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US Congress has no right to 'do-over' of Russia probe: WH counsel

Aljazeera 2019-05-15 18:01:12

The US Congress has no right to conduct a "do-over" of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe, the White House said in a letter blasting House Democrats' "sweeping" requests for documents as an effort to harass political opponents.

The May 15 letter from White House counsel Pat Cipollone to House Judiciary Committee chair Jerrold Nadler takes the view that the committee's probe serves no legitimate legislative purpose.

The letter was drafted in response to Nadler's March 4 request for documents from the White House for a congressional investigation of allegations of obstruction of justice, public corruption and other abuses of power.

Cipollone asked the committee to narrow its "sweeping" request and provide a legislative purpose, and said many documents would be entitled to be withheld under executive privilege.

Last week, Trump invoked executive privilege to block the release of the full, unredacted version of the Mueller report.

"The White House will not participate in the committee's 'investigation' that brushes aside the conclusions of the Department of Justice after a two-year-long effort in favour of political theater pre-ordained to reach a preconceived and false result," Cipollone's 12-page letter said. 

A spokesman for Nadler did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but earlier on Wednesday, the House Judiciary chairman said "while the courts have held that the president's communications are entitled to some degree of confidentiality, they have consistently held that the privilege is not an absolute shield and can be overcome when the interests of justice require it".

Nadler, in his opening remarks during a committee hearing on executive privilege and congressional oversight, said in "declaring that he plans to 'fight all the subpoenas' President Trump has announced his hostility to our system of checks and balances, and is thereby seeking to hold himself above the law."

The documents requested by the House Judiciary Committee relate to everything from the contents of Trump's meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin to his communications with former White House counsel Donald McGahn, the firing of former White House National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and former FBI Director James Comey, and possible pardons for Trump associates who pleaded guilty to crimes stemming from the probe. 

In addition, the committee is seeking documents aimed at probing whether Trump has used the White House to enrich himself in violation of the Constitution's emoluments clause.

In his 448-page redacted report released last month, Mueller described numerous links between Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and various Russians, but concluded there was insufficient evidence to establish that the campaign engaged in a criminal conspiracy with Moscow.

It also described attempts by Trump to impede Mueller's probe, but stopped short of declaring Trump committed a crime.

SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies