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Nadler Vows to Hold Trump Accountable After McGahn Doesn't Show
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21 May 2019 04:04 PM EST

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Jerry Nadler (Image source: Screenshot)


The fight pitting the White House and Justice Department against House Democrats continues on, with both stating that they have the law on their side. While the House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed former White House counsel Don McGahn to appear on Tuesday, DOJ claimed he legally cannot be forced to testify.


When he didn't show, Nadler vowed to force him to one way or another and hold Donald Trump accountable as well. 

At the heart of this debate are comments McGahn made to Special Counsel Robert Mueller during his investigation of possible coordination between Donald Trump and Russia and the resulting possible obstruction of justice by the president.


Mueller's report stated that McGahn told investigators Trump asked him to remove Mueller from his position as special counsel, yet he refused. After it was leaked to the press, Trump asked him to lie and say he didn't make that request. Again, McGahn refused. 

Additionally, McGahn and his chief of staff Annie Donaldson took copious notes during meetings with Trump, an irritant to Trump. House Judiciary would like to get their hands on those notes as well. While they have subpoenaed them, the White House is claiming executive privilege.


"The Department of Justice has provided a legal opinion stating that, based on longstanding bipartisan and constitutional precedent, the former counsel to the president cannot be forced to give such testimony, and Mr. McGahn has been directed to act accordingly," announced White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders in a statement. 

"This action has been taken in order to ensure that future presidents can effectively execute the responsibilities of the office of the presidency."


Trump backed this up, of course, calling it a "very important precedent." He added that "attorneys sat that they're not doing that for me. They're doing it for the office of the president. So we're talking about the future." 

He really isn't fooling anyone with that statement. He has been fighting the release of all materials and testimony by his administration and aides.


Assistant Attorney General Steven A. Engel wrote the 15-page legal opinion presenting arguments against McGahn being forced to testify before the House Judiciary, basing it on prior legal opinions regarding close advisers to the president. 

Engel's opinion goes on to say that McGahn's immunity from testifying before Congress is separate and broader than an executive privilege claim.


He wrote that immunity "extended beyond answers to particular questions, precluding Congress from compelling even the appearance of a senior presidential adviser — as a function of the independence and autonomy of the president himself." 

Once the adviser leaves office, he still retains immunity, because the reasons he is being sought for testimony occurred when he was still working in the administration.


McGahn is once again a private citizen, working now for Republican law firm Jones Day. This means he is not obliged to comply with the White House directive for him not to comply with the subpoena, though his attorney, William Burck, said he would not be testifying. 

If he did, it could jeopardize his current standing with Jones Day, known to have close ties to the Trump campaign and his 2016 campaign. Campaign officials say the firm will still be involved in the reelection effort, yet it will be a reduced role than previously.


This was not good news to House Democrats, "It is absurd for President Trump to claim privilege as to this witness's testimony when the testimony was already described publicly in the Mueller report," said the chairman in a statement. 

"Even more ridiculous is the extension of the privilege to cover events before and after Mr. McGahn's service in the White House."


Regardless, they still planned to meet on Tuesday, as Nadler indicated, "Mr. McGahn is expected to appear as legally required." He added that the former counsel could face consequences for disobeying the subpoena. 

"Let me be clear," he said at the beginning of Tuesday's hearing with McGahn not present. "This committee will hear Mr. McGahn's testimony, even if we have to go to court to secure it."


"We will hold this president accountable, one way or the other," Nadler added. 

There are several House Democrats clamoring for impeachment proceedings to begin, something House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) does not want to do at this point. It was their thought that McGahn would be a key witness for them.

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