White House Makes It Official: It Will Reject Democrats’ Request for Trump Records

A new letter lays out the president’s case rebuffing congressional oversight.

Kevin Dietsch/ZUMA

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The White House officially rejected demands from House Democrats to turn over records and make administration officials available for testimony on Wednesday, marking the latest escalation in the ongoing battle for information between President Donald Trump and Congress.

In a lengthy letter from White House counsel Pat Cipollone addressed to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), the president’s lawyer laid out his case for rebuffing the request and claimed the committee’s demands amounted to efforts to harass the president and relitigate the special counsel’s investigation into Russian interference.

“Congressional investigations are intended to obtain information to aid in evaluating potential legislation, not to harass political opponents or to pursue an unauthorized ‘do-over’ of exhaustive law enforcement investigations conducted by the Department of Justice,” Cipollone wrote, arguing that Democrats on the committee had failed to provide “any proper legislative purpose” for their various inquiries, which include requests for testimony from former White House counsel Don McGahn and former White House personnel security director Carl Kline.

Cipollone’s claim that Democrats lack a legislative purpose to back their demands has been central to several of Trump’s legal team’s refusals to comply with Democratic inquiries. The line was repeated as recently as Tuesday when a group of lawyers representing the president resisted the House Intelligence Committee’s requests for documents related to its investigation into whether the president’s lawyers attempted to obstruct the panel’s Russian interference probe. It was also used by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin earlier this month when he refused to turn over Trump’s tax returns to the House Ways and Means Committee.

Responding to Cipollone’s letter on Wednesday, Nadler blasted the White House for “claiming the president is a king.” 

“No president, no person in the United States is above the law,” he continued. “This is preposterous.”

Read Cipollone’s letter below:

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You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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