WH may assert executive privilege to hinder congressional probes: Trump

by Kim Boateng Last updated on April 25th, 2019,

Washington: President Donald Trump on Tuesday said he did not see the point of cooperating with congressional oversight investigations, did not want current and former aides to testify before Congress and was seriously considering asserting executive privilege to hinder such appearances.

In an interview with the Post, Trump said the investigations led by Democrats in the House are unnecessary given the results of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election, which scrutinized Trump’s conduct but did not lead to criminal charges against him.

Since the release of the report, Democrats have latched onto its findings to explain their rationale for continuing their investigations and some have debated whether the report should be used to start impeachment proceedings.

The president, who railed against Mueller’s probe for years, said the oversight investigations in the House were rooted in partisanship. He said that the White House Counsel’s Office was seriously debating asserting executive privilege, which it did not do with information compiled in Mueller’s report, to block congressional testimony. Trump said White House lawyers had yet to make a “final, final decision.”

“There is no reason to go any further, and especially in Congress where it’s very partisan — obviously very partisan,” Trump told the Post. “I don’t want people testifying to a party, because that is what they’re doing if they do this.”

The president’s comments come in the aftermath of a series of reports about the White House attempting to both halt testimony from aides and stop businesses and departments in his administration from cooperating with House Democrats, setting up a legal battle between the executive and legislative branch.

Earlier Tuesday, the Post reported that the White House was considering asserting executive privilege to block a subpoena for from former White House Counsel Don McGahn to testify before Congress. McGahn was one of Mueller’s star witnesses in his investigation and was named 528 times throughout the report, which includes McGahn telling investigators that the president ordered him to have Mueller removed as special counsel. The order was one of the many times Trump attempted to impede the investigation, according to Mueller’s investigation into whether Trump obstructed the investigation.

Mueller did not make a determination over whether the president committed an obstruction offense. Instead, Attorney General William Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein made their own judgment that the evidence was “not sufficient to establish that the president committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.”

On Monday, the House Judiciary Committee issued a subpoena for McGahn’s testimony about Trump’s efforts to thwart the investigation and requests for three dozen documents. The subpoena signaled that Democrats intend to use Mueller’s findings to probe deeper into the president’s actions.

Also Monday, Trump and his private business filed a federal lawsuit to block the House from obtaining financial records from the company’s longtime accountant. The 14-page complaint accuses House Democrats of having “declared all-out political war” with “subpoenas are their weapon on choice.” It asks a federal court to prevent the Trump Organization’s accounting firm, Mazars USA, from being forced to turn over financial records to congressional investigators.

The president, while speaking with the Post, said Democrats should be happy with the Mueller report and the level of cooperation he and his administration offered to the special counsel’s office. He noted that he had a choice over whether to cooperate and said, “I could have taken the absolute opposite route.”

“I allowed my lawyers and all the people to go and testify to Mueller — and you know how I feel about that whole group of people that did the Mueller report,” Trump said. “I was so transparent; they testified for so many hours. They have all of that information that’s been given.”

Leave a Reply