White House and House Democrats battle over John Kelly, ex-officials in Trump probes

White House and House Democrats battle over John Kelly, ex-officials in Trump probes

Breaking NewsWhite House and House Democrats battle over John Kelly, ex-officials in Trump probesBy Manu Raju, Kaitlan Collins and Pamela Brown, CNNUpdated 6:36 PM ET, Fri March 15, 2019 Chat with us in Facebook Messenger. Find out what's happening in the world as it unfolds.JUST WATCHEDWho is John Kelly?More Videos …MUST WATCH (16 Videos)Who is…


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White House and House Democrats battle over John Kelly, ex-officials in Trump probes

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(CNN)House Democrats, eager to investigate all aspects of the Trump White House, have identified former administration officials they need to carry out their probes. But the White House isn’t making it an easy task.

On at least two occasions, the White House has pushed back on efforts by the House Oversight Committee to reach out directly to former officials, chiding the committee’s powerful Chairman Elijah Cummings for not contacting the White House first. Their contention: Topics pertaining to former officials’ work should be sorted out with the White House first — even if the officials are no longer federal employees.
At the center of one of the disputes is former chief of staff John Kelly, whose cooperation is central to Cummings’ investigation into the White House’s handling of security clearances, including Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner. Cummings’ staff reached out to Kelly directly by phone on multiple occasions, which prompted a stinging response from White House counsel Pat Cipollone.
“Once again, these actions disregard my earlier request to the Committee regarding contacts with former or current White House officials,” Cipollone wrote to Cummings in a late February letter, adding it’s “vital” such outreach is first done through the White House counsel’s office. “Consulting with my office will ensure that the Committee efficiently obtains access to the information and individuals to which it is entitled and that any disclosure of privileged information to Congress is properly authorized.”
    Cummings told CNN that the move is tantamount to “stonewalling,” pointing to examples from past administrations of former federal officials being asked to testify directly before Congress.
    “The President’s lawyers they know that’s not accurate. It’s not accurate,” Cummings said. “So they’re basically stonewalling That’s what it is.”
    Asked if he had made any progress in getting cooperation from Kelly as he left the Capitol on Thursday, Cummings said, “Not yet.”
    “They block us from everything.”
    The move is part of a larger White House strategy to make it difficult for Democrats to succeed in their aggressive investigations into the President — investigations the White House views as rampant overreach and an improper effort to obtain privileged communications with the President.
    Though publicly maintaining they will cooperate with all requests, White House officials have internally taken an aggressive approach to the oversight requests. Part of the White House’s strategy has included slow-walking responses to demands for hearing dates and delaying efforts to turn over documents or schedule transcribed interviews.
    Democratic officials say there have been at least 30 examples of the administration resisting demands for documents in just the first three months of the Democratic-controlled House. On Friday, the Trump administration missed a Democratic deadline to provide documents on Trump’s interactions with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
    Cipollone holds regular meetings in the West Wing to devise the administration’s response to individual requests. These meetings, which are typically run by Cipollone’s deputy Mike Purpura, are often limited in attendance because the White House is so prone to leaks. The meetings include few, if any, communications staffers, which has caused friction between the legal team and public-facing officials, who have protested that they aren’t being kept in the loop so don’t know what to tell the media.
    In his briefings with the President, Cipollone has not held back about how expansive the House Democratic requests are, sources told CNN. In the words of one official, “he’s not sugarcoating it.”
    A source familiar with the process said Cipollone has taken a more aggressive approach toward congressional requests than his predecessor Don McGahn. That strategy is evident in his sternly worded letters to Cummings.
    “You haven’t seen Don McGahn sign letters like that,” the source said.
    But this change in strategy could be because McGahn felt less of an obligation to respond to Democratic lawmakers when they were in the minority in the last Congress, a separate person added.
    Though Purpura is leading the White House’s response to requests from the Hill, sources said Cipollone has been engaged, working the phones to discuss oversight requests with those affected and even sitting down with Cummings, as he acknowledged in a recent letter.
    Despite the aggressive approach, a senior White House official defended how the administration has handled the Democratic requests so far, arguing that the White House’s response is measured compared to Cummings’ approach of circumventing them to interview former officials.
