(AP) — The House Judiciary Committee
is set to question former White House
counsel Don McGahn
behind closed doors on Friday, two years after Democrats first requested his testimony as part of investigations into former President Donald Trump
The long-awaited interview
is the result of a settlement reached in federal court last month. House Democrats
, who were investigating whether Trump tried to obstruct Justice Department
investigations into his presidential campaign's ties to Russia at the time, initially sued after McGahn refused to comply with an April
2019 subpoena on Trump's orders.
That same month, the Justice Department issued a redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller
's report on the matter, in which Mueller specifically did not exonerate President Donald Trump of obstruction of justice
but also did not recommend prosecuting him, citing Justice Department policy against indicting a sitting president.
While the Judiciary Committee eventually won the battle for McGahn's testimony, the court agreement almost guarantees they won't learn anything new: the two sides agreed that McGahn will only be questioned about information attributed to him in publicly available portions of Mueller's report.
Despite this, House Democrats kept the case going, even after Trump left office, and are moving
forward with the interview to make an example of the former White House counsel. House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said the agreement for McGahn's testimony is a good-faith compromise that "satisfies our subpoena, protects the Committee's constitutional duty to conduct oversight in the future."
It's unclear what House Democrats will do with the testimony, which they sought before impeaching Trump twice, both times the Senate
As White House counsel, McGahn had an insider's view of many of the episodes Mueller and his team investigated for potential obstruction of justice during the Russia investigation
. McGahn was a pivotal — and damning — witness
against Trump, with his name mentioned hundreds of times in the Mueller report
and its footnotes.
He told investigators about the president's repeated attempts to suffocate the investigation, as well as directives from the president that frightened him.
He recalled how Trump had demanded that he contact then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to order him to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. McGahn also stated that Trump had asked him to inform the deputy attorney general at the time, Rod Rosenstein, that Mueller should be removed from his position due to perceived conflicts of interest — and, after that incident was reported in the media
, to publicly apologize.
McGahn also discussed the events leading up to Trump's firing of FBI
Director James Comey, including the president's insistence on including in the termination letter the fact that Comey had assured Trump that he was not personally under investigation.
And he was present for a pivotal conversation early in the Trump administration
, when Sally Yates
, just before she was fired as acting attorney general as a holdover Obama appointee, relayed concerns to McGahn about new national security
adviser Michael Flynn
, raising the possibility that Flynn's conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak — and subsequent FBI interview — lacked objectivity.
The Trump Justice Department fought efforts to have McGahn testify, but in 2019, U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson
rejected Trump's arguments that his close advisers were immune from congressional subpoena. President Joe Biden
has nominated Jackson to the Washington appeals court.