DOJ releases memos backing Trump immunity claims ahead of impeachment vote

Source: The Hill | December 13, 2019 | John Kruzel

The Justice Department on Thursday made public a series of internal memos that the Trump administration has relied on to justify its defiance of congressional subpoenas related to the impeachment inquiry.

The memos, written by legal advisers in the department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), date as far back as the Nixon administration and supply legal arguments for a broad reading of presidential power in the face of congressional oversight.

The documents may provide clues to the defense strategy for President Trump in a Senate impeachment trial that is all but certain. Democrats have sought administration witnesses and documents to make their case for removing Trump from office.

The memos were released a day before the House Judiciary Committee voted along party lines to advance two articles of impeachment. The House is slated pass the articles next week in a floor vote, a move that would make Trump just the third president in U.S. history to be impeached.

The OLC reportedly published the opinions in response to a request from House Democrats, who are suing to compel testimony from former White House counsel Don McGahn. The OLC cited the memos in a May OLC opinion that gave legal justifications for blocking the congressional subpoena against McGahn.

The release of the memos comes as the Justice Department appeals a ruling by a federal district judge last month ordering McGahn to testify before Congress. In that ruling, the judge rejected the department’s argument that McGahn has “absolute immunity” from the Democratic-led House Judiciary Committee’s subpoena.

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OLC opinions are generally considered binding on the executive branch, but courts are not required to treat them as legal authorities.

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