A federal appeals court ruled Friday that House Democrats have legal “standing” to bring their lawsuit against the Trump administration to enforce a subpoena for former White House Counsel Don McGahn.
The decision comes as a setback for President Trump and the White House’s claims of executive privilege over communications with McGahn during his tenure.
APPEALS COURT DISMISSES DEM EFFORT TO FORCE EX-WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL DON MCGAHN TO TESTIFY
“The en banc court’s decision in McGahn resolves that common issue by holding that there is no general bar against the House of Representatives’ standing in all cases purely inter branch disputes,” the opinion read.
The opinion comes after House Democrats, for months, have been pushing in the courts to subpoena McGahn, who was supposedly a central witness to alleged attempts by President Trump to obstruct justice in the investigation of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller, including one incident where McGahn supposedly stymied an attempt to fire Mueller himself by threatening to resign if Trump went through with it.
“Today’s decision is a profound victory for the rule of law and our constitutional system of government,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said in a statement. “The court rejected President Trump’s sweeping claim that Committees of the House have no standing before the courts to seek redress of the institutional injury caused when lawfully issued subpoenas are ignored.”
He added: “Today’s decision confirms the Judiciary’s ability to resolve these disputes.”
Nadler went on to say that the committee looks “forward to the favorable resolution of the remaining issues before the DC Circuit in short order.”
“In the meantime, today’s decision strikes a blow against the wall of impunity that President Trump has tried to build for himself,” Nadler said. “And it reaffirms the core principle behind the Supreme Court’s rulings last month: No one—not even the President—is above the law.”
Meanwhile, the Justice Department on Friday said it disagreed with the court’s ruling.
“While we strongly disagree with the standing ruling in McGahn, the en banc court properly recognized that we have additional threshold grounds for dismissal of both cases, and we intend to vigorously press those arguments before the panels hearing those cases,” Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said in a statement.
The House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed McGahn about a month after Mueller released his report in 2019, but the Trump administration claimed that McGahn had absolute immunity from being forced to testify to congressional investigators.
HOUSE DEMS FILE FOR REHEARING AFTER LOSING EFFORT TO FORCE MCGAHN SUBPOENA
It is not unusual for the executive branch to claim that it doesn’t have to cooperate with congressional requests for information.
The committee then sued to force McGahn to testify and won on the district court level before the appeals court reversed the ruling, arguing that the judiciary would be violating the separation of powers and historical precedent if it were to meddle in this dispute between the other two branches of the federal government.
A three-judge panel ruled earlier this year against the committee’s efforts to force McGahn to testify before the committee – saying it didn’t have the authority to do so –dealing a blow to House Democrats in litigation they have been pursuing.
Fox News’ Jake Gibson and Tyler Olson contributed to this report.