- The White House counsel Pat Cipollone told Congress on Tuesday that it must seek White House approval before asking for documents related to the Russia investigation from the former White House counsel Donald McGahn.
- McGahn’s lawyer said Tuesday that he would defer to the White House and refuse to turn over documents to Congress.
- McGahn is a central figure in the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether President Donald Trump obstructed justice in the Russia probe.
- The judiciary committee subpoenaed McGahn for documents and testimony last month. The deadline for him to turn over documents is Tuesday, and he’s been asked to testify on May 21.
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The White House told the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday that it does not have a legal right to demand documents related to the Russia investigation from the former White House counsel, Donald McGahn.
In a letter, White House counsel Pat Cipollone added that if the committee wants the documents from McGahn, it must seek White House approval.
The move comes after the committee subpoenaed McGahn for documents and testimony last month. The deadline for him to turn over documents related to the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is Tuesday, and he’s been asked to testify on May 21.
The White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said on ABC News’ "The Investigation" podcast on Tuesday that she did not anticipate the White House allowing McGahn to comply with the congressional subpoena.
"We consider this to be a case closed and we’re moving forward to do the work of the American people," Sanders said.
McGahn’s lawyer said in a letter to Congress on Tuesday that he would not comply with the congressional subpoena and would defer to the White House’s instructions to disregard Democrats’ demands.
"The committee seeks to compel Mr. McGahn to produce White House documents the executive branch has directed that he not produce," McGahn’s lawyer, Bill Burck, wrote to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler.
"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," Burck added.
McGahn was a central figure in Mueller’s investigation into whether President Donald Trump obstructed justice throughout the course of the Russia probe.
Mueller’s team did not find sufficient evidence to charge Trump or anyone associated with his campaign with conspiring with the Russian government to tilt the 2016 US election in his favor.
Mueller also declined to make a "traditional prosecutorial judgment" on whether Trump obstructed justice, but his team laid out an extensive roadmap of evidence against the president, which included 11 potential instance of obstruction.
In the obstruction probe, McGahn painted a damaging portrait of Trump as a frustrated president who tried multiple times to thwart Mueller’s sprawling investigation.
McGahn testified to Mueller’s team that Trump asked him several times to have Mueller removed as special counsel.
McGahn did not carry out the order, "deciding that he would resign rather than trigger what he regarded as a potential Saturday Night Massacre," the Mueller report said.
McGahn also testified that Trump asked him to put out a misleading statement after the media reported on his efforts to have Mueller removed. McGahn refused to do so.
After Mueller’s report was released, Trump lashed out at the former White House counsel, telling the public to "watch out" for McGahn and accusing him of fabricating his testimony to prosecutors.
McGahn, meanwhile, put out a rare statement through his attorney after Trump attacked his credibility, saying the incidents of potential obstruction of justice that he relayed to Mueller’s team "are accurately described in the report."
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