“Mr. Lewandowski’s conversations with the President and with senior advisers to the President are protected from disclosure by long-settled principles protecting Executive Branch confidentiality interests,” wrote White House counsel Pat Cipollone, “and, as a result, the White House has directed Mr. Lewandowski not to provide information about such communications beyond the information provided in the portions of the Report that have already been disclosed to the Committee.”
The House Judiciary Committee last month subpoenaed Lewandowski, Dearborn and Porter, but the two White House aides are not expected to appear, sources said, citing the White House arguments, while Lewandowski is unlikely to engage on the episodes detailed in the special counsel’s obstruction of justice report where he was involved.
Democrats on the Judiciary Committee have rejected the Trump administration’s legal arguments of immunity and the right to claim executive privilege.
In a statement Monday night, House Judiciary Committe Chairman Jerry Nadler said the decision to keep the aides from testifying was “a shocking and dangerous” use of executive privilege.
“The President would have us believe that he can willfully engage in criminal activity and prevent witnesses from testifying before Congress — even if they did not actually work for him or his administration,” the New York Democrat said. “If he were to prevail in this cover-up while the Judiciary Committee is considering whether to recommend articles of impeachment, he would upend the separation of powers as envisioned by our founders.”
“The Department of Justice has advised me that Mr. Dearborn and Mr. Porter are absolutely immune from compelled congressional testimony with respect to matters related to their services as senior adviser to the President,” Cipollone wrote in a separate letter.
Porter’s attorney Brant Bishop told the committee on Monday that the executive and legislative branches were at odds over the issue, and Porter would respect his former employer’s wishes.
“The Committee’s dispute is with the White House, not with Mr. Porter,” Bishop wrote.
The outcome of the McGahn case will likely determine whether Dearborn and Porter ultimately testify before the committee, too.
As Trump’s first campaign manager, Lewandowski won’t have privilege to decline to answer questions about the campaign. But the committee is most interested in questioning him about Mueller’s detailing of alleged episodes that occurred in the White House, which he is unlikely answer, including when the President allegedly instructed him to tell then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to curtail the Mueller investigation, and Lewandowski did not follow through.
The White House is not asserting executive privilege but claiming the right to do so in the future.
The White House has made similar claims about the right to assert executive privilege for someone who didn’t work in the White House, including when former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach testified before the House Oversight Committee, when the White House said Kobach’s conversations with the President about adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census were “confidential.”