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White House orders Don McGahn not to give Mueller documents to Congress

Key Points
  • The White House orders former counsel Donald McGahn to hold onto documents related to special counsel Robert Mueller's probe that House Democrats are demanding to examine.
  • The House Judiciary Committee last month issued a subpoena for the documents that set Tuesday as the deadline.
  • White House counsel Pat Cipollone says the documents "remain legally protected from disclosure under longstanding constitutional principles."
Don McGahn, White House counsel
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The White House on Tuesday ordered former counsel Donald McGahn not to hand over documents related to special counsel Robert Mueller's probe that House Democrats are demanding to examine.

The House Judiciary Committee last month issued a subpoena for the documents that set Tuesday as the deadline.

In a letter to Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., White House counsel Pat Cipollone wrote that Mick Mulvaney, the acting chief of staff, had directed McGahn not to produce the records.

VIDEO5:1205:12
Nadler: Compliance with Congressional subpoenas not 'optional'

Cipollone wrote that the documents "remain legally protected from disclosure under longstanding constitutional principles, because they implicate significant Executive Branch confidentiality interests and executive privilege."

McGahn's own lawyer confirmed to Nadler that McGahn will not comply with the committee's subpoena. The attorney, William Burck, wrote in a letter to Nadler that "the appropriate response for Mr. McGahn is to maintain the status quo unless and until" Congress can reach an agreement with the executive branch.

The order is the latest clash in a power battle between President Donald Trump and Democrats in the House over the limits of congressional oversight.

Trump and his attorneys have vowed to mount an aggressive legal defense against Democratic efforts, reinvigorated following the conclusion of Mueller's inquiry, to secure documents and testimony from Trump officials.

"We're fighting all the subpoenas," Trump told reporters last month.

VIDEO3:5403:54
Robert Mueller expressed frustration with AG Barr's Russia investigation summary

Nadler issued the subpoena to McGahn in April after a partially redacted version of Mueller's report was released to the public. McGahn, who is heavily cited in the report, is a "critical witness to many of the alleged instances of obstruction of justice and other misconduct described" in it, Nadler said when he issued the subpoena.

The subpoena also called on McGahn to testify before the committee later this month. The letters to Nadler do not reference that request. Nadler and the White House did not respond to requests for comment.

The top Republican on the judiciary committee, Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., cheered the news that McGahn will rebuff the subpoena. Collins said in a statement that "when Democrats subpoenaed Don McGahn, they subpoenaed the wrong person."

Read the letter from Burck to Nadler: