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Trump escalates resistance to House probes, refuses to comply with requests

18 May 2019

Presidential counsel Pat Cipollone slammed the renewed inquiries in a letter to House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, and said the administration would not assist the committee in any new probe.

A major crux of the White House letter and message, is much of what the chairman requested in a letter sent to the White House and around 80 individuals is unlawful because it seeks grand jury, classified and other things that a release would violate federal laws and Justice Department guidelines.

The Justice Department bars indictments of sitting presidents and Mueller's report made clear that the special counsel felt that the policy prevented him from saying definitively whether Trump's attacks on the investigation amounted to criminal obstruction.

In his letter, Cipollone repeated a claim the White House and Trump's business have begun making: that Congress is not a law enforcement body and does not have a legitimate goal to investigate the questions it is pursuing. The Judiciary panel voted to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress after he defied the committee's subpoena for an unredacted version of the report. The letter asks the committee to "narrow the sweeping scope of the requests in the letter and articulate the legislative goal 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".

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Cipollone also rejected Nadler's broad requests, arguing that he was going beyond his congressional authority. Though Trump and his allies routinely attacked Mueller's integrity, the White House has found fit to praise the special counsel when it suits them: Officials on Wednesday declared Mueller's team to be "professional" and "hard-charging" and insisted that Mueller's conclusions be honored.

"Congressional investigations are meant to obtain information to aid in evaluating potential legislation", wrote Cipollone, "not to harass political opponents or to pursue an unauthorized "do-over" of exhaustive law enforcement investigations conducted by the Department of Justice".

"We will work in good faith to accommodate Congress's legitimate requests for information while at the same time respecting the separation of powers and the constitutional prerogatives of the President", the letter explains.

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. McGahn has not confirmed his attendance at the House Judiciary Committee's May 21 hearing, and Trump has indicated he will assert executive privilege to resist Democrats seeking materials or testimony related to Russian meddling and alleged collusion.

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Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Wednesday that he expects a House tax committee subpoena for Trump's tax returns to end in a court fight, suggesting he will not provide the documents by a Friday deadline.

"He wants to drag witnesses up, he wants to hold them in contempt", the official said about Barr.

Nadler said Trump has gone further than any other president in fighting congressional subpoenas.

"Now it adds the extreme claim that Congress can not act either, because that would duplicate the special counsel's work", said Nadler.

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Trump escalates resistance to House probes, refuses to comply with requests