Black Federal Judge Strikes Crucial Blow Against Trump’s ‘Absolute Immunity’ Claims: ‘Presidents Are Not Kings’

By Anne Branigin

In a rul­ing late Monday, Federal District Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson said for­mer White House coun­sel Don McGahn must obey a sub­poe­na to tes­ti­fy before Congress. The sub­poe­na, issued in April, came from the House Judiciary Committee as part of its inves­ti­ga­tion into pos­si­ble obstruc­tion of jus­tice by President Donald Trump.

As NBC News reports, in her deci­sion, Jackson also reject­ed a key argu­ment put for­ward by the Justice Department in defense of the admin­is­tra­tion — that as a for­mer close advis­er to the pres­i­dent, McGahn is absolute­ly immune to demands he appear before Congress.

From NBC News:

It is clear to this Court for the rea­sons explained above that, with respect to senior-lev­el pres­i­den­tial aides, absolute immu­ni­ty from com­pelled con­gres­sion­al process sim­ply does not exist,” Jackson said in her rul­ing.

Presidents are not kings,” she added.

This means that they do not have sub­jects, bound by loy­al­ty or blood, whose des­tiny they are enti­tled to con­trol,” Jackson said. “Rather, in this land of lib­er­ty, it is indis­putable that cur­rent and for­mer employ­ees of the White House work for the peo­ple of the United States…”

McGahn, how­ev­er, can “invoke exec­u­tive priv­i­lege where appro­pri­ate” dur­ing his tes­ti­mo­ny, the judge said.

If you’re con­fused about where in the Trump’s admin­is­tra­tion carousel of crazy McGahn fits, don’t wor­ry — April of this year might as well be four years ago in Trump-time.

House Judiciary Democrats want­ed McGahn to tes­ti­fy and turn over doc­u­ments relat­ed to for­mer spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s inves­ti­ga­tion into Russian inter­fer­ence in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. Mueller’s report indi­cat­ed that Trump ordered McGahn to tell Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, “Mueller has to go.”

From an ear­li­er NBC News report:

McGahn spoke with the President twice and under­stood the direc­tive the same way both times, mak­ing it unlike­ly that he mis­heard or mis­in­ter­pret­ed the President’s request. In response to that request, McGahn decid­ed to quit,” the report said. “He called his lawyer, drove to the White House, packed up his office, pre­pared to sub­mit a res­ig­na­tion let­ter with his chief of staff, (and) told (then-White House Chief of Staff Reince) Priebus that the President had asked him to ‘do crazy shit.’

McGahn ulti­mate­ly did not quit and the President did not fol­low up with McGahn on his request to have the Special Counsel removed,” the report said.

Lawyers advo­cat­ing on behalf of the House Judiciary Democrats urged Judge Jackson to make a deci­sion quick­ly since the group wants to hold its own impeach­ment hear­ings, sep­a­rate from the five-day hear­ings recent­ly con­clud­ed by the House Intelligence Committee.

The Justice Department said it will appeal Jackson’s rul­ing and seek a stay of her order. But while White House press sec­re­tary Stephanie Grisham indi­cat­ed that the DOJ was “con­fi­dent” the administration’s absolute immu­ni­ty posi­tion would be vin­di­cat­ed, NBC News points out that no court has ever upheld the argu­ment that close advis­ers to the pres­i­dent can’t be forced to appear before Congress.

If his­to­ry is any indi­ca­tion, McGahn, girl: You bet­ter shine your shoes, pop some vit­a­min B, and get Fenty-ready for the cam­eras, because you’re tes­ti­fy­ing. https://​www​.the​root​.com/​b​l​a​c​k​-​f​e​d​e​r​a​l​-​j​u​d​g​e​-​s​t​r​i​k​e​s​-​c​r​u​c​i​a​l​-​b​l​o​w​-​a​g​a​i​n​s​t​-​t​r​u​m​p​s​-​1​8​4​0​0​4​8​336