Donald Trump’s White House Counsel Don McGahn is still refusing to comply with a subpoena to testify before the House Judiciary Committee, as he’s apparently instead decided to wait until the courts inevitably order him to show up to the House and testify. Earlier this month, it appeared McGahn’s former deputy Annie Donaldson would do the same. Instead she just caved – sort of.
Once the courts inevitably rule that Donald Trump’s former White House advisers must testify before Congress, they can either comply, or the courts will arrest them for contempt of court. At that time, House Democrats will gain all the leverage over witnesses. Until then, House Democrats, have little to no leverage over witnesses. That said, even though Annie Donaldson is temporarily holding most of the cards, she just signaled that she’s aware that she won’t be holding them forever.
Donaldson has reached a deal with the House Judiciary Committee to testify in writing, according to CNN. Yes, this sucks, but it’s literally the only thing they can get out of Donaldson right now. Some pundits will try to frame it as the House Democrats having caved – but to come to that conclusion, you’d have to completely ignore the facts and circumstances involved.
The House can either take Donaldson’s answers in writing now and force her to come back later and testify in full after the courts have ruled, or take nothing from Donaldson now and force her to come back later and testify in full after the courts have ruled. Not only does this approach give them something from Donaldson now, it also strengthens their legal case if Donald Trump objects to her answers in any way. The only factually accurate way to frame this is that Donaldson (sort of) caved – and that House Democrats, despite having no leverage for now, managed to score a partial victory.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report