House panel seeks rehearing over White House counsel subpoena fight

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FILE PHOTO: White House Counsel Don McGahn listens during the confirmation hearing for U.S. Supreme Court nominee judge Brett Kavanaugh on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 4, 2018. REUTERS/Chris Wattie/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee on Friday asked a federal appeals court to reconsider a ruling that prevented the panel from compelling a former Senior White House lawyer to testify about his role in President Donald Trump’s efforts to impede the Mueller investigation.

In a court filing, House lawyers said that if the committee cannot enforce subpoenas, it is left only with drastic options such as trying to arrest people who refuse to testify. The lawyers wrote that “arrest and detention should not be a prerequisite to obtaining judicial resolution of the enforceability of a congressional subpoena.”

The Judiciary Committee had wanted former White House Counsel Don McGahn, who left his post in October 2018, to testify about Trump’s efforts to impede Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election.

In the earlier 2-1 ruling, a panel of judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Feb. 28 had agreed with the administration’s argument that the court had no legal role in settling a closely watched dispute between the executive and legislative branches of the federal government.

In doing so, the court reversed a district court judge and appeared to endorse an expansive view of presidential powers.

If the court grants the committee’s request, an expanded panel of 11 judges, the majority of them Democratic appointees, would rehear the case.

McGahn defied the subpoena in May. The committee sued to enforce it in August, a month before the House launched its impeachment inquiry against Trump centering on his request that Ukraine investigate Democratic political rival Joe Biden and his son. The Democratic-led House impeached Trump in December. The Republican-led Senate acquitted him in February.

Reporting by Mark Hosenball, Lawrence Hurley and Jan Wolfe; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and David Gregorio

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