President Trump’s personal legal team is telling a crucial House committee seeking documents from dozens of Trumpworld associates that it has nothing to turn over–an early signal that both sides are gearing up for a confrontation.
Monday is the deadline set by the House Judiciary committee for 81 people, government agencies and private organizations to voluntarily submit substantial amounts of written material relevant to a practically omnibus House Democratic investigation. The Judiciary Democrats are after far more than just the ties to Russia that their Intelligence Committee members are investigating. They want material speaking to abuses of official power, public corruption, and obstruction of justice.
In what they characterized on March 4 as an opening salvo, the Judiciary Committee said that recipients of their document requests could, to facilitate production, begin turning over the material they may have already provided to the criminal investigations into Trumpworld run by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.
But the president’s lawyers believe they’ve got the committee caught in a logic trap.
According to a source with knowledge of the response, Trump’s team of outside attorneys informed Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and his committee that they would not be handing over any documents. The brief letter, sent by Trump attorney Jane Raskin, lays out that Jay Sekulow—the Trump lawyer who received the documents request early this month—and the current team never turned over anything pertinent to the document request to Mueller’s office or the Southern District. Hence, the source said, when Nadler asked Trump’s outside counsel for such documents, the attorneys’ position is that the House Democrat was asking for something that didn’t exist.
It’s not just the president’s non-White House legal team. At least one former Trump adviser has already signaled his willingness to poke Democratic lawmakers on the committee in the eye. Earlier this month, an attorney for Michael Caputo, a Republican strategist and former 2016 Trump campaign aide, sent a letter informing the Judiciary Committee that he does not plan to testify or cooperate with its inquiry.
“My attorney responded to the House Judiciary document request within 24 hours—we have none of the requested documents,” Caputo told The Daily Beast on Monday. “I have testified three times under oath, answering the same questions each time, paying $20,000 to $30,000 each time. I have not yet been invited to testify a fourth time. If I am, I will decline. If I am subpoenaed, I will assert my Fifth Amendment rights. Enough is enough.”
It’s unclear if the House Judiciary Committee will move to subpoena the requested documentation from those who are stiff-arming it. A committee representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Accordingly, it’s also currently unclear who else in Trumpworld has opted to resist the committee or comply with it by the deadline. Several Trump associates, such as former campaign foreign-policy aide Carter Page, music publicist and Trump Tower New York meeting facilitator Rob Goldstone, ex-political adviser Sam Nunberg, and even ex-legal team spokesperson Mark Corallo told The Daily Beast earlier this month they would cooperate.
Late on Monday, the committee announced in a statement that it had received “tens of thousands” of documents related to the probe. “A large number” of the 81 people, agencies, and organizations from whom it sought documents had replied, it said, with “many” sending or agreeing to send material. It did not specify who did or did not comply. The only reference it made to subpoenas was to say that it was in discussions with some who had requested being subpoenaed in order to produce material.
Nadler said in the statement that he hoped “we will receive cooperation from the remainder of the list, and will be working to find an appropriate accommodation with any individual who may be reluctant to cooperate with our investigation.”
The Trump White House, for its part, is expected to provide its own response to the committee’s document request, according to a source familiar with the matter.