Democrats ask judge to force McGahn to comply with subpoena

Lawyers for the House Judiciary Committee urged a federal judge on Thursday to force former White House counsel Don McGahn to testify before Congress about President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP divided over impeachment trial strategy Official testifies that Bolton had 'one-on-one meeting' with Trump over Ukraine aid Louisiana governor wins re-election MORE’s possible obstruction of justice, arguing that his refusal to comply is harming House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry.

Democrats’ counsel said that even though McGahn’s role in the obstruction investigation carried out by former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSpeier says impeachment inquiry shows 'very strong case of bribery' by Trump Gowdy: I '100 percent' still believe public congressional hearings are 'a circus' Comey: Mueller 'didn't succeed in his mission because there was inadequate transparency' MORE was described at length in Mueller’s report, lawmakers still need to independently evaluate his testimony.

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“The information is relevant and important to the impeachment inquiry,” as well as the committee’s legislative and oversight duties, Megan Barbero, a lawyer for the House committee, told Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, an Obama appointee to the federal district court in D.C.

Trump has argued that McGahn has “absolute immunity” from complying with a House Judiciary Committee subpoena, an argument that lawyers for the Justice Department made in court on Thursday.

If Democrats’ ongoing impeachment inquiry zeroes in on Trump’s possible obstruction, McGahn’s testimony could prove critical given the central role he played in that particular phase of Mueller’s probe, which examined 10 "episodes" of possible obstruction.

Counsel for the Democrats described McGahn as a key witness in Trump’s removal of both former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyChris Wallace on Yovanovitch testimony: 'If you're not moved, you don't have a pulse' Day one impeachment hearings draw 13.1M viewers, down 32 percent from Comey hearings There are poor ideas, bad ones and Facebook's Libra MORE. They also said McGahn could provide insight into Trump’s pressure on former Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsWhite House backs Stephen Miller amid white nationalist allegations The Hill's Campaign Report: Late bids surprise 2020 Democratic field Sessions vows to 'work for' Trump endorsement MORE not to recuse himself from the investigation into the Trump campaign’s interactions with Russia during the 2016 election — as well as Trump’s pleas for Sessions to reverse his eventual recusal.

McGahn also told the special counsel’s office that in June 2017 Trump asked him repeatedly about firing Mueller over supposed conflicts of interest.

"In interviews with this Office, McGahn recalled that the President called him at home twice and on both occasions directed him to call [then-Deputy Attorney General Rod] Rosenstein and say that Mueller had conflicts that precluded him from serving as Special Counsel,” Mueller’s report said.

“On the first call, McGahn recalled that the President said something like, ‘You gotta do this. You gotta call Rod.’ McGahn said he told the President that he would see what he could do. McGahn was perturbed by the call and did not intend to act on the request." 

In a separate call with Trump, McGahn said, the president was more direct, telling the White House counsel, “‘Mueller has to go’ and ‘Call me back when you do it.’"

Following a nearly two-year investigation, Mueller declined to say if Trump obstructed justice, but Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrBarr defends Trump's use of executive authority, slams impeachment hearings GOP eager for report on alleged FBI surveillance abuse DOJ watchdog won't let witnesses submit written feedback on investigation into Russia probe: report MORE and Rosenstein concluded Trump had not done so.

The House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed McGahn in April, days after the release of Mueller’s 448-page report. House Democrats announced an impeachment inquiry into Trump in September.