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Judge Says Trump Can’t Block Officials From Testifying

If this ruling stands, Don McGahn and other Trump officials could be forced to sit down with investigators.

White House Counsel Don McGahn listens behind President Trump during a cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House on October 17, 2018, in Washington, D.C.

In a legal ruling that has major implications for the impeachment inquiry, a federal judge on Monday ordered former White House counsel Don McGahn to comply with a congressional subpoena and testify before House impeachment investigators.

In a scathing 120-page ruling, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson wrote that “[p]residents are not kings,” and that “[t]hey do not have subjects, bound by loyalty or blood, whose destiny they are entitled to control.”

The decision is a complete rejection of the Trump administration’s argument that top Donald Trump advisers are completely immune from testifying about their official job duties. Trump had ordered McGahn not to testify — a move that could earn Trump more articles of impeachment for obstruction of justice.

On Tuesday morning, the Department of Justice notified the court that it intends to appeal the ruling.

However, if this ruling stands, other Trump officials who have refused to testify in the House impeachment investigation — including former national security adviser John Bolton and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney — could be forced to sit down with impeachment investigators.

House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA) sent a letter to his House colleagues on Monday suggesting that the House doesn’t plan to wait for the legal rulings, however, and will move forward on articles of impeachment without that testimony, but said that Trump’s blocking of testimony will count against him toward an obstruction of justice charge.

“The fact that the President has uniformly instructed all executive branch agencies and senior officials to obstruct the investigation further demonstrates consciousness of guilt on the part of the President,” Schiff wrote in the letter.

Here’s what else is happening in impeachment news:

  • In his letter to his House colleagues, Schiff also said that his committee will issue a report on its impeachment investigation “soon after Congress returns from the Thanksgiving recess.” He said the committee “will catalog the instances of non-compliance with lawful subpoenas as part of our report to the Judiciary Committee, which will allow that Committee to consider whether an article of impeachment based on obstruction of Congress is warranted along with an article or articles based on this underlying conduct or other presidential misconduct,” and that the report will be delivered to the House Judiciary Committee, which is tasked with drawing up any articles of impeachment.
  • Sen. John Kennedy, the Louisiana Republican who repeated the debunked conspiracy that Ukraine hacked the Democratic National Committee’s emails in 2016, reneged his comment on Monday. “I was wrong,” Kennedy told CNN. “The only evidence I have, and I think it’s overwhelming, is that it was Russia who to tried to hack the DNC computer.” Kennedy walked back his initial comment after significant backlash, as just days earlier national security expert Fiona Hill testified that Republicans who repeat the debunked lie that Ukraine hacked the DNC emails plays into Russia’s hands.
  • Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani is in serious legal peril, as the Department of Justice is investigating Giuliani for a series of serious crimes, including “obstruction of justice, money laundering, conspiracy to defraud the United States, making false statements to the federal government, serving as an agent of a foreign government without registering with the Justice Department, donating funds from foreign nationals, making contributions in the name of another person or allowing someone else to use one’s name to make a contribution, along with mail fraud and wire fraud,” the Wall Street Journal reported. The charges relate to his dealings with Ukraine that now ensnare Trump.
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