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Balance of Power
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Allowing President Trump's stonewalling to continue "without the potential of a judicial backstop would gut Congress' ability to effectively check executive overreach and lawbreaking," writes former Rep. Tom Coleman.

A court must decide: Does the law still apply to everyone, the president included?

Coleman was a Republican members of the House from Missouri from 1976 to 1993. He is a retired lobbyist and an advisor to the Protect Democracy Project, an anti-authoritarian watchdog group.

It is a bedrock American principle that no one, not even the president of the United States, is above the law. The president, like all Americans, must pay taxes, must give evidence when sought by a court or Congress, and must follow the law. If this principle is to survive, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals must reverse a ruling that Congress cannot sue to enforce subpoenas of executive branch officials.

In the wake of the report from special counsel Robert Mueller, last April the House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed former White House counsel Don McGahn to provide testimony about President Trump's efforts to obstruct the investigation of Russia's meddling in the 2016 election. The White House informed the committee that the president ordered McGahn not to appear, asserting that certain presidential aides are "absolutely immune" from being forced to testify — a privilege no other president has ever claimed. As a result, the committee sued to enforce its subpoena.

In February, a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit punted on the central question, ruling 2-1 their court does not have the power to settle this dispute between the congressional and executive branches. If that is allowed to stand, Congress' ability to conduct legitimate oversight will be severely limited and Trump will be further emboldened to ignore our constitutional system of checks and balances.

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