A federal judge on Monday strongly rejected President Donald Trump‘s defense against impeachment, emphasizing that he is not a monarch but rather a democratically elected leader who has an obligation to protect and defend the Constitution.

“The primary takeaway from the past 250 years of recorded American history is that Presidents are not kings,” U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who was nominated by Barack Obama, said in her ruling. “This means that they do not have subjects, bound by loyalty or blood, whose destiny they are entitled to control. Rather, in this land of liberty, it is indisputable that current and former employees of the White House work for the People of the United States, and that they take an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Trump had claimed that he is “absolutely immune” from testifying before the House Judiciary Committee, one of several Democratic-led panels leading his impeachment inquiry. Justice Department attorneys attempted to argue that blanket immunity is key to maintaining the president’s capacity to obtain truthful recommendations from his senior advisers and other close associates. Lawyers from the DOJ also argued that federal courts were not permitted to intervene in any disagreement between Trump and Congress. Jackson firmly rejected both defenses and blasted the concept of absolute immunity as “a fiction.”



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“DOJ promotes a conception of separation-of-powers principles that gets these constitutional commands exactly backwards,” the judge wrote in a 120-page decision. “In reality, it is a core tenet of this Nation’s founding that the powers of a monarch must be split between the branches of the government to prevent tyranny.”

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Jackson also said in her ruling that former White House Counsel Don McGahn — who was interviewed by former special counsel Robert Mueller‘s team for more than 30 hours — is required to comply with a subpoena to testify before lawmakers about Trump’s actions. McGahn’s testimony could potentially strengthen lawmakers’ halted attempts to investigate Trump’s possible obstruction of justice throughout Mueller’s probe on Russian interference in the 2016 election.

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