White House counsel criticizes House probe

Sergio Conner
May 18, 2019

"The president is not acting in an imperial fashion", said a White House official, accusing Nadler and other House Democrats of "acting imperiously by setting out demands that they know they have no right to".

The documents requested by the House Judiciary Committee relate to everything from the contents of Trump's meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin to his communications with former White House counsel Donald McGahn, the firing of former White House National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and former FBI Director James Comey, and possible pardons for Trump associates who pleaded guilty to crimes stemming from the probe.

In a move House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler compared to "claiming that the President is a king", White House Counsel Pat Cipollone accused the committee in a letter sent Wednesday of seeking to recreate the special counsel investigation to harass the President.

"Under the circumstances, the appropriate course is for the Committee to discontinue the inquiry discussed in the March 4 letter", he wrote.

In a call with reporters shortly after the letter was released, a senior White House official complained that Nadler simply wants to put in a "show trial". With the Justice Department unable to take on that question, now the White House is saying that Congress is also not authorized to step into that role.

"It appears that the Committee's inquiry is designed, not to further a legitimate legislative objective, but rather to conduct a pseudo law enforcement investigation on matters that were already subject of the Special Counsel's long-running investigation and are outside the constitutional authority of the legislative branch", Cipollone wrote.

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No headway was made on establishing a testimony date for Mueller, according to Nadler, who said earlier that morning that the Justice Department was "reluctant" to allow the special counsel or McGahn to testify.

"Unfortunately, it appears that you have already made a decision to press ahead with a duplicative investigation, including by issuing subpoenas, to replow the same ground the Special Counsel has already covered", said Cipollone.

The agreement resolved a looming fight between the Congress and the White House after Donald Jr. was subpoenaed by the Republican-led committee last week. "How about you work on things that fall within the jurisdiction of the Judiciary Committee?"

But the White House official insisted the reverse is true. "Moreover, the Committee - for the first time in American history - has voted to recommend that the Attorney General be held in contempt because he refused to violate the law by turning over grand-jury materials that he may not lawfully disclose".

A spokesman for Nadler did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The letter asks the committee to "narrow the sweeping scope of the requests in the letter and articulate the legislative objective and legal support for each of the disparate requests it wishes to pursue, including by addressing each of the legal deficiencies that I raise in this letter".

Cipollone's letter was the latest instance of the Trump administration's efforts to impede some 20 congressional investigations into his turbulent presidency, his family and his personal business interests.

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