Congress just delivered the Trump legal team a serious setback.
On Sunday, the House Oversight Committee declined a request from one of the president’s lawyers to investigate how special counsel Robert Mueller came to possess transition documents, Fox News reports.
The committee responded to President Trump attorney Kory Langhofer’s letter by saying the appropriateness of the methods used by Mueller’s office should be “decided by the court . . . not Congress..”
A spokeswoman for the committee said “The central issues raised are fact-specific legal issues which involve issues of privilege, waiver … standing to assert claims of privacy, expectations of privacy and the reasonableness thereof, third-party consent … among other issues.”
However, lawmakers vowed to take Langhofer’s letter “under advisement,” acknowledging that the request “raises issues on how to improve subsequent transitions.”
The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs also received a copy of the request, but did not comment.
Langhofer criticized both the Mueller team and staff at the General Services Administration–which handed the special counsel’s office “tens of thousands of emails” without “any notice” to the President.
During the transition period, GSA provided the nonprofit Trump for America with office space and email servers to prepare for the incoming administration.
Mueller’s office requested documents in August, prompting GSA to provide them with tens of thousands of records in a flash drive in September. GSA also gave the special counsel multiple laptops, cell phones, and at least one iPad.
Among the records were emails belonging to 13 senior Trump administration officials, including former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in January about his conversations with a Russian ambassador.
“We understand that the special counsel’s office has subsequently made extensive use of the materials it obtained from the GSA, including materials that are susceptible to privilege claims,” Langhofer wrote. He noted that some of the documents GSA provided to the special counsel’s office “have been leaked to the press by unknown persons.”
Langhofer argued the GSA “did not own or control the records in question,” and that the release of documents could violate the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable search and seizure.
In an interview with BuzzFeed News, GSA Deputy Counsel Lenny Loewentritt denied Langhofer’s assertion that the agency promised requests for transition team records would be “routed” to Trump for America.
According to Loewentritt, transition team members were warned their information “would not be held back in any law enforcement” and to have “no expectation of privacy.”
Loewentritt said they suggested Mueller’s office issue a warrant or subpoena for the materials, but that the special counsel office decided a letter of request was sufficient.
On Saturday, Trump claimed many lawyers considered the Mueller probe’s obtainment of the documents to be “sad.”
MOMENTS AGO: Pres. Trump responds to reports that Special Counsel Robert Muller obtained Trump transition team emails, saying his lawyers thought it was "sad." https://t.co/8sI9HmYXVr pic.twitter.com/R5bRGHKLiH
— CBS News (@CBSNews) December 17, 2017
The White House has pledge continued cooperation with the special counsel. Press secretary Sarah Sanders on Saturday said “We continue to cooperate fully with the special counsel and expect this process to wrap up soon.”