How many people noticed this decision by Judge Richard Leon the day before New Year’s Eve? The DC circuit jurist’s dismissal of a challenge by Charles Kupperman to a House subpoena seems more like a footnote rather than a gravestone in the House’s impeachment project. The ruling’s immediate legal impact changed nothing, as Judge Leon essentially ruled that nothing was going on at all in the first place:
“The House clearly has no intention of pursuing Kupperman, and his claims are thus moot,” Leon wrote in his 14-page ruling. Kupperman’s continued pursuit of a legal answer to his twin directives was widely seen as a proxy for Bolton, who shares a lawyer with his former deputy. Bolton said he would not testify without a subpoena, and the House did not issue one for him.
Both Kupperman and Bolton have been described by people who did testify as key witnesses of Trump’s pressure campaign against Ukraine and decision to withhold appropriated military aid. House Democrats flagged Kupperman’s refusal to testify as more proof of Trump’s obstruction of Congress and declined to get bogged down in a long legal fight.
In fact, there’s even less at hand than the above suggests. As Leon pointed out in his ruling, Kupperman wasn’t even among the witnesses cited in the obstruction article of impeachment. The House’s distinct lack of interest in Kupperman’s testimony had been emphasized repeatedly by various attorneys representing the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees as well as by the speaker’s office, Leon noted: