Columnist explains how Trump-friendly judges might be trying to ‘run out the clock’ in the president’s favor

Columnist explains how Trump-friendly judges might be trying to ‘run out the clock’ in the president’s favor
President Donald J. Trump participates in a bilateral meeting with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison Friday, Sept. 20, 2019, to the Oval Office of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Richard J. Leon is the federal district judge who is in charge of ruling in a lawsuit filed by former Deputy National Security Adviser Charles Kupperman. The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank, in a column this week, explains how Leon’s actions in Kupperman’s lawsuit appear to be trying to “run out the clock” in a way that could be beneficial for President Donald Trump in the impeachment inquiry presently taking place in the U.S. House of Representatives.

House Democrats subpoenaed Kupperman to testify in the inquiry, and Kupperman’s lawsuit is seeking a ruling on whether he should be forced to testify or whether he should follow Trump’s demand that current or former administration officials defy such subpoenas. However, House Democrats have dropped their subpoena of Kupperman, whose lawsuit — according to Milbank— is now “moot.”

“It’s moot because Leon, a district court judge in D.C., made it moot,” Milbank observes. “The suit was filed late last month, but Leon said he wouldn’t hear arguments until December 10 — after the investigative phase of impeachment is due to end — and rule in late December or early January, likely after a House impeachment vote. The House withdrew its subpoena of Kupperman because Leon’s timing made it pointless.”

Milbank adds, however, that Leon has yet to dismiss Kupperman’s lawsuit. And the Post columnist’s sources have different explanations.

Leon, Milbank writes, “may be keeping the case active so he’ll be assigned any other impeachment-related cases when filed. Or Leon, who led House GOP investigations of President Bill Clinton before George W. Bush appointed him to the court, recognizes the law does not support Trump’s monarchical view of absolute immunity from congressional inquiry — and therefore, the best way to help Trump is to run out the clock on impeachment.”

Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney was hoping to become a part of the lawsuit that Kupperman had filed. But on November 11, Leon indicated that he was likely to oppose a motion by Mulvaney to join Kupperman’s lawsuit.

Leon, Milbank observes, “isn’t the only” judge who is “dragging his feet in a way that benefits Trump.” Another is D.C. District Judge Trevor McFadden, a Trump appointee. On July 2, Milbank notes, the House Ways and Means Committee filed a lawsuit demanding Trump’s tax returns — and McFadden “still hasn’t heard arguments” in that case.

“Compare that with a similar suit over Trump’s taxes filed in the same court by the House Oversight Committee,” Milbank explains. “Judge Amit Mehta, an Obama appointee, ruled in that case 28 days after it was filed.”

Milbank wraps up his column with a Richard Nixon analogy, explaining, “The great district court Judge John Sirica, an Eisenhower appointee who held President Richard Nixon to account during Watergate, later explained why he rejected Nixon’s…. specious claims of untouchable executive power — ‘I had no intention of sitting on the bench like a nincompoop and watching the parade go by,’ he wrote. Some of his successors in that courthouse seem to lack such qualms.”

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