The White House's highest lawyer told the court court on Wednesday that Congress has no right to a "transfer" of the special council's inquiry by President Trump and refused a broad demand for documents and testimonies from dozens of current and former White House staff.
White House Adviser Pat Cipollone's letter to the committee chairman Jerrold Nadler (DN.Y.) constitutes a sweeping refusal – not only about Nadler's request for a white paper record, but from the congress's stand to investigate Trump for possible barriers to justice. In his letter, Cipollone repeated a statement that the White House and Trump's operations have begun to do: that Congress is not a law enforcement authority and has no legitimate purpose to investigate the issues it seeks.
But Cipollone did not stop claiming executive privilege. Instead, he told Nadler that he would consider a reduced request if the chairman spelled out legislative and legal support for the information he was seeking.
"Congress investigations aim to gather information to help evaluate potential legislation, not harass political opponents or to exercise an unauthorized" appeal "of exhaustive law enforcement investigations conducted by the Ministry of Justice," Cipollone wrote.
Cipollone said the release of Specialist Robert S. Mueller III's report now makes Congress issues clear. He stressed that the probe was "exhaustive" – the product of 2,800 judgments, 500 completed search options and 500 witness interviews – and that the president supported the full edition of the report "of interest for transparency."
"The appropriate course is for the committee to interrupt the investigation," he wrote. "Unfortunately, it seems as if you have already decided to continue with a double investigation, including by issuing daily allowances, to respond to the same thing that Special Counsel has already covered."
The White House's permanent position represents yet another escalation in bitter endurance between the White House and the House Democrats. Trump and his allies are working to block more than 20 separate investigations in their actions as president, his personal finances, and his administration's policies, according to a Washington Post analysis.
In early March, Nadler requested documents from 81 Trump Allied or Trump related entities as part of a broad investigation into whether Trump abused his power, prevented justice, and engaged in public corruption. The letters went to both current and former officials and campaign staff, as well as Trump's organization officials and Trump's family members.
White house-related people who received inquiries from the committee include former advisor Donald McGahn, former advisor Stephen K Bannon, former communications manager Hope Hicks and former chief lawyer Reince Priebus and current adviser Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law.
Joshua Geltzer, a former Justice Department official now head of a constitutional advocacy group, said the White House's claim that Congress is not entitled to information is a "mind-blowing" requirement.
"This is not the peripheral interests of the US Congress," he said. "They are core responsibility – in fact, in our legislative branch, our executive branch reviews and even just understands it."
In the letter of Wednesday, Cipollone claimed that the request for testimony and records from 81 people and agencies is intrusive and aims to withdraw the covers on frames of confidential discussions and sensitive law enforcement material normally protected by executive privilege.
But the White House only responds directly to Nadler's letter to the White House. The White House Counsel's Office said its objection is to current and former officials whose information it argues is technically the White House property.
Cipollone complained Nadler's committee has been eager to try to publicly take the White House as collaborative and pursue holding officials in contempt and ignoring the legal shortcomings in their claims.
"[T] held the committee to vote for contempt not to provide 100% and immediately comply with a lawsuit seeking millions of pages of documents from a prosecutor's files," he wrote. "In addition, the committee – for the first time in American history – has voted to recommend that the law firm be despised for refusing to break the law by reversing jury material that he cannot legally disclose."  Rachael Bade contributed to this report.