Obama-Appointed Judge Upholds House Democrats' Subpoena Over Trump's Taxes

Larry Hoffman
May 21, 2019

Trump, who says he is the victim of "harassment", has refused to cooperate in the investigations focused on his tax returns, his finances or matters related to Russian efforts to tip the 2016 election in his favor.

The Mueller report detailed how Mr McGahn felt the president had pressured him to fire Mr Mueller and, later, write a memo saying that Mr Trump had issued no such directive. Mueller named McGahn as a critical witness: the American people need to hear his testimony.

In a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairmen Jerry Nadler earlier this month explaining McGahn's refusal to turn over the subpoenaed documents, his attorney said that McGahn "continues to owe certain duties and obligations to the President which he is not free to disregard".

Administration officials mulled various legal options before settling on providing McGahn with a legal opinion from the Department of Justice to justify defying the subpoena.

"This action has been taken in order to ensure that future Presidents can effectively execute the responsibilities of the Office of the Presidency". Trump has mused about instructing Republicans to cease dealing with his law firm, Jones Day, the Associated Press reported. "Think about your place in history". Nadler threatened to hold McGahn in contempt of Congress if he did not meet a second deadline of 21 May.

In a letter to Nadler, White House counsel Pat Cipollone cited a Department of Justice (DOJ) opinion indicating that Congress can not compel senior advisers to the president to testify about their official duties. Earlier this month, the White House invoked executive privilege to bar McGahn from complying with a congressional subpoena to provide documents to Congress related to Mueller's investigation, though the White House never officially filed the paperwork to assert the White House secrecy prerogative.

Experts dispute that claim.

The Justice Department has long held the opinion that close presidential advisers have "absolute immunity" from being compelled to testify before Congress about their work for the president. In his opinion, Mehta pointed to "broad investigative power" with which the committee is endowed while refusing to speculate whether the Democrat-driven hunt for Trump's records is politically motivated.

House Democrats were hoping to make McGahn their key witness as they seek to unpack the findings of the Mueller report - particularly regarding questions of whether Trump obstructed justice.

McGahn, who left the White House previous year, has increasingly become the subject of Trump's ire following the release of the redacted Mueller report.

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