National Security

House chairman to press ahead for McGahn testimony in new year

New York TImes/Pool

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) is not giving up on his efforts to secure testimony from former White House counsel Don McGahn.

In a memorandum issued Wednesday, Nadler informed committee members that he plans to reauthorize a subpoena to compel McGahn to testify in the next congressional term, a step he must take as the House flips from the 116th to 117th Congress in January.

Nadler argued in the memo, a copy of which was obtained by The Hill, that testimony from McGahn is “essential” to understanding a series of important issues related to the Department of Justice (DOJ) and FBI. McGahn served as a key witness during former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

“Numerous questions and concerns remain unanswered regarding the President’s apparent interference with the activities and operations of these agencies,” Nadler said in part. “Mr. McGahn’s testimony remains essential in the 117th Congress to inform the Committee’s understanding of these important issues so that it may properly consider legislative responses and other proposals to restore historical norms going forward.”

“Pursuant to an anticipated delegation of authority from the House, I expect to promptly reissue the Committee subpoena to Mr. McGahn to ensure this Committee’s litigation and corresponding legislative and oversight efforts continue uninterrupted,” he added.

While House Democrats subpoenaed McGahn in April 2019, the Trump administration moved to block the testimony, leading Democrats to pursue the matter in court.

A lawyer for McGahn, William Burck, has argued that his client would follow a White House order for current and former aides not to testify unless a court judge ruled otherwise.

Democrats have argued that if the case is ruled favorably, a domino effect will occur in which former Trump officials who had refused to testify at the request of the White House would be compelled. A win in the McGahn case would reinforce the House’s power to subpoena officials in the White House, after the congressional orders were blatantly disregarded during the Trump administration. 

The move also further highlights how Democrats plan to continue their investigations into the current administration, even after President Trump leaves office. 

McGahn was considered a key witness after the conclusion of the Mueller probe, which found that Trump had ordered the former White House counsel to remove the special counsel — an order he refused to carry out due to fear it would trigger a major leadership purge at the Department of Justice.

McGahn instead drafted a resignation letter, which he ultimately did not submit.

The order to remove Mueller came after the president discovered that the federal investigation was not just examining Russian interference and possible coordination between members of the Trump campaign and Russia, but also possible obstruction by the president following his decision to fire then-FBI Director James Comey, who was overseeing the probe.

Nadler moved to subpoena McGahn shortly after Mueller released his findings on his years-long investigation into Russian interference during the 2016 presidential election and whether there was a coordination between the Trump campaign and Moscow. 

Currently, the fight for McGahn’s testimony is still being decided in the D.C. Circuit Court, with oral arguments for the latest round of litigation set for February.

Republicans have long accused Democrats of seeking to rehash the Mueller report in an attempt to damage the president heading into 2020, but now, following the election, they argue it is a sign of their ongoing “obsession” with Trump.

Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio), the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, protested the move and expressed disappointment that Nadler would immediately move to issue a unilateral subpoena without GOP agreement before the 117th Congress begins.

“For too long, you have allowed your oddly personal obsession with President Trump to cloud the Committee’s work. It is time that you stop,” Jordan said in a letter responding to Nadler’s memorandum, which The Hill also obtained. “For all these reasons, I object to you reissuing a subpoena to Mr. McGahn and request an in-person business meeting in the 117th Congress.” 

Jordan also highlighted that there will be a different makeup of Congress next year, after Republicans gained House seats in the election, narrowing Democrats’ majority.

“The Committee’s membership will be different next year and our new Members should be allowed to evaluate the wisdom of this subpoena and your broader litigation goals and strategy,” Jordan added. 

Nadler maintained in a statement Wednesday evening that he has “no intention of relitigating the Mueller report” but argued that McGahn’s testimony is needed for the panel to better understand issues involving the DOJ and FBI so that it “may properly consider legislative responses and other proposals to prevent future such interference, and to restore historical norms going forward.”

Updated at 6:20 p.m. 

Tags Don McGahn Donald Trump James Comey Jerrold Nadler Jerry Nadler Jim Jordan Mueller probe Robert Mueller

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