(USA Features) A federal appeals court on Friday ruled against House Democrats in their attempt to force former White House counsel Don McGahn to comply with a subpoena to provide testimony.
In a 2-1 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia overturned a lower court’s ruling that McGahn had to comply with a congressional subpoena, rejecting the Trump administration’s argument that his interactions with the president are protected under executive privilege.
Democrats are seeking testimony from current and former Trump administration officials regarding findings of former special counsel Robert Mueller, whose probe found no evidence of election “collusion” between the 2016 Trump campaign and Moscow.
President Trump authorized McGahn, when he was still White House counsel, to provide testimony to Mueller’s investigators, in which he ultimately was deposed for nearly 30 hours.
But the president directed him not to comply with the House’s subpoena for additional testimony, suspecting Democrats were playing politics with a previous investigation that has already been adjudicated.
The administration said that as the president’s lawyer, McGahn has “absolute immunity” from congressional subpoenas.
If the ruling stands, it will significantly limit the Legislative Branch’s alleged oversight power related to the Executive Branch, though constitutional experts claim that Congress retains the power of ultimate oversight through impeachment — which has already been used against Trump.
“The absence of a judicial remedy doesn’t render Congress powerless. Instead, the Constitution gives Congress a series of political tools to bring the Executive Branch to heel,” U.S. District Judge Judge Thomas Griffith, an appointee of President George W. Bush, wrote in the majority opinion.
Other Democratic House subpoenas are still pending. The House Ways and Means Committee has sued Trump personally for access to his and his family’s business tax filings.