Former White House counsel Don McGahn will be following direction from the White House that is sure to send congressional Democrats into a tailspin.
The Trump administration reportedly asked McGahn not to comply with a subpoena from House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler for documents related to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, ABC News reported.
JUST IN: The White House has instructed former White House Counsel Don McGahn not to comply with a subpoena for documents from House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler.@mkraju reports. https://t.co/z5JhsMYKaI pic.twitter.com/NTkMBdBu4s
— CNN Newsroom (@CNNnewsroom) May 7, 2019
In a letter to Nadler on Tuesday, McGahn’s attorney William Burck indicated that the Tuesday deadline would not be met as they would be deferring to the White House’s position that McGahn “does not have the legal right to disclose” the records to Congress.
“Here, the Committee seeks to compel Mr. McGahn to produce White House documents the Executive Branch has directed that he not produce,” Burck wrote in the letter to the Judiciary Committee. “Where co-equal branches of government are making contradictory demands on Mr. McGahn concerning the same set of documents, the appropriate response for Mr. McGahn is to maintain the status quo unless and until the Committee and the Executive Branch can reach an accommodation.”
White House counsel Pat Cipollone asked the committee to request the documents from the White House, and not McGahn directly.
#NEW #WhiteHouse counsel says Don #McGahn, “does not have the legal right to disclose” his notes and other records to #Congress.
McGahn has been directed “not to produce these White House records.” pic.twitter.com/Qrr4I3eRWs
— Kevin Corke (@kevincorke) May 7, 2019
“The White House provided these records to Mr. McGahn in connection with its cooperation with the special counsel’s investigation and with the clear understanding that the records remain subject to the control of the White House for all purposes,” Cipollone wrote in a separate letter to Nadler. “The White House records remain legally protected from disclosure under long-standing constitutional principles, because they implicate significant executive branch confidentiality interests and executive privilege.”
Cipollone further noted that the Department of Justice “is aware of and concurs with this legal position.”
“Because Mr. McGahn does not have the legal right to disclose these documents to third parties, I would ask the Committee to direct any request for such records to the White House, the appropriate legal custodian,” the letter added. “The Acting Chief of Staff to the President, Mick Mulvaney, has directed Mr. McGahn not to produce these White House records in response to the Committee’s April 22 subpoena.”
McGahn had met multiple times with the Mueller team, providing more than 30 hours of testimony, during the investigation. Democrats sought to question him further with the request for documents and for him to appear before the Judiciary Committee for testimony on May 21.
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway last month called the move by Democrats a form of “presidential harassment.”
Kellyanne Conway: “Executive privilege is always an option, it’s always on the table. But Don McGahn has already talked under oath for 30 hours. This is just presidential harassment.” pic.twitter.com/8GZ77wPGEP
— The Hill (@thehill) April 28, 2019
“Mr. McGahn is a critical witness to many of the alleged instances of obstruction of justice and other misconduct described in the Mueller report,” Nadler wrote last month when he issued the subpoena request. “His testimony will help shed further light on the President’s attacks on the rule of law, and his attempts to cover up those actions by lying to the American people and requesting others do the same.”
“I don’t anticipate that that takes place,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told ABC News in a podcast Tuesday. “We consider this to be a case closed and we’re moving forward to do the work of the American people.”
Democrats may hold McGahn in contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with their subpoena for information and for his testimony, just as they are currently preparing to the same for Attorney General William Barr who did not appear before the panel last week.
House Judiciary Committee ranking member Rep. Doug Collins spoke about Democrats negotiating with the White House to reach an agreement.
“As I said more than a month ago, when Democrats subpoenaed Don McGahn, they subpoenaed the wrong person,” he said in a statement, according to the Washington Examiner. “The White House is nevertheless seeking to accommodate Democrats’ unwieldy demands. I hope Chairman Nadler accepts this reasonable offer rather than continuing to reject good faith offers to negotiate.”
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