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White House says it won't give Judiciary Committee documents or allow testimony

Justin Sink, Bloomberg News on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- 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 the probe, which "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."

Trump's advisers have been pushing him to defy congressional investigations in hopes of luring Democrats into escalating a fight they say will turn voters against the party in the 2020 elections.

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 meddling 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 building project in Moscow.

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."

The refusal by the White House was the latest episode in a series of tussles between House Democrats and the Trump administration, which has argued that a series of investigations into the president's behaviors and personal finances are politically motivated and legally unjustified.

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.

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Nadler has accused the administration of seeking to "stonewall" Congress's oversight of special counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian election interference and possible obstruction of the probe by Trump.

At a Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday, Nadler said courts have concluded that presidential communications are entitled to "some degree of confidentiality" but that "the privilege is not an absolute shield and can be overcome when the interests of justice require it."

Nadler said Trump has gone further than any other president in fighting congressional subpoenas. Trump is using the power of his office to "impede an investigation into his own alleged misconduct."

(Billy House contributed to this report.)

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