White House counsel rejects Democratic efforts to investigate Trump

By Grace Segers

/ CBS News

Gates: Mueller report not "case closed"

White House Counsel Pat Cipollone rejected Democratic efforts to investigate President Trump, arguing in a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler that Congress does not have the legal authority for a "do-over" of the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller.

Cipollone also refused the committee's March 4 request for records and testimony from several current and former White House staffers related to the Mueller investigation.

"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 said in his 12-page letter to Nadler.

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Although Mueller's investigation is finished, Democrats contend that they still have a right to probe Mr. Trump, since the special counsel's report outlined 10 possible instances of Mr. Trump committing obstruction of justice. Attorney General William Barr and former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein determined that Mr. Trump did not obstruct justice, but Democrats believe that Mueller kicked the issue to Congress to decide.

The House Judiciary Committee voted to hold Barr in contempt of Congress last week, over his refusal to comply with a subpoena to provide documents related to the special counsel's investigation.

Cipollone also argued in his letter that by requesting so many documents and issuing subpoenas, the committee was overstepping its bounds as a legislative body.

"As presently framed, the Committee's inquiries transparently amount to little more than an attempt to duplicate — and supplant — law enforcement inquiries," Cipollone said. "As you know, the Committee is not a law enforcement agency."

Democrats have argued that they simply want access to the underlying evidence for the Mueller report, and to view the report without redaction, in order to more completely understand the investigation's conclusions. However, Mr. Trump's allies believe that this is a Democratic attempt to redo an investigation which had an unfavorable political outcome.

A senior White House official also said that the administration expects Nadler to conclude that Mr. Trump obstructed justice, regardless of the special counsel's investigation.

"He wants to drag witnesses up, he wants to hold them in contempt," the official said about Barr.

Cipollone also rejected Nadler's broad requests, arguing that he was going beyond his congressional authority.

"Under settled law, it is not the Committee's legislative function to conduct a detailed inquiry into a particular event or series of events in order to reconstruct a precise picture of the facts," Cipollone continued. He did say that the White House would continue to work with the committee if it narrowed the scope of its request, and articulated "the legislative purpose and legal basis supporting each of the remaining requests."

"Based on the sheer number and scope of the Committee's requests, it is clear that the Committee is trying to unduly burden the Office of the President so as to impair the President's ability to carry out his constitutional duties. The Constitution does not permit Congress to undermine the President in this manner," Cipollone said.

In response to Cipollone's letter, Nadler called the blocking of document requests "outrageous" and pledged that the House Judiciary committee will hear from both McGahn and Mueller at some point.

"Today, the White House made the extraordinary demand that the Committee discontinue its inquiry into obstruction of justice, public corruption, and abuses of power, including as set forth in the Mueller Report. We will do no such thing," Nadler said in a statement.

First published on May 15, 2019 / 1:59 PM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Grace Segers

Grace Segers is a politics reporter for CBS News Digital.

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