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Trump blocks former White House counsel Don McGahn from testifying to Congress

Eli Stokols, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump directed his former White House counsel, Donald McGahn, not to appear at a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday despite receiving a subpoena from the panel's Democratic chairman, the latest salvo in a battle between two warring branches of government.

But as the legal and political turmoil grew, a federal judge in Washington upheld a separate Democratic subpoena for Trump's personal and business financial records, a signal that the staunch White House resistance to congressional probes may serve to delay the investigations but not avoid them altogether.

The ruling is the first by a federal judge considering Trump's legal efforts to avoid congressional subpoenas and could set a legal precedent for other judges to consider.

Trump has refused to cooperate with multiple House-led inquiries into his business practices, his taxes, security clearances at the White House and other matters. His administration has defied several House subpoenas and directed current and former officials not to testify at hearings certain to draw public scrutiny back to the investigation led by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

In his ruling Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta dismissed Trump's claim that a subpoena last month from the House Oversight and Reform Committee, which is led by Democrats, was politically motivated and amounted to an abuse of power.

Mehta ruled that the accounting firm Mazars USA must comply with the panel's demand for eight years of Trump's financial records as it investigates whether he committed financial crimes as a New York real estate developer and businessman before he entered the White House.

 

The constitution clearly gives Congress the right to investigate the president on matters of potential conflicts of interest and other criminal behavior, Mehta wrote.

"History has shown that congressionally exposed criminal conduct by the President or a high-ranking Executive Branch official can lead to legislation," Mehta wrote, citing the Watergate investigation by the Senate.

"It is simply not fathomable that a Constitution that grants Congress the power to remove a President for reasons including criminal behavior would deny Congress the power to investigate him for unlawful conduct -- past or present -- even without formally opening an impeachment inquiry," he added.

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, D-Md., chairman of committee that issued the subpoena, hailed the judge's ruling as "a resounding victory for the rule of law and our constitutional system of checks and balances."

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