Judge Paves Way for Impeachment Net to Widen
A federal court ruling means former White House counsel Donald McGahn could testify, and so might John Bolton.
Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: the U.S. impeachment net grows wider with a new court ruling, China reacts to Hong Kong elections, and Britain’s chief rabbi denounces anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. Audrey Wilson, Foreign Policy’s newsletter editor, is away today, so I’ll be standing in.
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Impeachment Inquiry Could Widen to Key White House Aides
Following a federal court ruling on Monday, former White House Counsel Donald McGahn must now comply with a Congressional subpoena to testify before impeachment investigators, the Washington Post reports. If upheld, the decision, issued by U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson in Washington, could have major implications for the impeachment inquiry. “Presidents are not kings,” Jackson argued in her ruling. “They do not have subjects, bound by loyalty or blood, whose destiny they are entitled to control.” The Justice Department is expected to appeal the ruling.
The Trump administration may be able to make its case by drawing on legal arguments about executive privilege that both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations relied on. Other judges have ruled against White House assertions of executive privilege but disputes over presidential advisors’ testimony have often been resolved out of court, as was the case with Bush counselor Harriet Miers in 2008, meaning that legal decisions on the issue from that time are not binding precedents—and that this case may be heading to the Supreme Court.
Key former members of the Trump national security team, Ambassador John Bolton and his deputy, Charles Kupperman, had previously said through their lawyer that they would not appear before a Congressional inquiry unless they were legally compelled to do so. In recent days, Bolton has suggested on Twitter that he is privy to information relevant to the impeachment inquiry but it is not clear whether he will meet with House investigators. House Democrats do not seem in the mood to wait for the courts to settle this and other matters; they are moving forward with a report that would pave the way for the drafting of articles of impeachment soon after Thanksgiving.
What We’re Following Today
Hong Kong election aftermath. After a blowout victory for pro-democracy candidates in Hong Kong’s local elections this Sunday, Beijing now must calibrate its response. So far the media reaction on the mainland has been muted, the South China Morning Post has a round-up of state media reaction, including that of Xinhua, which initially declined to report the outcome of the vote.
FP’s James Palmer gives an inside look into China’s state media newsrooms in the aftermath of Hong Kong’s vote, where the landslide victory appeared to come as a surprise. “Propaganda is a heady drug, and Beijing got high on its own supply,” he writes.
U.S. Navy Secretary Richard Spencer has been fired from his post by Defense Secretary Mark Esper. As FP’s Robbie Gramer and Lara Seligman write “Spencer, Trump, and … Esper all have different stories concerning Spencer’s firing, which centered on Trump’s decision to pardon Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher, who was convicted in a military court in a case alleging war crimes.” President Trump announced on Twitter that current ambassador to Norway, Kenneth Braithwaite, would be his nominee to replace Spencer.
Fatal Weather in Europe. Torrential rainfall in France, Greece, and Italy has led to the deaths of at least nine people as landslides and flooding damaged infrastructure and caused evacuations in affected areas. The casualties include a couple in their 70s whose car became submerged during flooding in France’s Var region.
U.S. staying in Syria. Speaking in Bahrain, the commander of U.S. Central Command, Gen. Kenneth McKenzie told FP that there is no “end date” for U.S. military involvement in Syria and that the U.S. has resumed counterterrorism operations in the country. It’s a dramatic turnaround from less than two months ago, when President Trump ordered U.S. troops to leave.
Keep an Eye On
Violence in Congo. Two people were killed in Eastern Congo during protests over government security failures and the U.N. response to increased Islamist violence in the area. The mayor’s office in the town of Beni was set on fire during the unrest and several U.N. buildings were damaged.
British Jews and the Labour Party. In a rare public intervention, the United Kingdom’s chief rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, accused Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn of allowing a “poison sanctioned from the top” to take root. In an op-ed, the rabbi argued: “The party leadership have never understood that their failure is not just one of procedure, which can be remedied with additional staff or new processes. It is a failure to see this as a human problem rather than a political one. It is a failure of culture. It is a failure of leadership.”
Protests in Georgia. In Georgia, thousands of protesters blocked entrances to parliament buildings in Tbilisi as citizens continue their weeks-long protest for electoral reform. The country is due to change over to a proportional representation voting system in 2024 but opposition leaders want those reforms moved forward, as they say the current system favors the ruling Georgian Dream party.
Spain’s new government. Spain’s Socialist Party is a step closer to forming a government after members of the Catalan separatist party Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) voted to support a Socialist-led government on the condition that there be a dialogue over Catalan independence. Spain’s political parties have yet to form a coalition government after no party won an outright majority in the Nov. 10 general election.
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Odds and Ends
One of Europe’s most prestigious museums suffered a heist-style burglary, resulting in the theft of priceless jewelry dating back to the 18th century. The Grünes Gewölbe, or Green Vault, in Dresden survived bombing in World War II and is home to the historic treasure chamber of Augustus II the Strong. General Director of Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden Marion Ackermann told Deutsche Welle “We are shocked by the brutality of the burglary,” which may have involved an act of sabotage on the museum’s power supply.
That’s it for today.
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