By Robert A. Vella
In an anticipated ruling, a federal judge has ruled that former White House Counsel Don McGahn must obey a congressional subpoena to testify before the House of Representatives dealing another legal blow to President Trump’s obstructionist and unconstitutional claims of blanket immunity. The U.S. Supreme Court has issued a temporary stay on a House subpoena to obtain Trump’s tax returns. Trump’s “personal lawyer” Rudy Giuliani and congressman Devin Nunes (R-CA) – the lead Republican in the House Intelligence Committee’s impeachment inquiry – are under criminal and ethical investigation, respectively, for activities related to Trump’s illegal coercion of the Ukrainian government. Lastly, I’ve included snapshots of Nate Silver’s 538 blog which tracks and comprehensively analyzes presidential approval and impeachment polls plus a disturbing article on the grave concern proponents have for the future of democracy in a world whirling into authoritarianism.
WASHINGTON — The former White House counsel Donald F. McGahn II must testify before House impeachment investigators about President Trump’s efforts to obstruct the Mueller inquiry, a judge ruled on Monday, saying that senior presidential aides must comply with congressional subpoenas and calling the administration’s arguments to the contrary “fiction.”
The 120-page decision by Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia handed another lower-court victory to House Democrats in their fight to overcome Mr. Trump’s stonewalling.
“Presidents are not kings,” wrote Judge Jackson, adding that current and former White House officials owe their allegiance to the Constitution. “They do not have subjects, bound by loyalty or blood, whose destiny they are entitled to control.”
Judge Jackson’s ruling also came on the same day that another federal judge in Washington held out the possibility that more documents about the Ukraine affair could yet see the light of day, ruling that emails between the White House and the Pentagon about the freezing of military aid to Ukraine should be released under a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.
The Supreme Court on Monday blocked a House committee from immediately reviewing President Trump’s financial records, after the president’s lawyers agreed to an expedited review of a lower-court ruling granting access.
The court’s action signals that, even as Congress considers impeaching Trump, the court will undertake a more complete consideration of the legal powers of Congress and state prosecutors to investigate the president while he is in office.
The court instructed Trump’s lawyers to file a petition by Dec. 5 stating why the court should accept the case for full briefing and oral argument. If the petition is eventually denied, the lower-court ruling will go into effect. If accepted, the case probably will be heard this term, with a decision before the court adjourns at the end of June.
In recent weeks, prosecutors have sent subpoenas and other requests to potential witnesses seeking records and information related to Mr. Giuliani and two of his associates, according to the people. The investigation, led by the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, has already led to campaign-finance charges against the associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman.
The subpoenas offer the clearest indication yet that federal prosecutors are examining Mr. Giuliani’s consulting work. Among the entities named in the subpoenas are Giuliani Partners, a security-consulting firm founded by Mr. Giuliani in 2002 that had multiple foreign clients, including a city in Ukraine. The subpoenas also sought information on a company co-founded by Mr. Parnas that paid Mr. Giuliani for business and legal advice.
Subpoenas described to The Wall Street Journal listed more than a half dozen potential charges under consideration: obstruction of justice, money laundering, conspiracy to defraud the United States, making false statements to the federal government, serving as an agent of a foreign government without registering with the Justice Department, donating funds from foreign nationals, making contributions in the name of another person or allowing someone else to use one’s name to make a contribution, along with mail fraud and wire fraud.
The House Intelligence Committee just finished hearing from a dozen witnesses, many of whom said President Trump’s allies were pushing unsubstantiated allegations about Joe Biden in Ukraine. Now, a Ukrainian American who worked with Trump attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani says he wants to testify that the top Republican on the committee was helping them dig up dirt on Biden, too.
The allegation comes from Lev Parnas, a business associate of Giuliani’s. Through a lawyer, Parnas is saying he would be willing to testify under oath that Nunes was working with them to damage Biden before the 2020 election. Parnas has produced thousands of pages of documents and even video about his work with Giuliani in Ukraine. We don’t know what, if anything, these documents say about Nunes.
CNN first reported Friday night that Parnas would be willing to testify that Nunes traveled to Vienna last year to meet with former Ukrainian prosecutor general Viktor Shokin. CNN looked at congressional travel records and noted that Nunes traveled to Europe around that time on a taxpayer-funded trip.
HALIFAX, Nova Scotia — If there’s a word that sums up the current mood of the West’s high command, it’s this: despair.
That’s the clearest and most alarming takeaway from discussions with the assorted diplomats, military officials and security wonks who assembled this weekend for the annual Halifax International Security Forum in Canada, a clubby gathering of leading democracies.
But the conversation centered less on fears about enemy capabilities, and much more on signs of the West’s own deepening malaise: a U.S. electorate riven over a volatile president on the brink of impeachment, European leaders squabbling among themselves, and everywhere a leadership void filled increasingly by populist insurgents and radicals.
“In the past we’ve been able to focus our attention on adversaries and not had to spend a lot of time shoring up the democracies, including our own,” said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.). “We don’t have that luxury anymore. We’ve got to spend some of our time shoring up our own democracies.”