Democrats Win Ex-Justice Officials’ Support on Trump Oversight

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(Bloomberg) -- Seven former Justice Department officials urged a federal appeals court in Washington to reverse its earlier ruling that President Donald Trump’s former White House Counsel could not be forced to testify before Congress.

The officials, who mostly served in Democratic administrations, said in a brief filed Thursday that the appeals court’s Feb. 28 ruling, which bolstered the president’s resistance to Congressional oversight, was “wrong” and urged its reversal at a so-called en banc rehearing by a larger panel of judges on April 28.

In its earlier decision, the court said the judiciary could not decide a dispute between the executive and legislative branches, a finding rejected by the former officials, who included former Obama administration Deputy Assistant Attorney General Elliot Williams and ex-Clinton administration Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General Joseph Onek.

“Not only is the judiciary well equipped to answer a question about testimonial immunity,” they said, “but prohibiting Congress from enforcing its subpoenas in court will effectively allow not only this Administration -- but all future administrations -- to avoid legitimate congressional oversight.”

The House subpoenaed Don McGahn to testify as part of its impeachment inquiry and subsequently sued to compel his testimony after Trump ordered the lawyer not to comply. The officials said in their brief that the Justice Department consistently held the view for years that Congress could sue to enforce subpoenas and that Trump’s refusal to let McGahn testify was “unprecedented.”

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