    On a call with the House Oversight Committee earlier this month, aides from the committee said that the White House refused three times to confirm or deny that a memo from Kelly on White House security clearances even existed.
    House Republicans say many of the Democratic requests are out-of-bounds, particularly when it comes to Cummings’ request for details on the security clearance process in the White House — and concerns Kelly and McGahn privately voiced about Kushner and Ivanka Trump’s security clearances.
    “I’m comfortable with the commander-in-chief having sole authority of who gets clearance and who doesn’t — I’m totally comfortable with that,” said Rep. Jim Jordan, the top Republican on the Oversight Committee when asked if the White House should comply with Cummings’ request on security clearances. “I think the President of the United States has the absolute authority on who gets clearance and who doesn’t.”
    Cummings also has been battling with the White House over his investigation into whether a Trump attorney, Sheri Dillon, and a former White House official, Stefan Passantino, misled federal ethics officials about the President’s initial failure to disclose payments he made as part of a hush-money scheme to silence stories about his alleged extramarital affair with adult-film actress Stormy Daniels.
    Passantino no longer works at the White House and is now an attorney at the Trump Organization. But in a letter to Cummings, Cipollone said that the committee was making “grossly unfair” allegations against both Passantino and Dillon — and said that Passantino would not sit down for an interview.
    “In response to your request, given longstanding law and practice, we are not inclined to make the former Deputy Counsel to the President available for a transcribed interview inquiring into his conversations and advice he provided while serving as Deputy Counsel to the President,” Cipollone wrote, referring to Passantino.
    Asked earlier this week if he would subpoena Passantino and Dillon, Cummings said: “I haven’t gotten there yet.”
    But Cummings contended that “there’s precedent” for House panels to reach out to former officials without consulting with the White House first. A Democratic aide provided CNN with letters from 2013 when then-GOP Chairman Darrell Issa reached out to three federal officials — former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, former Energy Department official Jonathan Silver and former White House deputy technology chief Andrew McLaughlin — at their office addresses.
    The fight between Cummings and the White House counsel’s office could set the tone for the broader Democratic House as it conducts numerous investigations of the Trump administration and Trump’s businesses.
    For instance, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff has said he is likely to bring back some of the officials that were interviewed in the Republican-led Russia investigation from the last Congress who refused to answer questions about their time in the White House, such as Steve Bannon.
    Many of the same officials Cummings has reached out to as part of his probe on security clearances have also been contacted by House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, who sent letters to 81 individuals and entities earlier this month as the opening salvo in his investigation into possible corruption, obstruction of justice and abuse of power. Nadler said Thursday that about half of the recipients indicated they would provide documents by Monday’s deadline, while a handful have said they would not do so.
      “We’ve heard from a number of other people who have said they will comply if we give them a subpoena — they want an excuse, they want a friendly subpoena, so-called,” Nadler said. “There are a couple of people who have been defiant and said they’re not going to comply, but that’s only a handful.”
      This story has been updated with additional developments Friday.
