President Trump’s White House attorneys are preparing to tell a key congressional panel investigating the administration “to go fuck themselves,” as a person familiar with the deliberations characterized them to The Daily Beast.
According to three sources familiar with the situation, the White House counsel’s office, currently headed by Pat Cipollone, was still, as of Thursday morning, in the process of drafting a letter responding to the House Judiciary Committee’s request for a wide array of documents.
The documents requested by the Democratic-run committee are part of the sweeping and long-telegraphed inquiry into a range of Trump administration and Trump-associate activities earlier this month.
Cipollone’s letter response to the committee is essentially similar to one he sent to the Oversight, Foreign Affairs, and Intelligence committees, which Politico reported on Thursday. Those committees, along with the Ways and Means panel, coordinate regularly over their complementary investigations into the administration.
The formal response to House Judiciary, these sources say, is expected to raise executive-privilege concerns and initially withhold any documents that the committee has requested. The response from the Trump White House is already several days overdue, per the Monday deadline set by Democratic lawmakers on the committee.
It’s the latest sign that Trump and his team are gearing up for a protracted war with the Democrats on the committee. Representatives for the committee did not immediately respond to a Daily Beast inquiry.
Committee Democrats asked for substantial amounts of material. Earlier this month, they sent the White House a 22 bullet-pointed letter requesting documents on a range of issues including the firings of FBI Director Jim Comey and Attorney General Jeff Sessions; reported internal discussions of sidelining Trump from office through the 25th Amendment; discussions of removing right-wing bêtes noire Peter Stzrok, Lisa Page, James Rybicki, Bill Priestap, Andy McCabe, or Jim Baker from the FBI or the Justice Department; as well as “discussions or attempts to provide or receive election information, campaign data, or campaign communications with, to, or from foreign entities.”
Trump, for his part, has complained to associates that the committee chairman, Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), and the committee’s inquiry into his administration, family, and orbit, is “not legitimate,” according to a person who has heard the president discuss the matter. Further, Trump has said that Democratic lawmakers have already made up their minds that the president is a crook, are simply in search of dirt, and are trying to distract Americans from what Trump sees as his successes.
Early this month, the president told reporters, “I cooperate all the time, with everybody,” when asked about the new investigation. The very next day, however, Trump tweeted that the probe was the “greatest overreach in the history of our Country” and that the “Dems are obstructing justice and will not get anything done. A big, fat, fishing expedition desperately in search of a crime, when in fact the real crime is what the Dems are doing, and have done!”
David Bossie, a former senior Trump aide who also worked as House Republicans’ top investigator into Bill Clinton’s White House, similarly sees another witch hunt.
“The socialists running the House of Representatives right now are out for President Trump, and I don’t see this as a credible investigation, and therefore I would not cooperate with them at all,” Bossie told The Daily Beast. “It’s an illegitimate investigation and I would not cooperate with them at all if I were any of the 81 people or entities.”
The first volley in the Judiciary Committee’s aggressive campaign to investigate Trump came on March 4. Nadler sent document requests to 81 people, government agencies, and private organizations the committee believed were in a position to address a host of alleged attacks on the rule of law. The requests were divided into three overlapping categories: potential obstruction of justice, particularly concerning Russia; potential abuses of office, particularly concerning the hush-money payouts to alleged Trump mistresses; and potential corruption, particularly concerning administration attacks on the press, judges, and the FBI and Justice Department officials investigating Trump.
But the crush of documentation the committee sought turned out to present a problem. According to two knowledgeable Hill sources, substantial numbers of documents rolled in before and in the days after the Monday deadline. Roughly half of the 81 recipients had made commitments to produce the requested material in a timely fashion, one of the sources said. Not all had made good on those commitments by Monday, however, but the committee itself hadn’t definitively catalogued what it had received by mid-week. The volume of documents provided meant the mailed packages took a while to be screened off-site, another step in a laborious process.
But while the committee existed in a state of partial uncertainty, Trump’s personal attorneys didn’t. By Monday, the president’s outside lawyers, a team that includes Rudy Giuliani and Jay Sekulow, had made it clear they wouldn’t be handing over any documents, in a letter to the committee.
Their position was that the committee’s document requests were more appropriately aimed at their colleagues in the White House counsel’s office. And those colleagues don’t appear to be much more inclined to play ball.