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Washington – The House Judiciary Committee took another step toward possible impeachment proceedings, filing a lawsuit in federal court on Wednesday aimed at forcing former White House counsel Donald McGahn to testify about his interactions with President Donald Trump.

McGahn was a star witness in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation who – under Trump’s orders – has refused to testify before the panel. The Democratic lawsuit challenges the White House rationale that McGahn and other witnesses have “absolute immunity” from appearing and can defy subpoenas.

The legal action comes at a time when more than half of House Democrats have said they support beginning an impeachment inquiry. Pelosi has so far resisted that step, saying she wants to wait to see what happens in court. The McGahn lawsuit is a central part of Pelosi’s strategy of “legislate, investigate, litigate,” but could delay any final decisions on impeachment for several months.

The lawsuit says the committee has reached a deal with the White House to review documents from McGahn, but it is still seeking his testimony in person. It says the Judiciary panel is “now determining whether to recommend articles of impeachment” based on Mueller’s report, and McGahn is “the most important witness, other than the president, to the key events that are the focus of the Judiciary committee’s investigation.”

The complaint adds: “Every day that the Judiciary committee is without McGahn’s testimony further delays its ability to pursue its inquiries on issues of national importance before the current Congress ends.”

McGahn’s lawyer, William A. Burck, in a statement said “McGahn is a lawyer and has an ethical obligation to protect client confidences” and does not believe he witnessed any violation of law.

“When faced with competing demands from co-equal branches of government, Don will follow his former client’s instruction, absent a contrary decision from the federal judiciary,” Burck said.

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