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Thom Tillis (R-NC) announced that he will vote no on the resolution of disapproval for Trump’s emergency declaration, which runs counter to his op-ed from a few weeks ago when he said he would vote with Democrats.”,”descriptionText”:”Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) announced that he will vote no on the resolution of disapproval for Trump’s emergency declaration, which runs counter to his op-ed from a few weeks ago when he said he would vote with Democrats.”},{“title”:”Senate votes to block Trump’s emergency declaration”,”duration”:”02:50″,”sourceName”:”CNN”,”sourceLink”:”http://www.cnn.com”,”videoCMSUrl”:”/video/data/3.0/video/politics/2019/03/14/senate-vote-trump-national-emergency-declaration-resolution-nr-sot-vpx.cnn/index.xml”,”videoId”:”politics/2019/03/14/senate-vote-trump-national-emergency-declaration-resolution-nr-sot-vpx.cnn”,”videoImage”:”http://cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/181019110142-01-capitol-building-file-large-169.jpg”,”videoUrl”:”/videos/politics/2019/03/14/senate-vote-trump-national-emergency-declaration-resolution-nr-sot-vpx.cnn/video/playlists/this-week-in-politics/”,”description”:”The Senate voted to block President Trump’s national emergency declaration, with 12 Republicans joining Democrats. Trump has said he will veto the bill.”,”descriptionText”:”The Senate voted to block President Trump’s national emergency declaration, with 12 Republicans joining Democrats. Trump has said he will veto the bill.”},{“title”:”Sen. 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On December 8, 2018, President Trump said Kelly would be leaving his job at the end of the year.”,”descriptionText”:”John Kelly is Donald Trump’s second White House chief of staff. On December 8, 2018, President Trump said Kelly would be leaving his job at the end of the year.”},{“title”:”Trump vetoes national emergency resolution”,”duration”:”01:05″,”sourceName”:”CNN”,”sourceLink”:”https://www.cnn.com/”,”videoCMSUrl”:”/video/data/3.0/video/politics/2019/03/15/trump-veto-resolution-sot-vpx.cnn/index.xml”,”videoId”:”politics/2019/03/15/trump-veto-resolution-sot-vpx.cnn”,”videoImage”:”http://cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190315162750-trump-signs-veto-large-169.jpg”,”videoUrl”:”/videos/politics/2019/03/15/trump-veto-resolution-sot-vpx.cnn/video/playlists/this-week-in-politics/”,”description”:”President Trump signed the first veto of his presidency, rejecting a measure that would reverse the national emergency he declared on the southern border.”,”descriptionText”:”President Trump signed the first veto of his presidency, rejecting a measure that would reverse the national emergency he declared on the southern border.”},{“title”:”CNN panel criticizes Trump’s use of ‘invasion’ after massacre”,”duration”:”01:50″,”sourceName”:”CNN”,”sourceLink”:”https://www.cnn.com/”,”videoCMSUrl”:”/video/data/3.0/video/politics/2019/03/15/donald-trump-invasion-invaders-ashamed-new-zealand-terror-attack-sot-lead-vpx.cnn/index.xml”,”videoId”:”politics/2019/03/15/donald-trump-invasion-invaders-ashamed-new-zealand-terror-attack-sot-lead-vpx.cnn”,”videoImage”:”http://cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190315160920-trump-veto-signing-1-large-169.jpg”,”videoUrl”:”/videos/politics/2019/03/15/donald-trump-invasion-invaders-ashamed-new-zealand-terror-attack-sot-lead-vpx.cnn/video/playlists/this-week-in-politics/”,”description”:”A CNN panel discusses President Trump using the term “invasion” to describe the US southern border in the wake of the New Zealand terrorist attack on Muslims.”,”descriptionText”:”A CNN panel discusses President Trump using the term “invasion” to describe the US southern border in the wake of the New Zealand terrorist attack on Muslims.”},{“title”:”Sanders blames greed for failures in healthcare system”,”duration”:”01:21″,”sourceName”:”CNN”,”sourceLink”:”https://www.cnn.com/”,”videoCMSUrl”:”/video/data/3.0/video/politics/2019/03/15/bernie-sanders-insurance-healthcare-sot-vpx.cnn/index.xml”,”videoId”:”politics/2019/03/15/bernie-sanders-insurance-healthcare-sot-vpx.cnn”,”videoImage”:”http://cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190315170757-bernie-sanders-wound-large-169.jpg”,”videoUrl”:”/videos/politics/2019/03/15/bernie-sanders-insurance-healthcare-sot-vpx.cnn/video/playlists/this-week-in-politics/”,”description”:”At a roundtable discussion in Charleston, South Carolina, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders blamed insurance companies and their focus on profits for failures in the US healthcare system.”,”descriptionText”:”At a roundtable discussion in Charleston, South Carolina, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders blamed insurance companies and their focus on profits for failures in the US healthcare system.”