Howell sided with the Justice Department and former White House counsel Don McGahn in a Wednesday ruling that the Judiciary Committee’s lawsuit to enforce its subpoena of McGahn should not be connected to its petition to obtain former special counsel Robert Mueller’s grand jury materials.
But the Justice Department responded in a court filing on Tuesday that the cases should not be linked, accusing the House panel of “attempting to game the system by shopping for a judge they perceive as more favorable to their cause.”
The bureaucratic skirmish over which judge would hear the lawsuit underscores the stakes of case, which has the potential to set precedent for legislative branch subpoenas of executive branch officials and could have long-reaching implications.
Howell wrote in an 11-page ruling that the committee’s view the two cases were related was “at first blush…understandable.”
But Howell concluded, “Closer examination demonstrates that these connections between the two cases are too superficial,” noting that the committee is trying to compel McGahn to testify publicly while it would take steps to protect secret grand jury material from being released.
Howell, who oversaw the grand jury proceedings in the Mueller investigation and is known for siding with public transparency, will hear House’s the grand jury case. But her decision Wednesday prompted the McGahn case to be randomly assigned to Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who was appointed by President Barack Obama.
The committee issued a subpoena for McGahn to testify in May, but he did not appear, prompted the lawsuit that was filed earlier this month. McGahn is effectively the test case for numerous subpoenas the committee has issued or authorized to current and former Trump administration officials for testimony related to obstruction of justice and other matters.