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‘Presidents are not Kings’: Judge Says Trump Aide Must Testify

No immunity: Former White House Counsel Don McGahn.

No immunity: Former White House Counsel Don McGahn.   | Photo Credit: SAUL LOEB

Donald McGahn asked to comply with subpoena to testify in Mueller probe

Declaring that nobody is above the law, a federal judge ruled that former White House counsel Donald McGahn was not “absolutely immune” from having to testify before Congress. The ruling increases the chances that Mr. McGahn, who was considered a crucial witness in the Mueller probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections, will testify in the ongoing House of Representatives impeachment inquiry.

“Per the Constitution, nobody is above the law,” Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson said in her 120 page opinion issued on Monday. Current and former presidential aides have to comply with “valid legislative subpoena” from a “duly authorised committee of Congress” the judge said.

The ruling pertains to a case from August, in which the House Judiciary Committee had gone to court to get Mr. McGahn to comply with a subpoena ordering him to testify in the Mueller investigation.

A memo from the Justice Department in May this year had blocked Mr. McGahn’s testimony, considered crucial to investigation around whether U.S. President Donald Trump had obstructed justice in the Mueller probe. The memo had said that Mr. McGahn’s immunity was broader than a claim of executive privilege, a method by which the President and members of the executive wing of government, withhold information in the public interest.

Monday’s judgement called the Justice Department’s assertion of absolute testimonial immunity “startling” and “untenable”.

“Presidents are not Kings,” Judge Jackson said in the testimony. The court ruled that Mr. McGahn would have to assert privilege on a question-by-question basis and in person, but that he was not “absolutely immune” from being compelled to provide testimony.

The President does not have the power to excuse his aides from acting as required by the law however busy or essential the aide may be and however close they may be to sensitive projects, the judge said.

Monday’s decision has potential implications beyond Mr. McGahn and could see former National Security Advisor John Bolton, his former second in command, Charles Kupperman, and Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney having to testify before the House in the impeachment inquiry.

The Justice Department, which has fought Mr. McGahn’s case, has said it will appeal. A lawyer for Mr. McGahn said his client would testify unless the case goes into the appeal stage, CNN reported.

“Now that the court has ruled, I expect him to follow his legal obligations and appear before the Committee," House Judiciary Committee chair Jerrold Nadler said

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Printable version | Jul 7, 2020 12:23:17 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/presidents-are-not-kings-judge-says-trump-aide-must-testify/article30090021.ece

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