Some of the Mueller report’s most compelling evidence for the case that President Trump obstructed justice comes from his interactions with former White House counsel Don McGahn — most notably, the president’s attempt to fire Robert Mueller in June 2017, which was thwarted only when McGahn threatened to resign if he were forced to carry out the order.
Trump, obviously, does not want the most-cited witness in the Mueller report to testify in front of Congress. So it wasn’t a surprise when he directed McGahn to ignore a congressional subpoena and skip his hearing in front of the House Judiciary Committee scheduled for Tuesday.
McGahn’s lawyer said on Tuesday that he will not appear before the House, and a source close to him told the New York Times that he intends to follow any directive from the White House. The former White House counsel has already ignored one House Judiciary subpoena, refusing to send the committee the documents he had shared with the Mueller team.
As former Obama administration Department of Justice appointee Eric Columbus attests, McGahn could testify if he chose to: “Executive privilege has no force against a former employee who wants to testify.” Furthermore, there is no reasonable claim of attorney-client privilege between the president and a former White House counsel. If McGahn’s defense of the president seems confusing, the New York Times cites one reason for his decision to walk the party line: “If he defies the White House, Mr. McGahn could not only damage his own career in Republican politics but also put his law firm, Jones Day, at risk of having the president urge his allies to withhold their business. The firm’s Washington practice is closely affiliated with the party.” Still, he has declined at least two requests from the White House asking that he publicly declare that the president did not obstruct justice.
In an effort to keep his unsportsmanlike behavior private, Trump is employing executive privilege left and right, claiming that Congress cannot investigate if the president has broken the law. After his declaring executive privilege over McGahn’s documents and the unredacted Mueller report, it’s gotten to the point that even Republicans are frustrated with Trump’s abuse of the power. “I think we have oversight authority over the administration,” House Judiciary member Ken Buck told Politico. Naturally, they’re not frustrated enough to put any pressure on the president to stop flaunting the power. Democrats “are taking too broad of a view of the investigative powers of Congress and the administration’s taking way too narrow of one,” Republican Mike Simpson told Politico, describing a happy medium for House Republicans, who can sit back and do nothing.