White House Doesn't Plan To Cooperate With Congressional Investigation

Apr 24, 2019
Originally published on April 24, 2019 6:58 pm
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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

It was inevitable that President Trump would clash with congressional Democrats who promised to investigate him and his administration. Now those clashes are in full relief with the White House making it clear it doesn't plan to cooperate with congressional investigators. And Trump is expressing frustration that the questions don't stop with the release of the Mueller Report.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I thought after two years, we'd be finished with it. No, now the House goes and starts subpoenaing. They want to know every deal I've ever done.

CORNISH: That was President Trump earlier today on the South Lawn of the White House. We're joined now by NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith. And Tam, aside from the president's complaints, how is the White House pushing back on these investigations?

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Every action that the White House has taken in the last several weeks has been to resist the requests of congressional investigators. Just in the last couple of days, the Treasury Department missed another deadline to turn over the president's tax returns. The president's private lawyers sued the House Oversight Committee. And today White House aides are saying that they are looking at invoking executive privilege to block former White House counsel Don McGahn from testifying before the House Judiciary Committee. This is what President Trump said earlier today when asked about that.

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TRUMP: We're fighting all the subpoenas. Look; these aren't, like, impartial people. The Democrats are trying to win 2020.

KEITH: That's the White House position - that the congressional investigations are political, about making President Trump look bad and not actually about fact finding. The Democrats say they are simply doing their oversight duty and that the Trump administration is obstructing their investigations.

CORNISH: You mentioned the White House might invoke executive privilege. What would that mean?

KEITH: The president is the one who has to invoke this privilege, and he would essentially say that he doesn't want either documents or testimony to be released that involve either advice, conversations or deliberations that happened directly with the president. If he does this, it will prompt a legal battle inevitably. And I should just say that if they do this in the case of McGahn, it would be the first time that this White House has actually invoked an executive privilege. They've resisted in a lot of ways, but they haven't invoked that privilege.

You know, the message from the White House is that they feel like they cooperated enough with the Mueller investigation. They didn't prevent that report from being released, and they feel like they don't need to do any more. As as one aide put it to me, the idea that Chairman Nadler is going to uncover something that Robert Mueller didn't is ludicrous.

CORNISH: The report has been out for nearly a week. The president has claimed it as a victory, but he's still talking about it. So what's going on here?

KEITH: Yeah, I went through all of his tweets since the Mueller Report was released, and he has tweeted or retweeted about it more than 70 times. You know, from his perspective, he was told that the investigation would be over quickly if the White House cooperated. It wasn't. It took a while. And Democrats are now doing what they promised to do, which is investigating. And whatever cloud he hoped might be lifted by the completion of the Mueller report hasn't cleared.

CORNISH: In the meantime, what about the president's legislative agenda?

KEITH: So amid all of this rancor, somewhat surprisingly, you might think, Speaker Pelosi and President Trump spoke on the phone recently about infrastructure, and they are set to meet next week to discuss working together on a bipartisan infrastructure package - no idea where that goes. But as you might remember, the last time they met at the White House during the government shutdown, it did not end well.

CORNISH: That's NPR's White House correspondent Tamara Keith. Thank you.

KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.