Democrats to press star witness of
Mueller report to repeat performance in Congress
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[April 24, 2019]
By David Morgan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Donald McGahn, the
former White House counsel described in the Mueller report as repeatedly
standing up to President Donald Trump, could become a star witness again
if congressional Democrats get their way in their investigation of
whether Trump used his office to obstruct justice.
Since the April 18 release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on
Russian interference in the 2016 election and any ties to Republican
Trump's campaign, Democrats have seen McGahn as someone who could be as
important as Mueller himself, according to a source familiar with the
But the Democrats are likely to face Trump's resistance. The Washington
Post reported on Tuesday that the White House planned to oppose a
subpoena by the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee for McGahn
Mueller's 448-page partially blacked-out report portrayed McGahn as one
of the few figures in Trump's orbit to challenge him when he tried to
shut down the investigation that has clouded his more than two years in
the White House.
"Mr. McGahn has been touted as a man of integrity and he is a major
witness in the Mueller report," said Democrat Sheila Jackson Lee, a
member of the Judiciary Committee.
The White House did not immediately comment on the Washington Post
report, which said the White House would claim executive privilege, a
legal doctrine allowing the president to withhold information about
internal executive branch deliberations from other branches of
Trump said in a Tuesday interview with the Washington Post that White
House lawyers had not "made a final, final decision" about whether they
will cite executive privilege to prevent McGahn and other former and
current officials from testifying.
"They testified for so many hours. They have all that information that's
been given," Trump told the newspaper of the Mueller report and
McGahn's attorney, William Burck, did not respond to requests for
Democrats are particularly interested in hearing McGahn describe in his
own words and in Congress an account in the Mueller report in which
McGahn refused Trump's instructions.
In June 2017, Trump called McGahn to say he should tell Deputy Attorney
General Rod Rosenstein to remove the special counsel because he had
conflicts of interest, the report said.
Trump also failed to get McGahn to dispute media reports that the
president tried to fire Mueller, the report said.
"That, in itself, could be an obstruction of justice, as Mr. McGahn
would be able to testify – that he was asked to do it and then asked not
to tell anyone what he’d been asked to do," Lee said.
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White House Counsel Don McGahn sits behind U.S. President Donald
Trump as the president holds a cabinet meeting at the White House in
Washington, U.S. June 21, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo
SEEKING DOCUMENTS, TESTIMONY
Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, who has subpoenaed the U.S.
Department of Justice to provide the unredacted Mueller report and
underlying evidence, issued a subpoena on Monday for McGahn to
provide the committee with documents by May 7 and testify on May 21.
But it was not clear that McGahn would comply, especially if the
White House asserts executive privilege. Nor could Democrats predict
how much the former White House counsel would be willing to discuss,
even if he does testify.
On Tuesday evening, Nadler said: "The moment for the White House to
assert some privilege to prevent this testimony from being heard has
long since passed."
The House of Representatives has the sole power under the U.S.
Constitution to impeach the president, and any effort would be led
by the judiciary panel.
Mueller's report concluded that there was not enough evidence to
establish that Trump’s campaign engaged in a criminal conspiracy
with Moscow. The report outlined multiple instances, however, where
Trump tried to thwart Mueller's probe.
Mueller stopped short of concluding whether Trump could be
prosecuted for obstruction of justice, a criminal charge that
requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
Such a high standard would not apply to Democrats if they decided to
bring impeachment proceedings.
In the days following the Mueller report's release, McGahn came
under attack from Trump's personal attorney Rudolph Giuliani, who
called into question the veracity of his statements to Mueller's
team of prosecutors.
"I would ask which of the three versions is McGahn standing by.
There are three versions he gives of that account," Giuliani told
CNN over the weekend. "I'm telling you, he's confused."
A prominent elections lawyer, McGahn served as Trump's campaign
counsel before being named White House counsel in November 2016.
He played a pivotal role in helping Trump reshape the federal
judiciary in a conservative direction and roll back regulations on a
range of industries.
(Reporting by David Morgan, Karen Freifeld and Sarah N. Lynch;
Editing by Noeleen Walder, Grant McCool and Peter Cooney)
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