Judge critical of admin’s attempt to control testimony of former official

A federal judge in Washington expressed disbelief that the White House could control what its former officials might talk about, when they’re subpoenaed by the House of Representatives or otherwise.

“We don’t live in a world where your status as a former executive branch official somehow shields you or prevents you from giving information,” Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson said Thursday in court to a Justice Department attorney who was defending the White House.

The lawsuit is over whether former White House counsel Don McGahn must appear for testimony in the House.

“I see almost every day people who are former executive branch officials giving information to the media. People are out there talking, people are saying things,” Jackson said, taking a legally complicated separation-of-powers topic and injecting the real world into it.

The Justice Department’s attorney, James Burnham, countered that the House sued because it only needs McGahn to speak about his capacity as an official in his time working for Trump. President Donald Trump still would have the ability to claim executive privilege over McGahn’s work for him, Burnham said.

“The President doesn’t own it in respect to the people who are talking on MSNBC all the time?” Jackson asked.

The White House had claimed McGahn has “absolute immunity” from being forced to speak to Congress. The House subpoenaed him in April, saying they need to question him about whether the President attempted to obstruct the Russia investigation and as they consider impeaching President Donald Trump, making new laws and conducting oversight of the executive branch.

“The House is suing Don McGahn. He’s a private person out in the world,” Jackson added.

Megan Barbero, a lawyer representing the House, is arguing that that the House needs McGahn to testify so that the House can test his credibility, ask him questions and “have a live witness.” It’s “what the Constitution empowers the committee to do,” she says.

This story is breaking and will be updated.