Trump impeachment: White House aides can be made to testify
A federal judge has ruled that White House staff can be made to testify before Congress, rejecting the Trump administration’s claims of immunity.
The ruling specifically compels former White House counsel Don McGahn to testify in the inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 US election.
When Congress sent him a subpoena in May, Mr McGahn refused to attend.
A Department of Justice spokesperson told Reuters news agency that they would appeal against the ruling.
Mr McGahn, who left his post in October 2018, was called to appear before the House Judiciary Committee in May to answer questions about the president’s attempts to impede the now-concluded Mueller investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election.
Months later, the House Judiciary Committee was responsible for filing articles of impeachment against Mr Trump.
The Trump administration has refused to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry and other Democrat-led investigations, directing current and former White House officials to defy subpoenas for testimony and documents.
But in her ruling, US District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson said that “no one is above the law”.
“Executive branch officials are not absolutely immune from the compulsory congressional process – no matter how many times the executive branch has asserted as much over the years – even if the president expressly directs such officials’ noncompliance,” she wrote.
Judge Jackson also explicitly said the president “does not have the power” to stop his aides from responding to subpoenas from Congress – adding that “presidents are not kings”.
“No one, not even the head of the Executive branch, is above the law,” Judge Jackson said.
But she did say that Mr McGahn could invoke executive privilege “where appropriate”, to protect potentially sensitive information.