Democrat says Trump counsel recounted 'troubling events'

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Former White House counsel Don McGahn departs after appearing for questioning behind closed doors by the House Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, June 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

WASHINGTON – House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler said Friday that a nearly eight-hour interview with former President Donald Trump's top White House lawyer “shed new light on several troubling events" during his presidency, though it was unclear how Democrats would use the information long after investigations into Trump's ties to Russia have concluded.

The closed-door interview with Don McGahn, which came two years after House Democrats originally sought his testimony, was originally part of Democrats' efforts to investigate whether Trump tried to obstruct Justice Department investigations into his 2016 presidential campaign. House Democrats sued after McGahn defied an April 2019 subpoena on Trump’s orders.

McGahn appeared Friday after an agreement was reached in court to sit for a transcribed interview behind closed doors, with his answers limited to information that had already been publicly released in former special counsel Robert Mueller's report on Trump and Russia. That report also came out in April 2019.

Even if the interview unearths new information, Democrats made clear that it was primarily for history, and to set a precedent that executive branch officials must comply with congressional subpoenas. Nadler said in a statement after the interview that it was “a great victory for congressional oversight,” although two years had been too long to wait.

Since Democrats first subpoenaed McGahn, Trump was impeached twice by the House and acquitted twice by the Senate. Neither impeachment centered on the Russia investigations, in which Mueller pointedly did not exonerate Trump of obstruction of justice but also did not recommend prosecuting him, citing Justice Department policy against indicting a sitting president.

Still, Mueller’s report quoted extensively from interviews with McGahn, who described the Republican president’s efforts to stifle the investigation.

In a statement released after the interview, which lasted almost eight hours, Nadler said he could not comment on McGahn's testimony, but said “McGahn was clearly distressed by President Trump’s refusal to follow his legal advice, again and again, and he shed new light on several troubling events today.”

Nadler said a transcript of the interview would be available “at a later date,” as laid out in the court agreement.