Law & the Courts

Judge Temporarily Blocks Subpoena Compelling McGahn to Testify in Impeachment Probe

Then-White House Counsel Donald McGahn on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., September 27, 2018 (Saul Loeb/Reuters)

A federal judge on Wednesday temporarily blocked her own ruling that White House counsel Don McGahn must submit to a subpoena issued by congressional Democrats as part of their ongoing impeachment inquiry into President Trump.

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, an Obama appointee, granted McGahn’s request for a temporary stay of her previous Monday order to comply with the subpoena from the House Judiciary Committee. She must still decide whether to grant him another, longer stay so the former White House lawyer has an opportunity to appeal the order.

In her Monday ruling, Jackson rejected the claim by the Justice Department, representing McGahn, that McGahn has “absolute immunity.” She also dismissed the DOJ’s complaint that federal courts should not involve themselves in conflicts between the legislative and executive branches of government.

Jackson cautioned that her granting of a temporary stay “should not be construed in any way as a ruling on the merits” of the DOJ’s case.

The Judiciary Committee said it would not oppose a temporary stay of the order. The White House plans to appeal the decision requiring McGahn to testify in the impeachment probe.

“On an issue of this importance to the nation, it plainly serves the public interest to have the issues raised in this case resolved by an appellate tribunal,” the DOJ wrote in its stay petitions.

“Stated simply, the primary takeaway from the past 250 years of recorded American history is that Presidents are not kings,” Jackson wrote in her strongly-worded 120-page decision.

McGahn made headlines earlier this year with his claim, cited in the Mueller report, that President Trump directed him to have the Justice Department fire the special counsel. Democrats believe his testimony could be critical to their investigations of the president.

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