Breaking News

White House instructs Hope Hicks and Annie Donaldson not to turn over documents


The White House has instructed former officials Hope Hicks and Annie Donaldson not to turn over documents to the House Judiciary Committee that relate to their work in the administration.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) had subpoenaed the two on May 21, setting a deadline of 10 a.m. on June 4 for them to produce documents and demanding they provide testimony — Hicks in a public appearance on June 19 and Donaldson in a closed-door deposition June 24.

CNN first reported the White House had instructed them not to turn over documents stemming from their time in the Trump administration sought by the subpoena.

Nadler said later in a statement that the move was evidence of President Trump’s “continued obstruction” of congressional investigations.

"The White House has instructed both Hope Hicks and Annie Donaldson not to turn over records in response to subpoenas issued by our Committee last month,” Nadler said. "The President has no lawful basis for preventing these witnesses from complying with our request.”

Republicans pushed back against that characterization.

“The notion the White House directed Hope Hicks or Annie Donaldson to defy a subpoena is not accurate," a spokesperson for Rep. Doug Collins (Ga.), the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, said in a statement. "In fact, the White House again invited Judiciary Committee Democrats to direct their requests there, which they have yet to do. This isn’t about ignoring subpoenas—it’s about following standard operating procedure for documents that don’t belong to Ms. Hicks or Ms. Donaldson, may be subject to certain privileges, and they, therefore, are unable to provide."

White House counsel Pat Cipollone in a Tuesday letter argued that the records sought by Democrats remain under White House control.

“Those documents include White House records that remain legally protected from disclosure under longstanding constitutional principles, because they implicate significant Executive Branch confidentiality interests and executive privilege," Cipollone wrote to Nadler, according to a copy of the letter obtained by The Hill. "Because Ms. Talley [Donaldson] and Ms. Hicks do not have the legal right to disclose the White House records to third parties, I would ask that the Committee direct any request for such records to the White House, the appropriate legal custodian."

Nadler said Hicks has already provided some documents to the committee related to her time on the Trump campaign. And he argued the president, under federal law, can't assert executive privilege over documents that have left the White House.

Democrats view both former White House officials as key witnesses as they look to further investigate Trump’s conduct.

Special counsel Robert Mueller interviewed both Hicks, the former White House communications director, and Donaldson, who was chief of staff to former White House counsel Don McGahn, as part of his investigation, and their testimony appears in his exhaustive report. The 448-page report also repeatedly references notes that Donaldson took in the course of her work under McGahn in the White House.

Nadler is pressing for specific documents — including Hicks’s diary and Donaldson’s notes that she kept while working under McGahn — in what appears to be an effort to obtain records that detail the day-to-day events within the administration.

The White House has already blocked a number of requests Nadler has issued as part of his panel’s sweeping investigation into allegations of obstruction, public corruption and other abuses of power by Trump and his associates.

Trump successfully instructed McGahn not to appear before the committee for public testimony last month, citing a Justice Department legal opinion arguing he is immune from compelled congressional testimony. The committee had subpoenaed McGahn for documents and testimony and threatened to hold him in contempt for failing to comply.

House leaders have scheduled a vote on June 11 to hold McGahn and Attorney General William Barr in contempt for failing to comply with the panel’s demands. Nadler had also issued a subpoena for the Justice Department to turn over Mueller’s full, unredacted report and underlying evidence to the committee, but Barr has thus far declined, saying it would amount to him violating the law by releasing grand jury material and details on ongoing investigations to Congress.

The White House also rejected the Judiciary panel’s sweeping request for documents, accusing the panel of attempting a “do-over” of Mueller’s investigation and suggesting Nadler narrow the scope of the request.

In an effort to push forward with his investigation and get around an uncooperative White House, Nadler announced on Monday a series of hearings on Mueller’s report that will call in witnesses to testify about the president’s conduct. The first one will feature former White House counsel John Dean on June 10.

No comments