White House Counsel Pat Cipollone sent a letter Wednesday to House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler arguing that the committee’s request for documents was illegitimate.
“It appears that the Committee’s inquiry is designed, not to further a legitimate legislative purpose, but rather to conduct a pseudo law enforcement investigation on matters that were already the subject of the Special Counsel’s long-running investigation and are outside the constitutional authority of the legislative branch,” Cipollone wrote.
“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,” he added.
Nadler and other House Democratic leaders are now raising the prospect they will hold numerous administration officials in contempt at the same time as part of a package to highlight the Trump administration’s stonewalling of Congress. Some Democrats are also talking about invoking Congress’ so-called inherent contempt powers to fine or jail those who defy congressional subpoenas.
McGahn has also been subpoenaed to testify on May 21, and Nadler is threatening to hold him in contempt if he does not appear.
In the letter, Cipollone accuses the House panel of violating executive privilege with the requests, although he did not say the White House had asserted privilege over the materials in question.
“If the Committee continues to pursue its inquiry, the requests in the Committee’s March 4 letter suffer from numerous legal defects and reflect little, if any, respect for the legitimate interests of the Executive Branch or for the accommodation process that governs congressional requests for information from the Executive,” Cipollone wrote.