Acting White House Chief of Staff Moves to Join Lawsuit Over House Subpoena

White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney in Washington on Oct. 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

(CN) – After refusing to comply with a subpoena and skipping out on scheduled testimony earlier in the day, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney Friday night filed a motion to intervene in a pending lawsuit asking a court to determine whether the president’s advisers are required to testify in the House impeachment probe. 

The House had subpoenaed Mulvaney Thursday night, asking him to appear for a closed-door deposition, but the White House told him Friday morning – minutes before he was scheduled to appear at 9 a.m. – that he should not comply, asserting that he had “constitutional immunity” as a senior adviser to the president. 

The acting chief of staff is seen as a key witness in the probe. 

In their letter requesting his testimony, House investigators noted that he “may have been directly involved in an effort orchestrated by President Trump, his personal agent Rudolph Giuliani and others to withhold a coveted White House meeting and nearly $400 million in security assistance in order to pressure Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky to pursue investigations that would benefit President Trump’s personal political interests and jeopardized our national security in attempting to do so.” 

On Friday night, Mulvaney moved to intervene in a suit filed on Oct. 25 by Charles Kupperman, Trump’s former deputy national secretary – one of several officials who listened in on the call between Trump and Zelensky at the center of the impeachment inquiry – who also cited the president’s invocation of constitutional immunity. 

“Plaintiff obviously cannot satisfy the competing demands of both the legislative and executive branches, and he is aware of no controlling judicial authority definitively establishing which brand’s command should prevail,” Kupperman’s complaint states. 

Senior U.S. District Judge Richard Leon was determined to fast-track the case, ordering the House of Representatives and the White House to file briefs by Nov. 27 and setting Dec. 10 for oral arguments in the Washington, D.C., federal court. 

But the suit seemed like it would fizzle out after the House recently withdrew its subpoena for Kupperman, until Mulvaney’s attempted intervention. 

“Despite his unquestioned status as a close and senior advisor to the President, and the longstanding bipartisan position of that branch regarding the compelled congressional testimony of such advisors, the House Defendants threaten to hold Mr. Mulvaney in contempt or otherwise take adverse action against him for obeying the directive of the head of his branch,” Mulvaney’s motion states. 

“The question whether the President’s authority must give way in the face of a congressional subpoena – the determination Mr. Kupperman has asked this Court to make – is central to the question whether the House may take adverse action against Mr. Mulvaney, as threatened. For that reason, Mr. Mulvaney seeks to intervene here,” it adds. 

Mulvaney claims that his interests are not “adequately represented” by Kupperman because he is a current, closer and more senior adviser to the president. 

“The issues implicated by this motion are significant for the country generally and for Mr. Mulvaney personally,” the motion states. “They go to the heart of our representative government and its promise to secure individual liberty by dividing the awesome power of government amongst itself.”

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