},{“title”:”Al Gore: Trump’s climate change denial creates supporters”,”duration”:”01:12″,”sourceName”:”CNN”,”sourceLink”:”http://www.cnn.com”,”videoCMSUrl”:”/video/data/3.0/video/politics/2019/03/15/al-gore-climate-change-trump-denial-sot-nr-vpx.cnn/index.xml”,”videoId”:”politics/2019/03/15/al-gore-climate-change-trump-denial-sot-nr-vpx.cnn”,”videoImage”:”http://cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190315145936-al-gore-nr-3-15-large-169.jpg”,”videoUrl”:”/videos/politics/2019/03/15/al-gore-climate-change-trump-denial-sot-nr-vpx.cnn/video/playlists/this-week-in-politics/”,”description”:”Former vice president Al Gore says President Trump’s denial of climate change has a reverse effect and brings supporters to the cause.”,”descriptionText”:”Former vice president Al Gore says President Trump’s denial of climate change has a reverse effect and brings supporters to the cause.”},{“title”:”Jeb Bush: Republicans ought to be given choice for 2020″,”duration”:”01:40″,”sourceName”:”CNN”,”sourceLink”:”https://www.cnn.com/?refresh=1″,”videoCMSUrl”:”/video/data/3.0/video/politics/2019/03/15/jeb-bush-on-2020-axe-files-sot-vpx.cnn/index.xml”,”videoId”:”politics/2019/03/15/jeb-bush-on-2020-axe-files-sot-vpx.cnn”,”videoImage”:”http://cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190315112807-jeb-bush-large-169.jpg”,”videoUrl”:”/videos/politics/2019/03/15/jeb-bush-on-2020-axe-files-sot-vpx.cnn/video/playlists/this-week-in-politics/”,”description”:”Former 2016 Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush said he thinks a Republican should challenge President Donald Trump in next year’s election, arguing the party “ought to be a given a choice.””,”descriptionText”:”Former 2016 Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush said he thinks a Republican should challenge President Donald Trump in next year’s election, arguing the party “ought to be a given a choice.””},{“title”:”Sen. Amy Klobuchar: I won’t shy away from common ground”,”duration”:”06:43″,”sourceName”:”CNN”,”sourceLink”:”http://www.cnn.com/”,”videoCMSUrl”:”/video/data/3.0/video/politics/2019/03/15/sen-amy-klobuchar-harlow-intv-pt-2-vpx.cnn/index.xml”,”videoId”:”politics/2019/03/15/sen-amy-klobuchar-harlow-intv-pt-2-vpx.cnn”,”videoImage”:”http://cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190315111108-sen-amy-klobuchar-harlow-intv-pt-2-vpx-00001328-large-169.jpg”,”videoUrl”:”/videos/politics/2019/03/15/sen-amy-klobuchar-harlow-intv-pt-2-vpx.cnn/video/playlists/this-week-in-politics/”,”description”:”CNN’s Poppy Harlow sits down with presidential hopeful Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) about her bipartisan appeal.”,”descriptionText”:”CNN’s Poppy Harlow sits down with presidential hopeful Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) about her bipartisan appeal.”},{“title”:”Pompeo ‘hopeful’ North Korea talks can continue”,”duration”:”00:51″,”sourceName”:”CNN”,”sourceLink”:”http://www.cnn.com”,”videoCMSUrl”:”/video/data/3.0/video/world/2019/03/15/pompeo-north-korea-talks-denuclearization-sot-nr-vpx.cnn/index.xml”,”videoId”:”world/2019/03/15/pompeo-north-korea-talks-denuclearization-sot-nr-vpx.cnn”,”videoImage”:”http://cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190315104451-mike-pompeo-large-169.jpg”,”videoUrl”:”/videos/world/2019/03/15/pompeo-north-korea-talks-denuclearization-sot-nr-vpx.cnn/video/playlists/this-week-in-politics/”,”description”:”Secretary of State Mike Pompeo insisted that North Korea is keeping open the possibility of continued talks after Pyongyang’s deputy foreign minister said they might walk from negotiations, criticizing the top US diplomat and national security adviser John Bolton for creating “an atmosphere of hostility.” “,”descriptionText”:”Secretary of State Mike Pompeo insisted that North Korea is keeping open the possibility of continued talks after Pyongyang’s deputy foreign minister said they might walk from negotiations, criticizing the top US diplomat and national security adviser John Bolton for creating “an atmosphere of hostility.” “},{“title”:”Cuomo and Conway spar over Trump’s ‘tough people’ remark”,”duration”:”02:07″,”sourceName”:”CNN”,”sourceLink”:”http://www.cnn.com”,”videoCMSUrl”:”/video/data/3.0/video/politics/2019/03/15/cuomo-kellyanne-conway-trump-tough-people-breitbart-cpt-vpx.cnn/index.xml”,”videoId”:”politics/2019/03/15/cuomo-kellyanne-conway-trump-tough-people-breitbart-cpt-vpx.cnn”,”videoImage”:”http://cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190314220333-cuomo-conway-split-03142019-large-169.jpg”,”videoUrl”:”/videos/politics/2019/03/15/cuomo-kellyanne-conway-trump-tough-people-breitbart-cpt-vpx.cnn/video/playlists/this-week-in-politics/”,”description”:”CNN’s Chris Cuomo and White House counselor Kellyanne Conway debate President Trump’s comment to Breitbart News that he has the support of “tough people” — military, police and bikers — who, Trump appeared to insinuate, could turn to violence against his political opponents.”,”descriptionText”:”CNN’s Chris Cuomo and White House counselor Kellyanne Conway debate President Trump’s comment to Breitbart News that he has the support of “tough people” — military, police and bikers — who, Trump appeared to insinuate, could turn to violence against his political opponents.”},{“title”:”Trump warns: Police, military supporters could get tough”,”duration”:”02:56″,”sourceName”:”CNN”,”sourceLink”:”http://www.cnn.com/”,”videoCMSUrl”:”/video/data/3.0/video/politics/2019/03/14/trump-breitbart-interview-tough-supporters-cortes-boykin-burnett-ebof-vpx.cnn/index.xml”,”videoId”:”politics/2019/03/14/trump-breitbart-interview-tough-supporters-cortes-boykin-burnett-ebof-vpx.cnn”,”videoImage”:”http://cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190301221710-03-trump-0228-large-169.jpg”,”videoUrl”:”/videos/politics/2019/03/14/trump-breitbart-interview-tough-supporters-cortes-boykin-burnett-ebof-vpx.cnn/video/playlists/this-week-in-politics/”,”description”:”In an interview with Breitbart News, President Trump said he has the support of the police, military and “Bikers for Trump” and warns that “it would be very bad” if they have to get tough on his opponents.”,”descriptionText”:”In an interview with Breitbart News, President Trump said he has the support of the police, military and “Bikers for Trump” and warns that “it would be very bad” if they have to get tough on his opponents.”},{“title”:”See Trump’s one-word response to rebuke”,”duration”:”01:05″,”sourceName”:”CNN”,”sourceLink”:”http://www.cnn.com”,”videoCMSUrl”:”/video/data/3.0/video/politics/2019/03/14/trump-response-senate-vote-tweet-veto-lead-sot-vpx.cnn/index.xml”,”videoId”:”politics/2019/03/14/trump-response-senate-vote-tweet-veto-lead-sot-vpx.cnn”,”videoImage”:”http://cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/181220141226-01-donald-trump-oval-office-file-large-169.jpg”,”videoUrl”:”/videos/politics/2019/03/14/trump-response-senate-vote-tweet-veto-lead-sot-vpx.cnn/video/playlists/this-week-in-politics/”,”description”:”President Trump responded with a one-word tweet after 12 GOP senators broke rank and the Senate voted to block the President’s emergency declaration.”,”descriptionText”:”President Trump responded with a one-word tweet after 12 GOP senators broke rank and the Senate voted to block the President’s emergency declaration.”},{“title”:”Graham blocks vote for public release of Mueller report”,”duration”:”02:03″,”sourceName”:”CNN”,”sourceLink”:”https://www.cnn.com/”,”videoCMSUrl”:”/video/data/3.0/video/politics/2019/03/14/mueller-report-release-graham-schumer-raju-sot-nr-vpx.cnn/index.xml”,”videoId”:”politics/2019/03/14/mueller-report-release-graham-schumer-raju-sot-nr-vpx.cnn”,”videoImage”:”http://cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190314162033-sen-lindsey-graham-031419-large-169.jpg”,”videoUrl”:”/videos/politics/2019/03/14/mueller-report-release-graham-schumer-raju-sot-nr-vpx.cnn/video/playlists/this-week-in-politics/”,”description”:”Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer responded to Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham’s move to block a non-binding resolution calling for a public release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report.”,”descriptionText”:”Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer responded to Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham’s move to block a non-binding resolution calling for a public release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report.”},{“title”:”Roger Stone receives November trial date”,”duration”:”01:34″,”sourceName”:”CNN”,”sourceLink”:”http://www.cnn.com”,”videoCMSUrl”:”/video/data/3.0/video/politics/2019/03/14/roger-stone-court-trial-date-murray-dnt-lead-vpx.cnn/index.xml”,”videoId”:”politics/2019/03/14/roger-stone-court-trial-date-murray-dnt-lead-vpx.cnn”,”videoImage”:”http://cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190221192923-roger-stone-gag-order-trump-ted-deutch-inv-tsr-vpx-00000310-large-169.jpg”,”videoUrl”:”/videos/politics/2019/03/14/roger-stone-court-trial-date-murray-dnt-lead-vpx.cnn/video/playlists/this-week-in-politics/”,”description”:”Roger Stone, who is accused of lying about his attempts to contact WikiLeaks in the lead-up to the 2016 election, has received a November 5 trial date from Judge Amy Berman Jackson. 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          Who is John Kelly?

