White House Rejects Democrats’ Requests for Documents, Testimony

Justin Sink and Billy House
White House Rejects Democrats’ Requests for Documents, Testimony

(Bloomberg) -- The White House said it won’t turn over documents or allow testimony sought by the House Judiciary Committee in its probe of President Donald Trump’s election, arguing the congressional demands are too broad and violate principles of executive privilege.

White House counsel Pat Cipollone said Wednesday in a letter to panel Chairman Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat, that the administration won’t participate in investigation. He accused Nadler of duplicating Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe.

The Judiciary investigation “brushes aside the conclusions of the Department of Justice after a two-year-long effort in favor of political theater pre-ordained to reach a preconceived and false result.”

Nadler has accused the White House of ``stonewalling'' and told reporters on Wednesday that Mueller's investigation, completed in March, ``is irrelevant to the congressional power to investigate the White House or anybody else.''

The White House letter escalates a standoff between the president and the Democratic-controlled House that Speaker Nancy Pelosi has described as a ``constitutional crisis.'' Trump’s advisers have pushed him to defy congressional investigations in hopes of luring Democrats into moves they say will turn voters against the party in the 2020 elections -- including the possibility of the president's impeachment.

Nadler in March asked for documents from more than 80 individuals and entities, including the president’s family members, former employees, campaign staff, and White House officials, as part of an examination that includes Russian interference in the 2016 election.

The request asked for information about contacts "between or involving the Russian Federation and its officials, agents, intermediaries, and/or instrumentalities" as well as information related to the Trump Organization’s work on a construction project in Moscow.

‘Pseudo’ Probe

But Cipollone said the inquiry "is designed not to further a legitimate legislative purpose, but rather to conduct a pseudo law enforcement investigation on matters that were already the subject of the Special Counsel’s long running investigation and are outside the constitutional authority of the legislative branch.

Cipollone said the White House would evaluate a more narrow request from the committee staff, but said many documents might be withheld under executive privilege.

In a later call with reporters, a White House official blamed the stand-off on overreaching by Nadler and the committee’s Democrats. The official said the White House is relying on privileges that previous presidents have invoked.

The official, who asked not to be identified because the matter is sensitive, said the White House is prepared to negotiate with Nadler over what he called narrower, more reasonable requests.

Cipollone’s letter was his second to Nadler in less than 24 hours.

He wrote on Tuesday to say he wouldn’t participate in a Wednesday committee hearing on executive privilege. In that letter, he also objected to the committee’s vote last week to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt for failing to comply with a congressional subpoena for Mueller’s unredacted Russia report and underlying materials -- even as Trump asserted executive privilege to protect those documents.

Cipollone said the committee’s decision to "repeatedly ignore the Attorney General’s reasonable accommodations" and vote to hold Barr in contempt suggests the panel "is merely bent on inciting unnecessary confrontations without legal support in order to feed a false political narrative about the Administration."

(Updates with Nadler comments beginning in the fourth paragraph)

To contact the reporters on this story: Justin Sink in Washington at jsink1@bloomberg.net;Billy House in Washington at bhouse5@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Alex Wayne at awayne3@bloomberg.net, Justin Blum

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