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WH rejects House committee's request for expansive records

Its counsel accuses the panel of seeking a 'do-over' of the Mueller probe. Nadler says it's just fulfilling its oversight responsibility.

WASHINGTON — The White House rejected an expansive House Judiciary Committee records request Wednesday, accusing the Democratic-led committee of attempting a “do-over” of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference.

White House counsel Pat Cipollone, in a 12-page letter sent Wednesday to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), first called on the panel to “discontinue” its investigation, then urged it to “narrow the sweeping scope” of its request for a trove of documents related to Trump’s Oval Office dealings, including his communications with former White House counsel Don McGahn.

“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.

 It's the latest standoff between Trump and House Democrats over access to administration records and officials. The Trump administration has defied more than a dozen congressional subpoenas and records requests in recent weeks, with Trump labeling the requests “presidential harassment.”

Nadler has countered that House Democrats are fulfilling their responsibility to provide oversight of the executive branch, and in a statement on Wednesday vowed to press ahead with the panel’s investigation.

In March, the committee issued letters to 81 Trump associates — including several of his top White House advisers, campaign aides and business partners — as part of what Nadler described as an investigation into alleged “obstruction of justice, corruption and abuses of power.”

“The White House position appears to be that the Justice Department cannot hold the president accountable, since it purportedly cannot indict him,” Nadler said, referring to a decades-old Justice Department policy that bars the indictment of a sitting president. “Now it adds the extreme claim that Congress cannot act, either, because that would duplicate the special counsel’s work. This flies in the face of the American idea that no one is above the law, and I reject it. Our investigation into this as well as other troubling conduct by this administration will continue.”

Cipollone, in his letter, argued that “the only purpose” of the Judiciary Committee’s “request seems to be harassing and seeking to embarrass political opponents after an exhaustive two-year investigation by the Department of Justice did not reach the conclusion that some members of the Committee apparently would have preferred.”

The Mueller report said investigators did not establish evidence that the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with Russia to influence the 2016 election, despite multiple attempts by Russian operatives to engage Trump campaign aides. Mueller stopped short of answering whether Trump attempted to obstruct  his Russia investigation through a series of 10 separate episodes, leaving Attorney General William Barr to make the final determination that there was "not sufficient" evidence established by the investigation of obstruction.

Cipollone said the White House "will work with the Committee through the constitutionally mandated accommodation process to provide the Committee with information it can properly seek,” and recommended the committee “narrow the sweeping scope of the requests … and articulate the legislative purpose and legal support for each of the disparate requests it wishes to pursue.”

Nadler questioned Cipollone’s willingness to cooperate with the panel, noting Trump’s fierce resistance to House Democrats' records requests and subpoenas, including those dealing with broader policy issues, such as the 2020 Census and the Affordable Care Act.

Nadler said: “The White House also claims it is willing to cooperate with this Committee while at the same time refusing to work with Congress to produce redacted portions of the Mueller Report, underlying documents and other materials; refusing to provide responses to our requests for information regarding family separation and the decision to not defend the ACA; and after the President has already declared that he is ‘fighting all the subpoenas.’ The Committee remains willing to discuss any reasonable accommodations, but accommodation takes two.”

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