In McGahn Ruling, the Stakes Are High

Could affect separation of powers, along with the impeachment inquiry
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 26, 2019 11:47 AM CST
A 2018 photo of former White House counsel Don McGahn.   (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

(Newser) – Will former White House counsel Don McGahn have to testify before Congress about his old boss? A federal judge ruled Monday that he must, but the Justice Department said Tuesday that it will appeal, reports the Hill. No word yet on when a final resolution to the case might come, but the Washington Post thinks this could end up in the Supreme Court. And the stakes go beyond whatever McGahn might or might not say about President Trump's actions. This one "sets up a potentially landmark Supreme Court test of the Constitution's checks and balances, pitting Congress' impeachment and oversight authority against the powers of the presidency," per the Post. What's more, it could also affect the impeachment inquiry. Coverage:

  • Significance: A story at Politico agrees with the assessment of the Post, asserting that the case "could reshape the balance of power between Congress and the executive branch." A widely quoted line in the ruling by Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of the Federal District Court for DC speaks to that point: "Presidents are not kings," wrote Jackson, per the New York Times. "They do not have subjects, bound by loyalty or blood, whose destiny they are entitled to control."
  • The issue: Trump claims McGahn has "absolute immunity" and shouldn't have to testify. As the AP recounts, Democrats wanted him to answer questions about possible obstruction by Trump in regard to the Robert Mueller investigation. (McGahn spoke to Mueller's investigators for 30 hours.) His lawyer says he'll comply with whatever the courts decide.

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