Common Cause

For Immediate Release

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Congress Must Hold Former White House Counsel Don McGahn in Contempt

Statement of Common Cause President Karen Hobert Flynn

WASHINGTON - Congress must hold former White House Counsel Don McGahn in contempt. McGahn’s refusal to testify is in deliberate defiance of a House Judiciary Committee subpoena, and he, and the White House, must be held to account. The Committee must move expeditiously to issue a contempt citation and the full House must follow suit in short order.

The Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) memo claiming to excuse McGahn from testifying is contrary to relevant court decisions. Courts have flatly rejected the legal argument that a former White House Counsel is “absolutely immune” from a congressional subpoena. The House of Representative’s subpoena power is rooted in the constitution, with a long history of jurisprudence supporting it. The OLC memo is just more evidence of obstruction of justice by President Trump and his Attorney General William Barr.


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McGahn’s no-show today is part of a blanket campaign of stonewalling and defiance by the Trump Administration. The time has come to act. Subpoenas are being defied so Congress must begin leveling serious punishments against all those who do not comply. Congress must use all the tools at its disposal to enforce its subpoenas and fulfill its oversight responsibilities.  

Current and former Trump Administration officials do not get to arbitrarily withhold information and ignore subpoenas from Congress – a coequal branch of government with oversight responsibilities enshrined in the United States Constitution. Without oversight of the executive branch any democracy is at serious risk of slipping toward a totalitarian regime. Congress must act now and act decisively. History will not look kindly on any member of Congress who continues to put their party before their country by condoning the Trump Administration’s defiance of the United States Constitution.


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Common Cause is a nonpartisan, nonprofit advocacy organization founded in 1970 by John Gardner as a vehicle for citizens to make their voices heard in the political process and to hold their elected leaders accountable to the public interest.

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