Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives continue to chase leads stemming from the investigation of former special counsel Robert Mueller into alleged collusion between Russia and the 2016 campaign of President Donald Trump.
One of those congressional efforts was shot down this week, however, when an appeals court ruled that a subpoena to compel former White House counsel Don McGahn’s testimony is invalid, as reported by the Washington Examiner.
“The authority to craft rights and remedies”
Despite Mueller’s report finding no evidence of such collusion, Democratic legislators nevertheless hoped to dig up new details through an interview with McGahn.
He was first subpoenaed more than a year ago during Trump’s impeachment trial. A court later ruled against House Democrats, however, with a decision finding that the subpoena was too broad.
District of Columbia Circuit Judge Thomas Griffith penned a majority opinion following the latest effort, determining that Congress does not possess the authority to compel a witness to testify, as reported by CBS News.
“The Constitution leaves to Congress—and not to the federal courts—the authority to craft rights and remedies in our constitutional democracy,” the judge wrote in defense of the 2-1 ruling.
Of course, the panel noted that lawmakers could vote to grant themselves the power to enforce subpoenas against hostile witnesses.
“We note that this decision does not preclude Congress (or one of its chambers) from ever enforcing a subpoena in federal court; it simply precludes it from doing so without first enacting a statute authorizing such a suit,” the court’s opinion concluded.
“Lawful and legitimate subpoenas”
Nevertheless, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) wasted no time going on the record to denounce the decision.
“If allowed to stand, this wrongheaded Court of Appeals panel ruling threatens to strike a grave blow to one of the most fundamental Constitutional roles of the Congress: to conduct oversight on behalf of the American people, including by issuing our lawful and legitimate subpoenas,” she said in a statement.
Pelosi went on to describe the decision as a “flawed judicial attack on the entire House of Representatives,” asserting that “both Republicans and Democrats have successfully sought to enforce House subpoenas in court.”
To many Americans who see lawmakers’ continued pursuit of what Trump has called a “witch hunt,” however, it is lawmakers, not judges, who are engaged in a political attack.