Don McGahn must testify to Congress about his time as the White House’s top lawyer, a federal judge ruled Monday — a decision that will put pressure on other reluctant Trump administration witnesses to testify about President Donald Trump’s actions.
In a ruling that could reshape the balance of power between Congress and the executive branch, U.S. District Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson ruled that McGahn, who spent 30 hours talking to former special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, can’t hide behind Trump’s claim that he is “absolutely immune” from speaking to Congress.
Justice Department lawyers had argued that “absolute immunity,” a designation reserved for a select few members of the president’s inner circle, is essential to protecting the president’s ability to seek candid advice from his top advisers. They also insisted the federal courts had no role trying to get between a dispute between the other two branches of government.
But Jackson, an appointee of President Barack Obama, rejected both arguments.
“DOJ promotes a conception of separation-of-powers principles that gets these constitutional commands exactly backwards,” Jackson wrote in her 120-page opinion. “In reality, it is a core tenet of this Nation’s founding that the powers of a monarch must be split between the branches of the government to prevent tyranny.”