A court ruling anticipated to come out Monday, Nov. 25, could function as a “political cover” for administration officials to participate in the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump, according to legal experts.
U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson suggested during oral arguments in October that she is in favor of the House—and in support of former White House Counsel Don McGahn being compelled to testify in the impeachment probe.
Numerous attorneys argued that Bolton and others could turn to rulings to justify communicating with Congress if doing so coincides with their self-interest, even if a decision that McGahn is required to testify isn’t binding on other officials.
This could prove to be particularly good news for witnesses like Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who was deterred from answering when House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) shut down Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), who pressed on to find out more about the whistleblower.
PJ Media contributor Megan Fox in a Nov. 19 analysis column argued that Schiff on the other hand shouldn’t have been afraid of the GOP questioning if he had no idea who the whistleblower is.
“What’s strange about this part of the testimony is that Vindman already testified under oath that he did not know the identity of the whistleblower,” Fox said. How could he “out” the identity of the whistleblower if he does not know who it is?”
“Further, Schiff also claims to not know the identity of the super-secret whistleblower, but he stopped Vindman from identifying the person he says he spoke to in the intelligence community about the Ukrainian phone call,” Fox continued her reasoning. “Vindman stated he spoke to ‘two U.S. officials with appropriate need to know … Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs George Kent … and an individual in the intelligence community.’” When Nunes “asked him to identify which intelligence community the second person was in,” Schiff “interrupted him and instructed the witness not to continue lest he out the whistleblower everyone claims no quid pro quo.
“We need to protect the whistleblower,” Schiff said during the Nov. 19 public hearing while showing clear discomfort as he did so. “I want to advise the witness accordingly.”
Vindman refused to answer the question “on advice of counsel” shortly after Nunes’s question for him got cut off.
Jessica Levinson, a law professor t Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, pointed out that the ruling could enable those who want to testify to do so while given due political protection.
“It could be a warm embrace for those who want to testify but need a reason to do,” Levinson said. “It would give political cover to those who want to come forward.”
A ruling for the House in the McGahn case “is a definitive ruling that the House is entitled to testimony” from current and former senior executive branch officials, former Justice Department attorney Paul Rosenzweig said.
“They are not parties to the case, but the principle applies,” Rosenzweig, who is now a senior fellow at the libertarian R Street Institute, said.