In the aftermath of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, disappointed House Democrats have launched their own investigations into the president, and the House Judiciary Committee issued a subpoena to compel testimony from former White House Counsel Don McGahn.
But just one day prior to McGahn’s scheduled Tuesday appearance, the White House let it be known that he would not be testifying because the Department of Justice had determined that, as a senior adviser to the president, he was immune from compelled testimony.
DOJ cites past precedent
A letter from the White House to Democratic House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler broke the news on Monday by citing several prior precedents under both Democrat and Republican administrations of senior presidential advisers being deemed immune from having to provide congressional testimony.
Essentially, the DOJ previously determined that issuing a subpoena to a senior adviser to the president was no different than issuing one to the president himself, which would constitute a violation of the separation of powers.
“This long-standing principle is firmly rooted in the Constitution’s separation of powers and protects the core functions of the Presidency, and we are adhering to this well-established precedent in order to ensure that future Presidents can effectively execute the responsibilities of the Office of the Presidency,” wrote White House Counsel Pat Cipollone.
President touts transparency
Speaking with reporters outside the White House prior to leaving for a rally Monday night in Pennsylvania, Trump was asked why he instructed McGahn to defy the House subpoena.
“Well, as I understand it, they’re doing that for the Office of the Presidency, for future Presidents. I think it’s a very important precedent. And the attorneys say that they’re not doing that for me; they’re doing that for the Office of the President. So we’re talking about the future,” the president replied.
Asked moments later again about McGahn and whether the White House was “stonewalling” Congress or attempting to hide something, Trump replied, “I think we’ve been the most transparent administration in the history of our country. We just went through two years of Bob Mueller, with 18 people that hated Donald Trump. They were ‘Angry Democrats,’ as I called them.”
“We’ve been through it for two years, and they spent almost $40 million on it. We had, I think, 500 people testified. We had 1.4 or 1.5 million documents,” he continued.
“At the end of all of that, he said there’s no collusion. Now what happens is the Democrats want a re-do, and we’ve had enough, and the country has had enough. There has never been, ever before, an administration that’s been so open and transparent,” Trump added. “So we want to get on. What we want to do is get on with running the country.”
Refusal stymies Dems
Pelosi and her House Democrats most certainly will not like being told “no” by the president, but short of sending the House Sergeant-at-Arms to arrest McGahn and essentially compel his testimony at gunpoint, there is little that Democrats can do.
In reality, this was but another fishing expedition by anti-Trump Democrats that has wisely been blocked. It remains to be seen how those Democrats will react to their subversive plot against the president being foiled.