A federal judge on Wednesday rejected House Democrats’ attempt to try to pick the judge who will hear their lawsuit to compel former White House lawyer Don McGahn to testify, arguing the case is different from Democrats’ other impeachment-related lawsuits.
Beryl Howell, chief judge of the district court in Washington, D.C., said the case should be randomly assigned, as per usual practice. She rejected House Democrats’ attempt to have the case automatically assigned to her, as the chief judge.
The House Judiciary Committee said it’s begun investigating whether to move to impeach President Trump and that all the lawsuits it’s filed trying to get information in that investigation are related.
Previous cases asking for grand jury information related to the Russia investigation to be unsealed were already automatically assigned to Judge Howell as the chief of the district.
But she said Wednesday that the connections between the grand jury cases and the McGahn subpoena were “too superficial and attenuated.” Just because the plaintiff has the same goal — in this case pursuing possible impeachment — it does not follow that all of its legal battles are related, she ruled.
“The potential for manipulation of the ordinary rule of random assignment would be particularly acute if the House Judiciary Committee could relate any matter arising from its ongoing investigation to a single judge on this Court, irrespective of the particularities of each case,” she ruled.
After Judge Howell’s ruling, the case was assigned Wednesday afternoon to Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. Both Judge Howell and Judge Jackson are Obama appointees to the court.
Rep. Doug Collins, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, cheered Judge Howell’s decision, saying it undercut Democrats’ impeachment claims.
“As I have been saying for months, Democrats have not begun an impeachment inquiry against the president. Until the full House votes to authorize such an inquiry, that status will not — indeed, cannot — change,” he said. “The chairman’s public statements notwithstanding, these two lawsuits are separate and distinct from each other, as Chief Judge Howell’s ruling makes clear.”
Mr. McGahn was the chief counsel at the White House during the firing of former FBI Director James Comey and most of Mr. Trump’s reaction to the Russia investigation. He cooperated extensively with special counsel Robert Mueller.
House Democrats want him to testify, hoping he will boost their impeachment efforts. The White House has asserted he was “immunity” from testifying.
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