Judge rules against Trump in records dispute with Congress

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The White House directed former counsel Don McGahn Monday to defy a congressional subpoena to testify before a House committee on Tuesday, citing a legal opinion drafted by the Justice Department that stated the former Trump official was immune from being compelled to testify.

The 41-page ruling from U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta in favor of the House Oversight and Reform Committee was not unexpected, and his ruling describes sweeping congressional power to subpoena records for what appears on its face to be a valid legislative objective.

"The Department of Justice has provided a legal opinion stating that, based on long-standing, bipartisan, and Constitutional precedent, the former Counsel to the President can not be forced to give such testimony, and Mr. McGahn has been directed to act accordingly", White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement Monday.

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Trump's lawyers argued that Democrats in Congress are on a quest to 'turn up something that Democrats can use as a political tool against the president now and in the 2020 election'.

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Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) implied that the president was acting criminally when the administration said Monday that Don McGahn would not be testifying before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.

Mehta, nominated by President Obama in 2014, disagreed with the argument by the president and his legal team that the subpoena by the Democratic-led panel lacked any "legislative purpose" and was part of a politically motivated ploy to undermine Mr. Trump's presidency.

US Congressman Elijah Cummings earlier issued a subpoena to Mazars USA to obtain Trump's private financial records as a means of learning whether he committed illegal activity before becoming the US president.

McGahn was a key witness in Mueller's probe, particularly into his investigation into whether the President obstructed justice.

"So long as Congress investigates on a subject matter on which 'legislation could be had, ' Congress acts as contemplated by Article I of the Constitution", Mehta said in a 41-page opinion.

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In a letter to Nadler, White House counsel Pat Cipollone cited a Department of Justice (DOJ) opinion indicating that Congress can not compel senior advisers to the president to testify about their official duties.

In its legal opinion, the Justice Department believed Congress "could not lawfully exercise any inherent contempt authority against Mr. McGahn for asserting immunity".

McGahn featured prominently in Mueller's final report, released last month.

U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta in Washington also denied a request by Trump to stay his decision pending an appeal.

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