WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. appeals court on Friday dealt the administration of President Donald Trump a major legal setback, ruling against its bid to block a Democratic-led congressional panel’s subpoena for testimony from former White House Counsel Donald McGahn.
The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on a 7-2 vote said the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee had legal standing to seek to enforce the subpoena. It left other legal issues unresolved, meaning litigation will continue.
“Today’s decision is a profound victory for the rule of law and our constitutional system of government,” said Representative Jerrold Nadler, chairman of the committee.
Kerri Kupec, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department, said the administration would “vigorously press” the remaining arguments.
As a result, the case is not likely to be concluded before the Nov. 3 election, in which Trump is seeking a second term.
Writing for the court, Judge Judith Rogers wrote that the committee has shown it “suffers a concrete and particularized injury when denied the opportunity to obtain information necessary to the legislative, oversight and impeachment functions of the House.”
The committee had sought testimony from McGahn, who left his post in October 2018, about Trump’s efforts to impede former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation that documented Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election.
McGahn declined to testify before the committee after the Justice Department advised him to defy the subpoena. The department argued that senior presidential advisers cannot be forced to testify to Congress about official acts and that courts lack jurisdiction to resolve such disputes.
A district court judge ruled for the House in November but a three-judge appeals court panel reversed that decision in February. The House then asked the full court to hear the case.
Trump, seeking to thwart investigations by Democratic lawmakers, has directed that current and former officials defy congressional requests for testimony and documents on impeachment on a broad range of issues.
The House in December impeached Trump on two charges related to his request that Ukraine investigate presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, but the Republican-controlled Senate voted in February to leave him in office.
Friday’s ruling comes a month after the Supreme Court rejected Trump’s broad claims of immunity to congressional subpoenas in two cases involving attempts by the House to obtain his financial records from two banks and his accounting firm.
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley and Jan Wolfe; Additional reporting by Sarah Lynch; Editing by Chris Reese, Matthew Lewis and Dan Grebler)