House Democrats want McGahn testimony even as impeachment moves to Senate

The Democratic-led House Judiciary Committee told a federal appeals court on Monday that testimony from former White House counsel Don McGahn is needed as President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrats secure fast-track to the floor for Canada-Mexico trade deal Mexican official says he’s ‘very satisfied’ with USMCA after recent concern More than 700 historians sign letter calling for House to impeach Trump MORE’s impeachment speeds toward a likely Senate trial.

The push for McGahn’s testimony came just hours after the Judiciary Committee told the same court that it needed secret grand jury materials from former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSchiff: Trump acquittal in Senate trial would not signal a ‘failure’ Jeffries blasts Trump for attack on Thunberg at impeachment hearing Live coverage: House Judiciary to vote on impeachment after surprise delay MORE’s probe as part of the impeachment proceedings. 

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Democrats say both sources could provide key insights into Trump’s alleged obstruction of Mueller’s nearly two-year probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign. 

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“To obtain information critical to the House’s impeachment proceedings and any trial in the Senate, as well as to assist its consideration of remedial legislation and oversight, the committee issued a subpoena for testimony to Donald F. McGahn,” the Judiciary Committee told the court.

The two Monday filings to the D.C. Circuit Court show Democrats doubling down on an argument for the continued relevance of materials stemming from the Mueller investigation even as the impeachment scope has narrowed. 

House committees unveiled two impeachment articles last week that focused on Trump’s abuse of power over his dealings with Ukraine and the administration’s obstruction of Congress.

But lawyers for the Judiciary Committee today continued to press the case in federal court that McGahn’s subpoena should be enforced.

“McGahn is President Trump’s former White House Counsel, who — as detailed in the report of Special Counsel Robert Mueller — witnessed multiple acts of obstruction of justice by President Trump,” House Democrats told the court.

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The Judiciary Committee has long considered McGahn a key witness in Mueller’s examination of 10 “episodes” of possible obstruction of justice by Trump. Mueller’s report found “substantial evidence” that Trump leaned on McGahn to fire Mueller.

House Democrats scored a legal victory in the case last month when a federal district judge rejected the Trump administration’s argument that McGahn has “absolute immunity” from complying with House Democrats’ subpoena. 

“As a matter of law, such aides do not have absolute testimonial immunity,” U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, an Obama appointee, wrote in her Nov. 25 ruling.

The White House is appealing that ruling, which said McGahn must comply with a subpoena the House Judiciary Committee issued in April. The subpoena came days after the release of Mueller’s 448-page report, the culmination of a nearly two-year investigation into Russia’s 2016 election interference, the Trump campaign’s contacts with Moscow and Trump’s possible obstruction of justice.

If the Senate trial occurs while McGahn’s appeal is still pending, Democrats could look to secure his testimony directly at the Senate trial, according to some legal experts.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffHouse Democrats want McGahn testimony even as impeachment moves to Senate This week: House Dems gear up to vote to impeach Trump Schiff: I ‘hope to hell’ I would have voted to impeach Obama if he had committed same actions as Trump MORE (D-Calif.) has held open this scenario in multiple interviews.

“I think there’s certainly merit to the idea that we may get a quicker ruling from a chief justice in a Senate trial, if it ever came to that, than we would get by going months and months on end litigating the matter,” he told CNN last month. “There’s no guarantee of that, but I think that it’s entirely possible.”

Chief Justice John Roberts is expected to preside over the Senate trial, where he would have a key role in deciding questions about admitting evidence. 

“It is more likely than not that the witness testimony sought from key players like McGahn and [former national security adviser] John BoltonJohn BoltonConway says White House sees ‘no reason’ to bow to Democratic witness demands Pro-impeachment group ramps up ads ahead of House vote, Senate trial House Democrats want McGahn testimony even as impeachment moves to Senate MORE will only be secured, if at all, in a Senate trial,” said Brad Moss, a national security lawyer, who added that the district court ruling upholding the McGahn subpoena gives Roberts firmer legal footing to compel the testimony.

Updated at 4:15 p.m.

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