President Donald Trump is refusing to cooperate in numerous U.S. congressional probes of himself and his administration, taking a defiant stance that is likely to land him in protracted court fights with Democrats in the House of Representatives.
Trump’s stonewalling has hardened since the mid-April release of a redacted report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller on how Moscow interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and Trump’s subsequent attempts to impede Mueller’s probe.
On Wednesday, the Trump administration invoked the legal principle of executive privilege to block the release of the unredacted Mueller report, escalating its stonewalling.
The administration had earlier asserted that it has the right to instruct advisers not to testify before congressional committees on the Russia probe.
In most of the cases where Trump and his advisers are refusing to cooperate, they run the legal risk of contempt of Congress citations and legal enforcement actions that could result in fines and even imprisonment.
Here are several instances of Trump defying Congress:
On Tuesday, the White House told the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee that former White House Counsel Don McGahn does not have the legal right to comply with a committee subpoena seeking documents from him on Mueller’s probe.
McGahn was a key witness in the probe. The House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Democrat Jerrold Nadler, wants to hear from McGahn and review related administration documents that he has.
McGahn has been directed not to produce the documents in response to the committee’s subpoena, according to current White House counsel Pat Cipollone.
In a letter to Nadler, Cipollone said McGahn got the documents during the Mueller probe “with the clear understanding that the records remain subject to the control of the White House for all purposes.”
McGahn left his White House post last October.
The redacted Mueller report, released on April 18 by Attorney General William Barr, left some questions about the probe unanswered. Democrats have subpoenaed the unredacted report and the evidence Mueller relied on.
Barr, a Trump appointee, has refused to comply with the subpoena. In response, the House Judiciary Committee met on Wednesday to vote on holding Barr in contempt of Congress.
Unlike past presidents in recent decades, Trump has refused to make public his tax returns, raising questions about what is in them. Democrats are probing Trump’s past business dealings and possible conflicts of interest involving him.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Monday denied a leading House Democrat’s request for Trump’s returns. In a May 6 letter, Mnuchin told House tax committee Chairman Richard Neal that he would not comply with the Democrat’s April 3 request, saying it lacks “a legitimate legislative purpose.”
Trump has filed a lawsuit attempting to keep U.S. lawmakers from obtaining his financial records. The unprecedented lawsuit seeks to block a subpoena issued by House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, a Democrat.
The subpoena sought eight years of documents from Mazars USA, an accounting firm long used by Trump. A May 14 court hearing has been set in the case.
CENSUS AND CITIZENSHIP
The Justice Department has rebuffed the Oversight Committee’s request for an interview with John Gore, an official involved in the administration’s decision to include a citizenship question in the 2020 census, if he could not have a Justice Department lawyer at his side.
Trump has vowed to fight any effort by congressional Democrats to launch impeachment proceedings against him, promising to go to the Supreme Court, even though it plays no role in the constitutional impeachment process.
Congressional Democrats have complained that the administration has responded too slowly to their requests for documents about Trump’s abandonment of a plan to relocate the FBI’s headquarters.
Before he became president, Trump supported moving the headquarters to the suburbs of Washington from the center of town, said Democrats looking into the matter.
They said that after Trump was elected and disqualified from bidding to buy the FBI’s present headquarters site for commercial development, he switched his position. Democrats have raised questions about a possible Trump conflict of interest.
The White House has refused a request for Trump’s top immigration aide Stephen Miller to testify to Congress, in a letter to the House Oversight Committee.
Trump, his three oldest children and the Trump Organization have sued to block House subpoenas seeking Trump financial records from two banks: Deutsche Bank AG and Capital One Financial Corp.
A 2017 financial disclosure form showed that Trump had at least $130 million of liabilities to Germany’s Deutsche Bank.
Democratic lawmakers have asked Capital One’s chief executive for documents related to potential conflicts of interest tied to Trump’s hotel in downtown Washington and other business interests.
In the lawsuit, Trump accused House leaders of pursuing records for no legitimate or lawful purpose, hoping to “stumble upon something” they could use against him.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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