09:32 GMT01 December 2020
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    WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - US President Donald Trump instructed former White House counsel Donald McGahn to defy a congressional subpoena and not attend Tuesday's scheduled hearing before the House Judiciary Committee, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in news release on Monday.

    "The Department of Justice has provided a legal opinion stating that, based on long-standing, bipartisan, and Constitutional precedent, the former Counsel to the President cannot be forced to give such testimony, and Mr. McGahn has been directed to act accordingly", Sanders said in the release.

    The US Justice Department (DOJ) ruled that Congress may not constitutionally compel the president's senior advisers to testify about their official duties. This testimonial immunity is "rooted in the constitutional separation of powers and derives from the president's independence from Congress".

    READ MORE: Trump Says Doesn't Think He Can Let Ex-WH Counsel McGahn Testify Before Congress

    McGahn was scheduled to appear before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday to testify about Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into alleged Trump-Russian collusion and 2016 US presidential election interference.

    House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler said last week that he was prepared to have a vote on whether to hold McGahn in contempt of Congress should he not show up for the testimony.

    Later on Monday, Nadler said in a statement cited by Reuters that the panel will meet on Tuesday as planned and "Mr. McGahn is expected to appear as legally required".

    Another Democratic member of the House Judiciary Committee, David Cicilline, told reporters on Monday that an impeachment inquiry could be warranted if McGahn does not respond to a congressional subpoena to testify before the panel.

    "Let me be clear, if Don McGahn doesn't testify it is time to open an impeachment inquiry", Cicilline told MSNBC. "The president has engaged in an ongoing effort to impede our ability to find the truth, to collect evidence to do our work".

    READ MORE: Trump Slams Mueller Report Again Saying 'Witch Hunt' Must Never Happen Again

    Meanwhile, McGahn's lawyer William Burck said in a statement that former White House counsel will not appear before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.

    The committee is investigating whether Trump illegally obstructed the probe into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election. In particular, Mueller’s report, which was released earlier in April, alleged that Moscow interfered in the 2016 election but said there was no evidence of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.

    According to US-based media, Mueller's report also cites McGahn saying that Trump called him several times in June 2017 to tell him to direct the DOJ to remove Mueller due to conflicts of interest. McGahn did not carry out Trump’s order, the report noted.

    Democrats on Capitol Hill have said that the alleged order by the US president to fire Mueller and an alleged attempt to compel McGahn to lie about it could amount to crimes of obstruction.

    Moscow has repeatedly denied interfering in US politics and said Mueller's report provides zero evidence to support allegations of Russian election meddling.

    READ MORE: Mueller Letter Conspiracy Supposed to Replace Debunked Russiagate


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