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U.S. Justice Department asks court to block ex-White House lawyer ruling

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By Reuters
U.S. Justice Department asks court to block ex-White House lawyer ruling
FILE PHOTO: White House counsel Don Mcgahn listens to U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh testify before a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 27, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Bourg/File Photo   -   Copyright  Jim Bourg(Reuters)

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Justice Department on Wednesday asked an appeals court to put on hold a ruling requiring former White House Counsel Don McGahn to testify to lawmakers as part of the Democrat-led impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump.

The filing in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit came after U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson did not act on a similar request to prevent her ruling on Monday from going into effect.

In that ruling, she rejected the Trump administration’s claim of broad immunity protecting current and former senior White House officials from being compelled to testify before Congress, saying no one is above the law.

Justice Department lawyers wrote in the filing that the appeals court should block the ruling before Trump is “irreparably injured by the compelled congressional testimony of a former close advisor.”

The administration wants the ruling to be put on hold while the Trump administration appeals it, which means McGahn would not have to testify in the meantime. The White House has directed current and former officials not to testify or provide documents sought in the House of Representatives impeachment inquiry.

House Democratic leaders have focused their impeachment inquiry on Trump’s actions concerning Ukraine, but have discussed pursuing a broader count of obstruction of Congress among any articles of impeachment – formal charges – brought against him. McGahn’s testimony could bolster that part of their inquiry.

McGahn, who left his post in October 2018, last May defied a House Judiciary Committee subpoena to testify about Trump’s efforts to impede former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation that detailed Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama editing by Jonathan Oatis)