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Trump orders former lawyer to defy Congress to hide impeachment evidence

It’s yet another attempt by Trump to obstruct Congress and dodge potential impeachment.

By Emily Singer - May 20, 2019
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Don McGahn
White House counsel Don McGahn looks on as President Donald Trump speaks during a cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018, in Washington.

On Monday, the Trump administration ordered former White House counsel Don McGahn to defy a congressional subpoena that legally compels McGahn to testify before Congress on Trump’s attempts to obstruct justice.

McGahn is currently scheduled to testify before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday about his knowledge of Trump’s attempts to obstruct justice and shut down special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.

The Wall Street Journal reported Monday afternoon that McGahn is likely to heed Trump’s demands and not testify. However, McGahn has yet to announce whether he still plans on attending the hearing, or whether he’ll follow Trump’s demands to ignore Congress’ orders.

The instruction for McGahn not to testify relies on a legally dubious opinion from the Department of Justice that declares, “Congress may not constitutionally compel the President’s senior advisers to testify about their official duties.”

However, Trump already allowed McGahn to speak to Mueller’s investigators — testimony in which McGahn said Trump tried to have Mueller fired in order to avoid scrutiny, one of a number of obstructive actions Trump has taken since becoming president. Thus, it’s unlikely that Trump can now put that cat back in the bag and prevent McGahn from testifying before Congress on the same subject.

Yet that hasn’t stopped Trump from trying to keep McGahn’s testimony at bay.

In a statement on Monday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders even admitted that McGahn was allowed to testify for 30 hours to Mueller’s team. And her argument against allowing McGahn to testify is that it would amount to a “wasteful and unnecessary do-over” for Democrats.

“The Department of Justice has provided a legal opinion stating that, based on long-standing, bipartisan, and Constitutional precedent, the former Counsel to the President cannot be forced to give such testimony, and Mr. McGahn has been directed to act accordingly,” Sanders wrote in the statement.

Of course, the White House likely knows that having McGahn publicly testify about Trump’s obstructive acts would be devastating to Trump. McGahn’s testimony could even help build up public support for Trump to be impeached.

In fact, Trump is so nervous about McGahn possibly testifying in public about Trump’s efforts to shut down the Mueller probe that he even ordered McGahn to come out and say that Trump never obstructed justice — a demand McGahn refused to comply with.

According to NBC News, McGahn is currently reviewing Trump’s request before deciding whether to testify.

McGahn should be able to make up his own mind about whether to testify, as he is no longer a White House employee and is now a private citizen. However, McGahn has followed Trump’s order to ignore Congress before.

Earlier this month, the White House ordered McGahn not to turn over documents Congress had subpoenaed, and McGahn complied with Trump’s demand.

This incident is Trump’s latest attempt to ignore congressional oversight in order to hide his possible crimes. For example, he’s blocked release of his tax returns and efforts by Congress to obtain his banking records as part of a probe into possible corruption or tax evasion. All of those orders also relied on legally dubious arguments.

Trump’s efforts to obstruct Congress could create fierce legal battles that will force the judicial branch to weigh in on Congress’ oversight power.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation. 


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