Pondering Impeachment, House Sues Don McGahn, Ex-White House Counsel, for Testimony

William A. Burck, a lawyer for Mr. McGahn, said on Wednesday that his client would continue to follow Mr. Trump’s instruction unless a judge rules that he must comply.

“People should not forget that Don McGahn is a lawyer and has an ethical obligation to protect client confidences, and as I have said before, Don does not believe he witnessed any violation of law,” Mr. Burck said. “When faced with competing demands from coequal branches of government, Don will follow his former client’s instruction, absent a contrary decision from the federal judiciary.”

The filing did note, however, that the Judiciary Committee and the White House had reached an agreement to allow lawmakers to review documents related to the Mueller case in Mr. McGahn’s possession.

Perhaps no government official figures was a more prominent witness in Mr. Mueller’s report than Mr. McGahn, who left the White House in late 2018. He spent more than 30 hours with the special counsel’s investigators.

Mr. McGahn was the central witness to two of the most important obstruction-of-justice episodes recounted in the Mueller report. Mr. McGahn told the special counsel that Mr. Trump ordered him to have Mr. Mueller fired in June 2017; Mr. McGahn refused and prepared to quit in protest, and Mr. Trump backed off. Later, when that firing attempt came to light, Mr. Trump attempted to pressure Mr. McGahn into falsifying a piece of evidence denying that it had happened.

Democrats on the Judiciary Committee want badly to have Mr. McGahn recreate such episodes in a live hearing on Capitol Hill. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who remains skeptical of pursuing impeachment, has repeatedly said that if Democrats are to proceed to impeachment, they must do so with the strongest possible case against Mr. Trump. Public testimony from Mr. McGahn and other eyewitnesses to the president’s behavior would almost certainly be a part of any such case.

If the courts were to strike down the executive branch’s “absolute immunity” claim, it could also ease the path to public testimony about events after Mr. Trump took office from a host of other former top Trump aides, including Hope Hicks, John F. Kelly, and Reince Priebus, who also provided information to Mr. Mueller.

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