While the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing Wednesday to better understand the line between executive privilege and congressional oversight, Donald Trump helped clarify where he draws the line—by saying that he will not cooperate with anyone, on anything. As The Washington Post reports, the White House has issued a letter to Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler that includes a “sweeping rejection” not just of Nadler’s request for White House records, but of Congress’s oversight authority itself.
The letter from White House counsel Pat Cipollone says that Congress does not have the standing to investigate Trump for obstruction of justice. Incredibly, the White House is now stating that Congress is “not a law enforcement body” and doesn’t have a “legitimate purpose” in conducting any investigation of the executive.
This isn’t just a blanket refusal to respond to information requests; it’s a claim that Congress doesn’t even have the right to investigate the executive. Cipollone directly says that, unless there’s a “legislative purpose,” Congress can’t even ask.
In a Tuesday interview, Chairman Nadler indicated that Congress is being forced toward impeachment through Trump’s failure to provide information and comply with subpoenas. In the hearing, expert after expert—even those who were supportive of Attorney General William Barr and who objected to the contempt citation from the Judiciary Committee—made it absolutely clear that Congress was within the law in its requests and that Trump’s refusal to respond was “insupportable.”
In the letter to Nadler, Cipollone did not actually assert executive privilege, but instead simply refused to comply unless Nadler “spells out the legislative purpose” for this request. There is absolutely no requirement, in law or legal precedent, supporting that assertion. A claim along those lines was absolutely shredded in court this week.
Whether or not Trump is trying to push for impeachment, this was a massive shove.