WASHINGTON – The House Judiciary Committee held open the possibility Monday of recommending additional articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump as it pressed anew for the testimony of former White House counsel Don McGahn.
The committee wants a federal appeals court to order McGahn to testify as it examines potential obstruction of justice by the president during special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. In a filing to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, lawyers for the committee said the court should rule quickly on the validity of the subpoena it issued to McGahn for testimony about Trump’s efforts to impede Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The committee and its lawyers said McGahn’s testimony remains essential even though the House has already voted to impeach Trump on two charges related to his interactions with Ukraine rather than on actions uncovered during Mueller’s Russia probe.
They said his testimony could also be useful for any Senate impeachment trial.
“If McGahn’s testimony produces new evidence supporting the conclusion that President Trump committed impeachable offenses that are not covered by the Articles approved by the House, the Committee will proceed accordingly — including, if necessary, by considering whether to recommend new articles of impeachment,” lawyers for the Democratic-led committee wrote.
The committee also said McGahn’s testimony is important for the committee’s oversight role of the FBI and the Justice Department, “including in determining whether those agencies are operating free from improper political interference.”
A judge last month directed McGahn to comply with the House Judiciary Committee subpoena, and a Washington-based appeals court is scheduled to hear arguments Jan. 3.
Democrats on the Judiciary Committee subpoenaed McGahn well before the start this fall of an impeachment inquiry centered around Trump’s request to Ukraine’s president that he investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden and his son, as well as an unsubstantiated conspiracy theory alleging Ukraine’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
There is little chance Trump will be convicted and removed from office through a trial in the Republican-led Senate, but the impeachment proceedings could resonate at the ballot box in November.
A report by Mueller released earlier this year portrayed McGahn as one of the few figures in Trump’s orbit to challenge him when he tried to have the special counsel removed.
The U.S. Department of Justice has argued that under the Constitution current and former senior White House officials cannot be forced to testify before Congress.
The Justice Department argued in a court filing, also submitted on Monday, that the impeachment vote means there is no longer any urgency to resolve the McGahn case.
The Trump administration lawyers also urged the court to stay out of the dispute between the White House and Congress over McGahn’s testimony.
“This Court should decline the Committee’s request that it enter the fray and instead should dismiss this fraught suit between the political branches for lack of jurisdiction,” Justice Department lawyers said.
Meanwhile, House speaker Nancy Pelosi said Monday that she is not yet ready to name her team for Trump’s trial in the Senate.
“The House cannot choose our impeachment managers until we know what sort of trial the Senate will conduct,” the Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives said on Twitter.
House managers will prosecute the case against Trump before the Republican majority Senate in a trial expected to begin in January.
Pelosi has not yet sent the impeachment articles passed by the House over to the Senate amid a standoff with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell over the form the trial will take.
McConnell, speaking on the “Fox & Friends” television show on Monday, said Pelosi “apparently believes that she can tell us how to run the trial.”
“We haven’t ruled out witnesses,” McConnell said, adding that he wanted to apply the same rules as in the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton.
“You listen to the opening arguments, you have a written question period, and at that point in the Clinton trial, we had a decision about which witnesses to call,” he said.
“What was good enough for President Clinton is good enough for President Trump,” the Republican senator from Kentucky said.
He then chided Pelosi for not sending the impeachment articles over to the Senate yet.
“The papers have to be physically brought over to the Senate, and we can’t go forward until the speaker does that,” he said.
“You know, I’m not anxious to have this trial,” McConnell added. “So if she wants to hold all the papers, go right ahead.