Former White House counsel Don McGahn’s legal team confirmed Monday that he would not testify about the special counsel’s report on Russian election interference, a development that comes after McGahn was directed by President Donald Trump not to comply with a subpoena from House Democrats, heightening tensions between the White House and Democratic lawmakers.
The DOJ claimed “absolute” immunity in a 15-page memo and a letter sent to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, saying that McGahn cannot be compelled to testify about his official duties.
“Because of this constitutional immunity, and in order to protect the prerogatives of the Office of the Presidency, the President has directed Mr. McGahn not to appear at the Committee’s scheduled hearing,” Trump’s counsel, Pat Cipollone, wrote in the letter to Nadler, CNBC informs.
The House committee subpoenaed the former White House counsel in April, after he emerged as the most cited witness in Robert Mueller’s report. Officials from the Trump administration, however, are adamant that the committee has no authority to do so.
“Congress may not constitutionally compel the president’s senior advisors to testify about their official duties,” said Assistant Attorney General Steven Engel.
Before McGahn’s legal team notified Nadler that he would not appear before the panel, the Judiciary Committee still planned to hold a hearing on Tuesday at 10 a.m.
Earlier this month, President Trump indicated in a tweet that he would not allow McGahn to testify again, a sentiment echoed by press secretary Sarah Sanders on Monday evening. In her statement, she accused Democrats of seeking “a wasteful and unnecessary do-over” of the Mueller probe.
“This action has been taken in order to ensure that future Presidents can effectively execute the responsibilities of the Office of the Presidency,” Sanders said.
Following the letter from the White House, Nadler argued the President’s latest move represents another “act of obstruction,” saying that his administration is following a pattern of refusal to cooperate with the Judiciary Committee. “It is also the latest example of this Administration’s disdain for law,” Nadler added.
The Democratic chairman has also threatened to hold McGahn in contempt if he fails to testify before his panel.
“First thing we are going to do is hold McGahn in contempt,” Nadler said Monday night. “You are dealing with a lawless president who is willing to go to any lengths to prevent testimony that might implicate him – that does implicate him.”
Nadler further sent a letter to the former White House counsel telling McGahn that he expected him to testify despite Trump’s order.
“President Trump’s order — which seeks to block a former official from informing a coequal branch of government about his own misconduct — is unprecedented and, contrary to the letter received from your counsel this evening, does not excuse your obligation to appear before the Committee,” Nadler wrote.