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White House rejects Democrats' request for documents in obstruction probe

White House rejects Democrats' request for documents in obstruction probe”

In his letter to Nadler, Cipollone not only indicated that the White House would deny requests for documents and testimony related to the investigation, he also argued that the investigation does not have a "proper legislative objective".

Days after Nadler's committee voted to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt, White House counsel Pat Cippolone fired off a letter accusing Nadler with lacking a "legitimate" legislative objective in his requests for documents such as the un-redacted Mueller report.

In the March 4 request to the White House, Nadler said his committee is "determined to ask critical questions, gather all of the relevant information, judiciously assess the evidence, and present our findings to the American people, whatever those findings may be".

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.

He continued: "Congressional investigations are meant 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. 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".

Democrats weren't impressed. Mr. Nadler said he won't let the White House dictate what is legitimate and what is not.

Asked what sort of fines might be imposed, he was succinct: "very large amounts".

"It was the main procedure used for 150 years, and we may have to do it again", he told reporters.

Meanwhile, Mr. Trump has asserted executive privilege over the Mueller report in order to shield it.

Mueller left open whether the president had attempted to obstruct justice, but Trump's attorney general, William Barr, ruled later that there was no obstruction. He stressed that probe was "exhaustive" - the product of 2,800 subpoenas, 500 executed search warrants and 500 witness interviews - and that the president supported the report's full release "in the interest of transparency".

"The appropriate course is for the committee to discontinue the inquiry", the White House counsel wrote.

"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.

Although Mueller's investigation is finished, Democrats contend that they still have a right to probe Mr. Trump, since the special counsel's report outlined 10 possible instances of Mr. Trump committing obstruction of justice. He said leaders want to wait for a critical mass of contempt violations before tackling them. Another contempt resolution could be coming soon if Barr defies a separate subpoena from the House Intelligence Committee, also for the unredacted version.

The House Judiciary Committee voted to hold Barr in contempt of Congress last week, over his refusal to comply with a subpoena to provide documents related to the special counsel's investigation.

Trump has sued to block a congressional subpoena for financial records from his accounting firm, while the White House has directed McGahn not to cooperate with a Judiciary Committee subpoena for records.



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