By Jon Dougherty
The war we all knew would happen has begun between an increasingly combative Trump administration and House Democrats fixated on investigating the president in every way, shape, and form possible, just because they can.
On Thursday, White House counsel Pat Cipollone rejected Democrats’ demands for documents related to one-on-one meetings between POTUS Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin (yes, the “Russian collusion” hoax again).
Specifically, Democrats on the House Intelligence, Government Oversight and Foreign Affairs Committees want details of the president’s meeting with Putin in Helsinki, Finland in July 2018.
The thinking among Democrats — if we can call it that — is that the two men discussed something nefarious regarding ‘interference in the U.S. electoral process’ when they met nearly privately at one point.
Democrats are now demanding notes from the president’s interpreter, which would be a major violation of professional ethics, executive privilege, and government rules.
In responding to Democrats’ requests, Cipillone reminded the Legislative Branch they are not always privy to Executive Branch activities, and this is one of those times.
“It is settled law that the Constitution entrusts the conduct of foreign relations exclusively to the Executive Branch, as it makes the President “the sole organ of the federal government in the field of international relations,” he said in a letter.
“With all respect, the Constitution assigns the President the role of charting the course of U.S. foreign policy and determining which diplomatic communications advance the national interest,” Cipillone continued.
“Policy disagreements with the President’s decisions on those matters do not create a legislative right to review the President’s diplomatic communications with foreign leaders.”
The chairmen of the committees responded: “We will be consulting on appropriate next steps. Congress has a constitutional duty to conduct oversight and investigate these matters & we will fulfill that responsibility.”
Cummings/Engel/Schiff to WH after it said it wouldn't provide Congress info on Trump/Putin conversations. “We will be consulting on appropriate next steps. Congress has a constitutional duty to conduct oversight and investigate these matters & we will fulfill that responsibility"
— Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram) March 21, 2019
The president and his advisers expected this from Democrats after most of them promised during the 2018 midterm campaigns to make it their mission to harass Trump and his administration as much as possible instead of actually governing with their new House majority.
The Washington Post reported in January:
A beefed-up White House legal team is gearing up to prevent President Donald Trump’s confidential discussions with top advisers from being disclosed to House Democratic investigators and from being revealed in the special counsel’s long-awaited report, setting the stage for a potential clash between the branches of government.
The strategy to strongly assert the president’s executive privilege on both fronts is being developed under newly arrived White House counsel Pat Cipollone, who has hired 17 lawyers in recent weeks to help in the effort.
He is coordinating with White House lawyer Emmet Flood, who is leading the response to special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on his 20-month investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign. Flood is based in White House counsel’s office but reports directly to Trump.
Trump aides say White House lawyers are focused on preserving a legal protection routinely invoked by presidents of both major parties.
There is congressional oversight and there is hyper-politicized harassment. With so much bad percolating around the world, Democrats would rather tie up the president with nonsensical investigations based on a fabrication rather than help him deal with them, on behalf of the American people they claim to represent.
- Follow Jon Dougherty on Twitter at @JonDougherty10