As you may recall, former White House Counsel Don McGahn had been the recipient of a subpoena ordering him to stop by for a chat with the House Judiciary Committee about his time working with the President. Whether or not he would appear was a bone of contention for a while until a federal judge issued a dramatic proclamation on Monday, stating that “Presidents are not kings” and ordering McGahn to appear.
Well, that lasted for all of three days. By Wednesday evening, that same judge had backed down, allowing a request from the Justice Department to delay the implementation of the ruling until the appeals process has played out. Of course, this doesn’t mean McGahn (and the President) are totally off the hook, but they’ve at least bought a bit of breathing room. (Daily Mail)
The federal judge who ordered former White House counsel Donald McGahn to appear before Congress is temporarily delaying the effect of her ruling.
U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson said Wednesday in a brief order that she needs time to consider the legal issues raised by the Trump administration’s Justice Department in seeking a longer halt.
Jackson ruled Monday that McGahn must comply with a subpoena for his testimony from the Democrat-led House Judiciary Committee. She rejected the administration’s argument that the president´s top aides should be shielded from congressional questioning.
The judge initially granted a stay of seven days while she “considered” the requests. Now, however, that has been stretched out to January 3rd, when the appeals court will hear arguments from both sides. At least McGahn’s family Christmas won’t be ruined.
Considering that he originally received the subpoena in April, the White House has done a fairly good job of dragging this out. And if the hearing in January goes their way, this could either be the end of the question or it could push it out much closer to the next election.
Keep in mind what the Judiciary Committee actually wanted to talk to McGahn about. This fight is a holdover from the Russia, Russia, Russia investigation. Democrats on the committee want to question the former counsel to determine if he knows any secrets that could implicate the President in an attempt to obstruct the investigation.
Wait… weren’t we supposed to be done with all of the Russia stuff now, having moved on to the high crime or misdemeanor of Trump placing a phone call to the Ukranian president? Well, perhaps the Democrats are looking for a two-for-one deal.
That doesn’t mean that the final decision on McGahn won’t cast a long shadow, however. How this plays out will have consequences for the ongoing impeachment circus. At issue here is the question of whether or not aides to the President are shielded from revealing details of private conversations they’ve had with the boss or the counsel they offered. Also, whether or not that shielding lasts indefinitely even after they’ve left their positions with the White House.
That sort of privacy has long been assumed to be part of the President’s executive privilege. But does that extend to investigations of potential criminal conduct? That’s the question that will be answered when the dust settles on McGahn’s subpoena. If he’s ordered to show up and testify, that could open the gate for numerous other Trump aides to be called in to talk about all of the Ukraine events. And that’s likely not something President Trump will want to see after we’re in the thick of the final push to next year’s election.