'Presidents are not kings': Judge rules that former White House counsel Don McGahn must testify before Congress related to Mueller investigation

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'Presidents are not kings': Judge rules that former White House counsel Don McGahn must testify before Congress related to Mueller investigation

FILE PHOTO: White House Counsel Don McGahn sits behind U.S. President Donald Trump as the president holds a cabinet meeting at the White House in Washington, U.S. June 21, 2018.  REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

Reuters

White House Counsel McGahn listens to U.S. President Trump hold a cabinet meeting at the White House in Washington

  • White House Counsel Don McGahn has been ordered by a federal judge to testify before a congressional committee. 
  • McGahn was a key witness in special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation and spent 30 hours testifying before Mueller's team. 
  • He was subpoenaed in April by the House Judiciary Committee to testify again. 
  • McGahn's attorney said his client would comply with the decision unless an appeal is filed. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

A federal judge ruled on Monday that former White House Counsel Don McGahn must appear before a congressional committee - a move that stands to counter President Donald Trump's efforts to prevent top White House staff from testifying against him through executive privilege.

McGahn was a key witness in former special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, particularly into the investigation of whether the president obstructed justice. McGahn spent 30 hours testifying before Mueller's team and was featured heavily in Mueller's findings. He was subpoenaed in April by the House Judiciary Committee.

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Mueller did not make a determination on obstruction of justice, stating that, "Charging the president with a crime was therefore not an option we could consider" due to long-standing department policy.

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson made her ruling on Monday and said McGahn must comply with the House subpoena to testify.

"Stated simply, the primary takeaway from the past 250 years of recorded American history is that Presidents are not kings," Jackson said in her ruling. This means that they do not have subjects, bound by loyalty or blood, whose destiny they are entitled to control."

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"Rather, in this land of liberty, it is indisputable that current and former employees of the White House work for the People of the United States, and that they take an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. Moreover, as citizens of the United States, current and former senior-level presidential aides have constitutional rights, including the right to free speech, and they retain these rights even after they have transitioned back into private life," Jackson continued in her ruling.

William Burck, McGahn's attorney, said his client would comply with the decision unless an appeal is filed. 

"Don McGahn will comply with Judge Jackson's decision unless it is stayed pending appeal. The [Department of Justice] is handling this case, so you will need to ask them whether they intend to seek a stay."

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DOJ spokeswoman Kerri Kupec told Bloomberg News' Jordan Fabian that the DOJ would appeal the ruling. 

"This decision contradicts longstanding legal precedent established by Administrations of both political parties. We will appeal and are confident that the important constitutional principle advanced by the Administration will be vindicated," White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement to CNN.

According to Associated Press, the White House has stated that McGahn and other top aides have "absolute immunity" from testifying. 

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According to Reuters, legal experts say that the ruling could encourage other administration officials to come forward and testify against the president in the ongoing impeachment inquiry.

The current impeachment probe is centered around a July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and looks at whether Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter for political gain.

Read the full ruling here:

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This is a developing story.

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