Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Denver news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Des Moines news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Minneapolis-St. Paul news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tampa Bay news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Charlotte news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

A federal judge ruled Monday that former White House counsel Don McGahn must testify under subpoena in the ongoing House impeachment inquiry, rejecting the White House's assertion that its aides are "absolutely immune" from congressional subpoenas. McGahn and the Justice Department appealed the ruling on Tuesday.

"When DOJ insists that Presidents can lawfully prevent their senior-level aides from responding to compelled congressional process and that neither the federal courts nor Congress has the power to do anything about it, DOJ promotes a conception of separation-of-powers principles that gets these constitutional commands exactly backwards. In reality, it is a core tenet of this Nation’s founding that the powers of a monarch must be split between the branches of the government to prevent tyranny."
— Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson

Why it matters: McGahn was one of the Mueller investigation's most important witnesses, featuring heavily in the section of the special counsel's report about potential obstruction of justice by Trump.

Between the lines: House Democrats hope that some Trump administration members, including former national security adviser John Bolton, may use the ruling to justify cooperating with the inquiry.

  • Earlier this month, Bolton's lawyer said his client was "personally involved" in the matters under investigation and "stands ready" to testify if "the judiciary resolves the conflict in favor of the legislative branch's position respecting such authority," according to NBC News.

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson writes in the ruling:

"[I]f a duly authorized committee of Congress issues a valid legislative subpoena to a current or former senior-level presidential aide, the law requires the aide to appear as directed, and assert executive privilege as appropriate."

The state of play: The House Judiciary Committee sued McGahn in August to testify before Congress after the Trump administration directed him to ignore its subpoena, arguing that the former counsel was "absolutely immune from compelled congressional testimony."

  • The Trump administration has argued that the Constitution does not allow Congress to compel testimony from senior members of the executive branch — and has blasted the impeachment inquiry as "constitutionally illegitimate."
  • In response to the ruling, House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) said in a statement: "I am pleased the court has recognized that the Trump Administration has no grounds to withhold critical witness testimony from the House during its impeachment inquiry. ... Now that the court has ruled, I expect him to follow his legal obligations and promptly appear before the Committee."

The big picture: Though the House Intelligence Committee just wrapped up two weeks of public impeachment hearings, the committee's chairman, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), refused to commit to setting a finite timetable for the investigation over the weekend.

  • "We don't foreclose the possibility of more depositions, more hearings. We are in the process of getting more documents all the time," Schiff told CNN.
  • Schiff said in a statement that the ruling on McGahn "made it absolutely clear" that absolute immunity is "not a legitimate basis by which to prohibit senior White House officials from testifying before Congress."

Go deeper:

Editor's note: This article has been updated with the news of McGahn's appeal.

Go deeper

49 mins ago - Health

Moderna says vaccine appears to protect against new COVID-19 variants

Photo: Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images

Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine is effective against new variants of the virus that first appeared in the U.K. and in South Africa, the company announced on Monday.

Yes, but: The vaccine was as effective against the strain from U.K., but saw a six-fold reduction in antibodies against the South Africa variant. Even still, the neutralizing antibodies generated by the vaccine "remain above levels that are expected to be protective," according to the company.

Dave Lawler, author of World
Updated 54 mins ago - World

Xi Jinping warns against "new cold war" in Davos speech

Chinese President Xi Jinping. Photo: Wang Zhao - Pool/Getty Images

Chinese President Xi Jinping warned that a "new cold war" could turn hot, and must be avoided, in a speech on Monday at World Economic Forum’s virtual “Davos Agenda” conference.

Why it matters: Xi didn't refer directly to U.S.-China tensions, but the subtext was clear. These were his first remarks to an international audience since the inauguration of President Biden, whose administration has already concurred with Donald Trump's determination that China is committing "genocide" against Uyghur Muslims, and issued a warning about China's aggression toward Taiwan.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Dominion files $1.3 billion defamation lawsuit against Rudy Giuliani

Photo: Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

Dominion Voting Systems filed a defamation lawsuit against Rudy Giuliani on Monday seeking $1.3 billion in damages for his "demonstrably false” allegations about the company's voting machines.

Why it matters: Giuliani led former President Trump's efforts to overturn the results of the election and spread the baseless conspiracy theory that Dominion's voting machines flipped votes from Trump to Joe Biden.

You’ve caught up. Now what?

Sign up for Mike Allen’s daily Axios AM and PM newsletters to get smarter, faster on the news that matters.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!