White House blocks for­mer coun­sel from tes­ti­fy­ing to Congress

Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka) - - THE WASHINGTON POST - By Rachael Bade, Josh Dawsey, Devlin Bar­rett (c) 2019, The Washington Post, May 21, 2019 -

WASHINGTON - The White House on Mon­day blocked for­mer coun­sel Don­ald Mcgahn from tes­ti­fy­ing to Congress, the lat­est act of de­fi­ance in the on­go­ing con­flict be­tween House Democrats and Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

Mcgahn, who Democrats hoped would be­come a star wit­ness in their in­ves­ti­ga­tion into whether Trump ob­structed jus­tice, was sub­poe­naed to tes­tify Tues­day morn­ing. The for­mer White House coun­sel de­liv­ered crit­i­cal tes­ti­mony in sev­eral in­stances of po­ten­tial obstructio­n by Trump de­tailed in spe­cial coun­sel Robert. Mueller’s re­port.

“The De­part­ment of Jus­tice has pro­vided a le­gal opin­ion stat­ing that, based on long-stand­ing, 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,” said White House press sec­re­tary Sarah 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, speak­ing to re­porters Mon­day evening, called the di­rec­tive “a very im­por­tant prece­dent. And the at­tor­neys say 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.”

The 15-page le­gal opin­ion writ­ten by As­sis­tant At­tor­ney Gen­eral Steven En­gel ar­gues that Mcgahn can­not be com­pelled to tes­tify be­fore the com­mit­tee, based on past Jus­tice De­part­ment le­gal opin­ions re­gard­ing the pres­i­dent’s close ad­vis­ers.

The move to bar Mcgahn from an­swer­ing law­mak­ers’ ques­tions an­gered House Democrats al­ready ea­ger to re­spond to what they view as White House stonewalli­ng. The de­fi­ance raises the possibilit­y that the House will hold Mcgahn in con­tempt of Congress, as House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee Chair­man Jer­rold Nadler, D-N.Y., has threat­ened.

An in­creas­ing num­ber of frus­trated Democrats also want to be­gin im­peach­ment pro­ceed­ings against Trump even though House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-calif., last week pri­vately down­played the possibilit­y and en­cour­aged her mem­bers to fo­cus on their pol­icy agenda.

Some Democrats be­lieve open­ing an im­peach­ment in­quiry will strengthen their hand in try­ing to force the White House to com­ply with doc­u­ment re­quests and wit­ness tes­ti­mony, in­clud­ing Mcgahn’s.

Then-white House Coun­sel Don Mcgahn (Washington./jabin Bots­ford)

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