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Trump White House counsel McGahn to testify in Congress after 2019 no-show

By Don Johnson
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Trump White House counsel McGahn to testify in Congress after 2019 no-show
A name tag for then-White House counsel Don McGahn is seen on the witness table after he failed to appear at a House hearing on the Russia investigation, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on May 21, 2019. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

June 4 (UPI) -- Former White House counsel Don McGahn, who worked under former President Donald Trump, will appear in Congress to testify Friday -- two years after he was first subpoenaed for the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

McGahn defied a subpoena to testify in 2019 about possible obstruction of justice by Trump's administration in the inquiry. He was instructed by the White House not to appear. House Democrats sued in federal court to force him to provide testimony.

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Friday, McGahn will testify in a transcribed interview behind closed doors, as part of a deal struck with the Democratic-led House judiciary committee. The hearing, scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. EDT, will not be public.

McGahn was White House counsel from January 2017 to October 2018, which spans most of the inquiry by special counsel Robert Mueller, which looked for evidence of possible collusion between Trump's 2016 campaign and Russia. He provided information to Mueller about Trump's actions during the course of the investigation, including efforts to have Mueller fired.

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During the inquiry, Trump's White House cited a Justice Department legal opinion that said senior presidential advisers have total immunity from testifying before Congress. A lengthy battle followed until the committee and President Joe Biden's Justice Department struck a deal this year for McGahn to testify.

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As part of the agreement, McGahn will sit for Friday's interview before the committee and is allowed to have his attorney with him. A transcript of his testimony will be released later.

Questions for McGahn will be limited to information he provided Mueller and whether the public version of Mueller's report reflects his statements correctly. There can be no questions about redacted portions of the report.

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McGahn can refuse to answer questions if they are deemed to be outside the scope of the agreed upon inquiry.

Democrats hope McGahn's appearance will demonstrate that presidential advisers are not immune from congressional subpoenas.

"In order to actually get what it wanted, Congress basically had to abandon its wins [in court]," Steve Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas, told The Washington Post.

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"That's the big lesson here: these compromises aren't really compromises; they're Congress believing that something is better than nothing."

House Democrats proposed reforms last fall to require a quicker court review of congressional subpoenas, but those requested changes have yet to receive a vote.

Mueller's report said it found no concrete evidence of collusion between Trump's campaign and Moscow, but identified several occasions on which Trump may have obstructed the congressional investigation.

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