WASHINGTON -- The former top lawyer for the White House has refused to appear before a congressional panel investigating President Donald Trump, deepening the legal standoff between Democratic lawmakers and the Trump administration.
Don McGahn's refusal to appear before the May 21 hearing of the House Judiciary Committee comes after Trump urged McGahn to ignore the subpoena and avoid answering questions from the panel.
The Judiciary Committee is one of several in the House looking into Trump's finances and business dealings, along with aspects of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible obstruction of justice.
The White House cited a Justice Department opinion on May 20, saying that the committee had no right to force McGahn, who resigned in October, to testify.
House Democrats disagreed.
"When this committee issues a subpoena, even to a senior presidential adviser, the witness must show up. Our subpoenas are not optional. Mr. McGahn has a legal obligation to be here for this scheduled appearance," said Jerry Nadler, the Democratic chairman of the committee as the hearing opened.
Doug Collins, the top Republican on the committee, said Nadler made no attempt to accommodate McGahn, including offering him a closed-door meeting. He accused Nadler of seeking "to get headlines."
Mueller's report, released on April 18, corroborated U.S. intelligence conclusions of Russian meddling in the 2016 election campaign and also documented Trump’s efforts to undermine the Mueller inquiry.
The report also said there was insufficient evidence to prove Trump and his team committed a crime, although it also did not exonerate him.
Since the release of the report, several House committees have been conducting their own investigations, and have sought to have administration officials testify under oath.