role in their ongoing impeachment efforts, even after two House-passed articles made only passing reference to conduct covered in the nearly two-year Russia probe.  

More broadly, House lawyers also believe that McGahn’s firsthand account of Trump’s alleged obstruction of Mueller could help to demonstrate that the two impeachment articles — abuse of power related to Trump’s Ukraine dealings and obstruction of Congress — reflect a wider pattern of presidential misconduct.  

For his part, Trump has dismissed Democrats’ impeachment efforts as baseless. 

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In a separate case on Friday, another panel of D.C. Circuit Court judges was slated to hear arguments over House Democrats’ efforts to obtain secret grand jury materials stemming from Mueller’s investigation. That probe focused on Moscow’s 2016 election interference and possible collusion with the Trump campaign, as well as the president’s alleged obstruction of justice.  

Like in McGahn’s case, House Judiciary Committee lawyers arguing for the Mueller materials said in a court filing last week that the grand jury evidence could help Democrats decide whether to recommend additional articles of impeachment against Trump.

The three-judge panel presiding over McGahn’s case is weighing whether to enforce a subpoena from the House Judiciary Committee in April that the White House has sought to block. 

The Justice Department, on behalf of the White House, appealed to the D.C. Circuit Court after a lower court judge ruled in November that McGahn must comply with the subpoena.

In her ruling, U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, an Obama appointee, rejected the Trump administration’s argument that McGahn has “absolute immunity” from complying with House Democrats’ subpoena. 

The Judiciary Committee has long considered McGahn a key witness in Mueller’s examination of 10 "episodes" of possible obstruction of justice by Trump. Mueller’s report found "substantial evidence" that Trump leaned on McGahn to fire the special counsel amid his investigation into foreign interference in the presidential election.