Aug 7, 2019

House Democrats formally file lawsuit to force Don McGahn to testify

Photo: Xinhua/Ting Shen via Getty Images

House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) filed a lawsuit Wednesday to enforce a subpoena compelling former White House counsel Don McGahn to testify in the committee's investigation of President Trump's potential obstruction of justice.

Why it matters: McGahn, a key witness in former special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation who sat for more than 30 hours of interviews, has been blocked by the White House from complying with the subpoena, which was issued in April. In a letter to House Democrats, Speaker Nancy Pelosi stated that the McGahn lawsuit is part of the process of gathering "all the relevant facts" for the House to consider "whether to exercise its full Article I powers, including a constitutional power of the utmost gravity — articles of impeachment."

The big picture: The lawsuit follows a court filing last month seeking the release of grand jury materials from the Mueller report in which Nadler wrote that the committee had already begun "investigating whether to recommend articles of impeachment." He has declined, however, to label the investigation a formal "impeachment inquiry."

  • Nadler said on MSNBC this week that court decisions in these two key lawsuits will probably be reached by the end of October, and that the committee will have hearings with "witnesses who are not dependent on the court proceedings" in September and October."
  • Under this timeline, Nadler said that a decision on whether to report articles of impeachment would likely come "late in the fall, in the latter part of the year."

Between the lines: Nadler told Politico in June that the McGahn court case is "key to everything" because it addresses the question of whether the White House can assert "absolute immunity" over witnesses. "It’s one thing to tell a judge blanket immunity is not a right thing," Nadler said. "It’s another thing when a judge can see what that means in actuality, and how absurd it is."

  • Nadler added that former White House communications director Hope Hicks will talk to congressional investigators "only under legal compulsion." Hicks sat for a closed-door interview with the committee in June, but was blocked by White House lawyers from answering any questions about her time in the administration.

The other side ... McGahn's lawyer said in a statement:

"People should not forget that Don McGahn is a lawyer and has an ethical obligation to protect client confidences, and as I have said before, Don does not believe he witnessed any violation of law. And the President instructed Don to cooperate fully with the Special Counsel but directed him not to testify to Congress unless the White House and the Committee reached an accommodation. When faced with competing demands from co-equal branches of government, Don will follow his former client’s instruction, absent a contrary decision from the federal judiciary."

Read the lawsuit:

Go deeper: The impeachment slow-drip

Go deeper

The impeachment whip list

Graphic: Axios Visuals

224 House Democrats and 1 independent publicly support launching an impeachment inquiry against President Trump, according to an Axios analysis.

Driving the news: Allegations that Trump may have pressured Ukraine's president to investigate Joe Biden have unleashed a new wave of calls to impeach Trump. The Senate and House Intelligence Committees received the whistleblower complaint Wednesday, and House Democrats told reporters they were "disturbed" upon reviewing it.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Oct 3, 2019

House Judiciary subpoenas Corey Lewandowski to testify in obstruction probe

Photo: Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and former White House official Rick Dearborn on Thursday to testify Sept. 17 about potential obstruction of justice by President Trump.

The big picture: The testimonies are part of the ongoing investigation by the committee — recently dubbed "formal impeachment proceedings" by House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) — into "obstruction, corruption and abuse of power by Trump and his associates." Unlike the other witnesses in the Mueller investigation who have been subpoenaed by the Judiciary committee, Lewandowski never worked in the Trump White House — a fact that Democrats hope will prevent the president from blocking his testimony.

House Judiciary Committee subpoenas Rob Porter

Former White House chief of staff John Kelly (L) and former staff secretary Rob Porter. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed former Trump administration aide Rob Porter on Monday to testify in its probe regarding possible obstruction of justice by President Trump.

Why it matters: Porter was a key witness for the obstruction portion of former special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. He resigned from the White House last year after his 2 ex-wives came forward with abuse allegations. Porter may never have to face the committee as the White House has moved to block other former surrogates from testifying before the House Judiciary.