Trump Tells Former Counsel to Ignore Congressional Subpoena

Posted: May 20, 2019, 4:04 pm

Trump Tells Former Counsel to Ignore Congressional Subpoena

FILE - White House Counsel Don McGahn sits behind U.S. President Donald Trump as the president holds a cabinet meeting at the White House in Washington, June 21, 2018.
FILE – White House Counsel Don McGahn sits behind U.S. President Donald Trump as the president holds a cabinet meeting at the White House in Washington, June 21, 2018.

WHITE HOUSE —

The White House, acting on a legal opinion from the Justice Department, has instructed its former counsel not to testify before Congress.

Lawyer Don McGahn, facing a subpoena from the House Judiciary Committee, had been scheduled to appear before lawmakers Tuesday morning.

"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," White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement Monday afternoon. "This action has been taken in order to ensure that future Presidents can effectively execute the responsibilities of the Office of the Presidency."

The Justice Department, in its legal opinion, states: "We provide the same answer that the Department of Justice repeatedly provided for five decades: Congress may not constitutionally compel the President's senior advisers to testify about their official duties."

In a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, the current White House Counsel to the President, Pat Cipollone, states that Trump has directed McGahn not to appear at Tuesday's hearing.

FILE - White House counsel Pat Cipollone, center, arrives for an immigration speech by President Donald Trump in the Rose Garden at the White House, May 16, 2019.
FILE – White House counsel Pat Cipollone, center, arrives for an immigration speech by President Donald Trump in the Rose Garden at the White House, May 16, 2019.

"This long-standing principle is firmly rooted in the Constitution's separation of powers and protects the core functions of the Presidency, and we are adhering to this well-established precedent in order to ensure that future Presidents can effectively execute the responsibilities of the Office of the Presidency," Cipollone writes.

Opposition Democratic Party lawmakers have been eager to hear from McGahn, including questioning him about potential obstruction of justice by Trump based on episodes outlined in the reporter of special counsel Robert Mueller.

Nadler last week stated he was prepared to have his committee vote to hold McGahn in contempt of Congress if the former White House counsel defied the subpoena.

McGahn was instructed by the White House, asserting executive privilege, earlier this month to hand over documents the House committee had subpoenaed.

McGahn's name is mentioned on more than 65 pages of the 448-page Mueller report.

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