By David Morgan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Another senior ex-White House aide has agreed to provide testimony, initially in writing, to congressional investigators probing possible obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee said on Monday.
Annie Donaldson, former chief of staff to ex-White House counsel Don McGahn, was present for several episodes described in the Mueller report that House Democrats are pursuing as they weigh possible impeachment proceedings against Trump.
The report, released by Special Counsel Robert Mueller in redacted form in mid-April, cites Donaldson as a source of information on Trump’s role in the departures of former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former FBI Director James Comey.
It also recounts Trump’s efforts to persuade former Attorney General Jeff Sessions to redirect the Russia investigation away from Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and Trump’s unsuccessful pressuring of McGahn to remove Mueller.
“Ms. Donaldson had a front row seat to many of the instances outlined in the Mueller report dealing with President Trump’s alleged obstruction of justice and other abuses of power, which is why she is a key witness for the committee,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler said in a statement.
Donaldson, who is pregnant, will initially provide written answers to questions from congressional investigators under the agreement, because of the difficulty she would have travelling from her home in Alabama and testifying for a long period, the panel said. She agreed to appear in person after Nov. 1 if called.
Her attorney Sandra Moser welcomed the accommodation.
Democrats in the House of Representatives are pressing forward with numerous probes of Trump, his presidency, family and business interests. They also are seeking an unredacted version of the Mueller report, which looked into meddling by Russia in the 2016 U.S. presidential election to boost Trump’s candidacy, as well as Trump’s numerous efforts to impede the Mueller inquiry.
The White House was expected to attempt to stop Donaldson from testifying by claiming the committee’s topics of inquiry are protected by immunity. That was what it did last week with former White House Communications Director Hope Hicks, whom the committee said was prevented from answering questions 155 times during an eight-hour interview.
The White House had no immediate comment.
Any immunity claim would be asserted on a question-by-question basis, according to a person familiar with the matter. That would allow committee investigators to establish a record of White House objections that could be challenged later in federal court.
Like Hicks, Donaldson was subpoenaed by the panel to provide documents and testimony. The White House has directed both women not to hand over documents from their time at the White House.
(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and David Gregorio)