White House tells Hope Hicks, Annie Donaldson not to comply with congressional subpoenas

Credit: Chip Somodevilla

Credit: Chip Somodevilla

White House officials have told a pair of former employees not to turn documents over to the House Judiciary Committee, despite subpoenas issued by the panel last month.

The House Judiciary Committee issued subpoenas on May 21 to obtain documents from former White House communications director Hope Hicks and Annie Donaldson, who previously served as chief of staff for former White House counsel Don McGahn. Both women are mentioned frequently in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian election meddling and related matters.

In a statement released Tuesday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., said the White House directed Hicks and Donaldson not to turn over records “as part of President Trump’s continued obstruction of Congress.”

“The president has no lawful basis for preventing these witnesses from complying with our request,” Nadler said. “We will continue to seek reasonable accommodation on these and all our discovery requests and intend to press these issues when we obtain the testimony of both Ms. Hicks and Ms. Donaldson.”

In a letter sent Tuesday to Nadler, White House attorney Pat Cipollone said the documents requested by the House Judiciary Committee “implicate significant Executive Branch confidentiality interests and executive privilege.”

“Because Ms. (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,” Cipollone said.

He added that negotiations for information related to Mueller’s investigation were ongoing between the Justice Department and the House Judiciary Committee as of Tuesday.

“Needless to say, the White House records at issue involve significant Executive Branch confidentiality interests, and the ongoing accommodation process with the (Justice) Department may satisiy the Committee’s informational needs,” Cipollone said. “Accordingly, Acting Chief of Staff to the President Mick Mulvaney has directed Ms. (Donaldson) and M.s Hicks not to produce documents in response to the Committee’s May 21 subpoenas that relate in any way to the White House.”

Nadler said Hicks agreed to provide the House Judiciary Committee with documents related to her time on Trump’s presidential campaign, which are not covered by executive privilege.

The subpoenas, which also seek Hicks’s public testimony at a hearing scheduled June 19 and Donaldson’s testimony on June 24, came amid an ongoing investigation into whether Trump attempted to obstruct justice in his efforts to end Mueller’s investigation. The president previously vowed to fight “all the subpoenas,” accusing congressional investigators of being politically motivated.

Last month, Trump ordered McGahn to ignore a subpoena to testify before the House Judiciary Committee after the Justice Department released a legal opinion stating that the president’s “immediate advisors” can’t be compelled to give congressional testimony due to the “fundamental workings of the separation of powers.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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