US appeals court grants Trump bid to block McGahn testimony

Ruling represents a vindication of Trump directive for current, ex-officials to defy Congress requests on impeachment.

Don McGahn
White House Counsel Don McGahn listens to Judge Brett Kavanaugh give his opening statement before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC [File: Win McNamee/Pool Image via AP Photo]

In a victory for President Donald Trump, a US appeals court on Friday dismissed a Democratic-led congressional panel’s lawsuit seeking to enforce a subpoena for testimony from former White House Counsel Donald McGahn.

The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit endorsed the Trump administration’s argument that the court had no place in settling the high-stakes dispute between the executive and legislative branches of the US government.

In a 2-1 decision, a three-judge panel overturned a judge’s November ruling that the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee’s April subpoena to McGahn was lawful.

The ruling represented a vindication of an administration directive for current and former officials to defy congressional requests for testimony and documents on impeachment and a broad range of other subjects.

The committee had sought testimony from McGahn, who left his post in October 2018, about Trump’s efforts to impede former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation that documented Russian interference in the 2016 US election.

A seat and name card are set for former White House lawyer Don McGhan [Mandel Ngan/AFP] 

The Justice Department, in arguing that federal courts should stay out of disputes between the executive and legislative branches, said Congress has other ways to address an administration’s intransigence including withholding funding for the government and the ultimate power of impeachment.

McGahn defied the subpoena in May. The committee sued to enforce it in August, a month before the House launched its impeachment inquiry against the Republican president centring on his request that Ukraine investigate Democratic political rival Joe Biden and his son.

The House impeached Trump in December. The Senate acquitted him this month.

Source: Reuters