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Don McGahn: White House directs former lawyer not to testify

White House Counsel Don McGahnImage copyright
AFP

The White House has directed one of its former legal advisers not to appear before a congressional committee to testify about the Mueller report.

The Department of Justice and White House both released statements on Monday arguing that Donald McGahn was under no obligation to give evidence.

The Democratic-led House Judiciary Committee had issued a legal order for Mr McGahn to testify on Tuesday.

Mr McGahn “cannot be forced to give such testimony”, the White House said.

The former White House counsel told special counsel Robert Mueller that Mr Trump tried repeatedly to thwart the US inquiry into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US election.

Citing the justice department guidance, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said: “The former Counsel to the President cannot be forced to give such testimony, and Mr McGahn has been directed to act accordingly.”

Her statement added: “This action has been taken in order to ensure that future Presidents can effectively execute the responsibilities of the Office of the Presidency.”

Since the release of the Mueller report last month, Democrats have sought Mr McGhan’s direct account of particular encounters with Mr Trump outlined in the report.

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The special counsel’s report detailed how Mr McGahn felt the president pressured him to fire Mr Mueller and, later, write a memo saying that Mr Trump had issued no such directive.

When US Attorney General William Barr was questioned about the matter by Senate Democrats, he said the president only suggested that Mr Mueller be “replaced” because of a perceived conflict of interest – and then instructed Mr McGahn to write a memo to correct inaccurate media reports.

Judiciary committee chairman Jerrold Nadler said last week that he was prepared to have his panel hold a contempt vote for Mr McGahn if he did not testify, ignoring the subpoena issued on 22 April.

“Mr McGahn is a critical witness to many of the alleged instances of obstruction of justice and other misconduct described in the Mueller report,” Mr Nadler said last month.

In a memo released on Monday, the justice department said the president’s former counsel did not have to testify.

US Assistant Attorney General Steven Engel said: “Congress may not constitutionally compel the President’s senior advisers to testify about their official duties.”

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