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Trump directs former White House counsel Don McGahn not to testify after Democrats issue subpoena

Kevin Breuninger
White House Counsel and Assistant to the President for U.S. President Donald Trump, Donald McGahn, as Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh testifies before the US Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, September 27, 2018.

The Department of Justice argued in a 15-page legal opinion released Monday that former White House counsel Don McGahn has "immunity" from being compelled to testify before Congress, setting up a clash between the Trump administration and the House Democrats who subpoenaed him to appear.

McGahn, who was scheduled to testify Tuesday, is cited more than any other witness in Mueller's 448-page report on Russian election meddling, possible conspiracy between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign and possible obstruction by Trump himself. He was subpoenaed in late April by the House Judiciary Committee to appear before that panel and answer questions, as well as hand over a slew of documents.

The New York Times, citing a person briefed on the matter, first reported that the Department of Justice is expected to give McGahn a legal opinion justifying his decision not to comply with the subpoena.

Neither the White House nor the House Judiciary Committee immediately responded to CNBC's inquiries about the Times' report.

Trump signaled in early May that he was likely to stop McGahn from testifying.

"Well, I've had him testifying already for 30 hours" with Mueller's team, Trump said of McGahn in a Fox News interview. "I don't think I can let him and then tell everybody else you can."

"I would say it's done," Trump added.

The subpoena against McGahn came days after the public release of a redacted version of Mueller's long-awaited report. That report did not find sufficient evidence to a show a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin — though it did show multiple figures in Trump's orbit willing to accept Russian help in the 2016 election.

The report made no conclusion about whether Trump obstructed justice; that decision was taken up by Attorney General William Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who determined that the report did not show enough evidence to support an obstruction offense.

House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., has threatened to hold McGahn in contempt if he failed to comply with the subpoena.

Nadler likely isn't bluffing: his committee, which has lodged dozens of subpoenas against figures in the orbit yo f

Read the full report from The New York Times.