The White House has rejected a sweeping request from House Democrats to turn over documents and interviews detailing President Trump’s private communications with Russian President Vladimir Putin that were requested as part of the House’s probe into Trump.
In a letter sent Thursday to House committee chairmen Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), and Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), White House counsel Pat Cipollone claims that Trump’s diplomatic communications are confidential and protected by executive privilege and argues that such a disclosure could have a detrimental impact on the ability of Trump or future presidents to conduct foreign relations.
“The President must be free to engage in discussions with foreign leaders without fear that those communications will be disclosed and used as fodder for partisan political purposes. And foreign leaders must be assured of this as well,” Cipollone writes in the letter obtained by The Hill on Thursday.
“This is why, from the Nation’s beginning, Presidents from all political parties have determined that the law does not require the Executive Branch to provide Congress with documents relating to confidential diplomatic communications between the President and foreign leaders,” he writes.
Schiff, Cummings and Engel sent letters to the White House and State Department in early March requesting all documents and transcribed interviews with executive branch staff related to an investigation into Trump’s communications with Putin.
The Democrats’ request followed a Washington Post report earlier this year that the president had sought to keep details of his communications with Putin secret. The report noted that Trump went as far as taking the notes of an interpreter present for his conversation with Putin on the sidelines of the 2017 G-20 meeting in Hamburg.
“These allegations, if true, raise profound counterintelligence and foreign policy concerns, especially in light of Russia’s ongoing active measures campaign to improperly influence American elections,” the Democrats wrote in a March 4 letter to White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney laying out their document request.
“In addition, such allegations, if true, undermine the proper functioning of government, most notably the State Department’s access to critical information germane to its diplomatic mission and its ability to develop and execute foreign policy that advances our national interests,” they wrote. They also raised concerns Trump may have violated a federal law governing records preservation.
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