U.S. court to rehear House bid for testimony from ex-White House counsel McGahn

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[March 14, 2020]    By Jan Wolfe
 
 WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court on Friday said it would reconsider a recent decision dismissing a Democratic-led congressional panelís lawsuit seeking to enforce a subpoena for testimony from former White House Counsel Donald McGahn.

White House Counsel Don McGahn listens during the confirmation hearing for U.S. Supreme Court nominee judge Brett Kavanaugh on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 4, 2018. REUTERS/Chris Wattie/File Photo

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said it would hear arguments in the case on April 28.

In a 2-1 decision issued on Feb. 28, a three-judge panel of the court endorsed the Trump administrationís argument that the court had no place in settling the closely watched dispute between the executive and legislative branches of the U.S. government. In doing so, it appeared to endorse an expansive view of presidential powers and prerogatives.

The House Judiciary Committee had sought testimony from McGahn, who left his post in October 2018, about Trumpís efforts to impede former Special Counsel Robert Muellerís investigation that documented Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election.

A report by Mueller, released by the Justice Department in redacted form last April, portrayed McGahn as one of the few individuals close to Trump to challenge the president when he sought to have the special counsel removed.

The administration argued both that senior presidential advisers are ďabsolutely immuneĒ from being forced to testify to Congress about official acts and that courts lack jurisdiction to resolve such disputes.

The Feb. 28 decision, which reversed a lower court judge, represented a vindication for the Republican presidentís sweeping directive that current and former officials defy congressional requests for testimony and documents.

The court is to consider the McGahn case alongside another dispute between the House of Representatives and the Trump administration.

In that case, the House sued over Trump's announcement that he would spend $8.1 billion on a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border despite the fact Congress had only appropriated $1.375 billion. The case raises similar issues to the McGahn case, with a district court judge ruling that the House did not have standing to sue.

(Reporting by Jan Wolfe; Editing by Tom Brown)

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