House Democrats asked a larger panel of judges on a powerful Washington, DC-based appeals court on Tuesday to review whether former White House counsel Donald McGahn must appear before a congressional committee and testify about President Donald Trump.
The filing is the latest chapter in a significant separation of powers dispute concerning whether federal courts can enforce legislative subpoenas against executive-branch officials.
Late last month, a three judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the House’s lawsuit against McGahn must be dismissed. The court reasoned that Congress had to enact law expressly authorizing such a suit before it can go forward.
Now the House wants the full court to review the opinion.
In the new filing, House general counsel Douglas Letter argued that the opinion by the three judge panel “hamstrung the House’s constitutional right to obtain information.”
Letter said it was time for the full court “to resolve this matter so that the House can finally act upon its subpoena and obtain the information it requires to carry out its constitutional responsibilities.”
The House Judiciary Committee has been trying to interview McGahn under oath since spring 2019, and Democrats say they want to question him about potentially obstructive behavior from the President during the Russia investigation, which McGahn witnessed and had disclosed to special counsel Robert Mueller.
But the case has ping ponged between a three judge panel of the court, and the full panel of judges. Previously, the same split panel of three judges said the House didn’t have the ability to take the executive branch to court over a subpoena. But then the full appeals court disagreed, sending the case back to the same three judges.
The Justice Department, representing Trump and his Cabinet, had argued the courts should stay out of the disputes, letting Congress use politics and legislation to force the administration into compliance if it must.