President Trump is preparing to instruct his former White House counsel, Donald McGahn, to defy a congressional subpoena and skip a hearing scheduled for tomorrow, denying Democrats testimony from one of the most important eyewitnesses to Trump’s attempts to obstruct the Russia investigation.
The House Judiciary Committee has subpoenaed McGahn to appear.
The White House plans to provide McGahn, who left the post last year, with a legal opinion from the Justice Department to justify his defying the subpoena, the person said.
The Judiciary Committee chairman, Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, said last week that he was prepared to have his panel vote to hold McGahn in contempt of Congress if he does not show up on Tuesday.
Though a black mark on a witness’s record, a contempt citation would most likely result in the House turning to a federal court to try to enforce its subpoena.
At the same time, if he defies the White House, McGahn could not only damage his own career in Republican politics but also put his law firm, Jones Day, at risk of having the president urge his allies to withhold their business.
The firm’s Washington practice is closely affiliated with the party.
Since last month’s release of the 448-page redacted report by the special counsel, Robert Mueller, Democrats have sought for McGahn to publicly give his account of Trump’s attempts to thwart investigators, figuring that his testimony would make for a dramatic hearing that could help galvanize public support against Trump.
Democrats are certain to be livid.
Mueller cited McGahn more than any other witness in his report on whether the president obstructed justice.
In interviews with the special counsel’s investigators, McGahn detailed several episodes — including an effort to oust Mueller — that showed the president intent on using his position atop the executive branch to protect himself from the Russia inquiry.
Since the report’s release, Trump has put up roadblocks for House Democrats trying to investigate him further — including claiming executive privilege over the entire report and evidence underlying it — hurting the Democrats’ momentum as they seek to expand their oversight efforts.
The president has falsely maintained that he fully cooperated with Mueller — he himself refused an interview — and has asserted that there has been enough investigating of his administration.
McGahn has already defied the committee’s subpoena once.
In addition to his testimony, the Judiciary Committee subpoena called for McGahn to hand over a tranche of documents that he shared with Mueller and that the committee said was relevant to its own inquiry into potential obstruction of justice and abuses of power.
The White House instructed McGahn not to comply, and Trump later asserted executive privilege over the material.
Democrats believe the president’s privilege claim is illegitimate given the public nature of the material in question, but they have little recourse to access the material without a lengthy court battle.
Attribution:The New York Times