McGahn to sit for closed-door interview with House Democrats
Former White House counsel Don McGahn will sit for a closed-door interview with House Democrats as part of an agreement to end a nearly two-year legal battle between the Trump White House and Congress.
The Department of Justice and House lawyers submitted a joint court filing late Wednesday outlining the terms of the agreement and asking a federal appeals court to put the long-running case on hold.
Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which issued the subpoena in April 2019, hailed the settlement on Wednesday as an important step to ending a Trump era marked by the executive branch’s stiff resistance to congressional oversight.
“When the former President vowed to fight ‘all of the subpoenas’ aimed at his Administration, he began a dangerous campaign of unprecedented obstruction. We begin to bring that era of obstruction to an end today,” Nadler said in a statement.
“The law requires that when there is a dispute in court between the legislative and executive branches, the two must work in good faith to find a compromise—and I am pleased that we have reached an arrangement that satisfies our subpoena, protects the Committee’s constitutional duty to conduct oversight in the future, and safeguards sensitive executive branch prerogatives,” he added.
An attorney who has represented McGahn in the past did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment.
The terms of the agreement require Trump’s former top White House attorney to sit for an interview that will be closed to the press and the public. According to the agreement, a transcription of the interview will be released soon after.
Among those who will be present for the interview are attorneys for Democrats and Republicans on the Judiciary Committee, a lawyer representing McGahn, and representatives from the Justice Department.
A court filing submitted Tuesday night said that Trump would not be a party to the settlement.
The agreement stipulates that the scope of McGahn’s interview will be limited to information contained in or related to former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
The settlement brings an end to a long-running legal saga that has wound its way through the federal courts and held far-reaching implications for Congress’s ability to conduct oversight of the executive branch.
The committee first issued its subpoena for McGahn’s testimony in April 2019 as part of an investigation into whether Trump’s conduct during the Mueller probe amounted to obstruction of justice.
The Trump White House directed McGahn not to comply with the subpoena, asserting broad legal immunity from congressional investigative demands and prompting the House to file a federal lawsuit to force his testimony.
A district court judge sided with the House in late 2019, rejecting the White House’s legal arguments and ruling that “presidents are not kings.”
But the lawsuit became bogged down on appeal, with a three-judge panel issuing a pair of rulings that found that the House did not have the legal means to enforce its subpoena in court.
The first of those rulings was overturned by the full appeals court last year, and the second was set to be relitigated later this month.
If the three-judge panel’s decision were to stand, it would render House subpoenas of the executive branch effectively unenforceable.
Court watchers had been waiting to see whether the Biden administration would seek to walk back the broad legal arguments about executive authority that were pushed in the Trump era.
According to the court filing submitted Wednesday, the DOJ said that it believes the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals was right to block the House’s subpoena, but that it would endorse a motion to have the previous rulings vacated in order to bring the lawsuit to an end.
Updated 10:35 p.m.