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        Cuomo and Conway spar over Trump’s ‘tough people’ remark

        Trump warns: Police, military supporters could get tough

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        (CNN)House Democrats, eager to investigate all aspects of the Trump White House, have identified former administration officials they need to carry out their probes. But the White House isn’t making it an easy task.

        On at least two occasions, the White House has pushed back on efforts by the House Oversight Committee to reach out directly to former officials, chiding the committee’s powerful Chairman Elijah Cummings for not contacting the White House first. Their contention: Topics pertaining to former officials’ work should be sorted out with the White House first — even if the officials are no longer federal employees.
        At the center of one of the disputes is former chief of staff John Kelly, whose cooperation is central to Cummings’ investigation into the White House’s handling of security clearances, including Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner. Cummings’ staff reached out to Kelly directly by phone on multiple occasions, which prompted a stinging response from White House counsel Pat Cipollone.
        “Once again, these actions disregard my earlier request to the Committee regarding contacts with former or current White House officials,” Cipollone wrote to Cummings in a late February letter, adding it’s “vital” such outreach is first done through the White House counsel’s office. “Consulting with my office will ensure that the Committee efficiently obtains access to the information and individuals to which it is entitled and that any disclosure of privileged information to Congress is properly authorized.”
          Cummings told CNN that the move is tantamount to “stonewalling,” pointing to examples from past administrations of former federal officials being asked to testify directly before Congress.
          “The President’s lawyers they know that’s not accurate. It’s not accurate,” Cummings said. “So they’re basically stonewalling That’s what it is.”
          Asked if he had made any progress in getting cooperation from Kelly as he left the Capitol on Thursday, Cummings said, “Not yet.”
          “They block us from everything.”
          The move is part of a larger White House strategy to make it difficult for Democrats to succeed in their aggressive investigations into the President — investigations the White House views as rampant overreach and an improper effort to obtain privileged communications with the President.
          Though publicly maintaining they will cooperate with all requests, White House officials have internally taken an aggressive approach to the oversight requests. Part of the White House’s strategy has included slow-walking responses to demands for hearing dates and delaying efforts to turn over documents or schedule transcribed interviews.
          Democratic officials say there have been at least 30 examples of the administration resisting demands for documents in just the first three months of the Democratic-controlled House. On Friday, the Trump administration missed a Democratic deadline to provide documents on Trump’s interactions with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
          Cipollone holds regular meetings in the West Wing to devise the administration’s response to individual requests. These meetings, which are typically run by Cipollone’s deputy Mike Purpura, are often limited in attendance because the White House is so prone to leaks. The meetings include few, if any, communications staffers, which has caused friction between the legal team and public-facing officials, who have protested that they aren’t being kept in the loop so don’t know what to tell the media.
          In his briefings with the President, Cipollone has not held back about how expansive the House Democratic requests are, sources told CNN. In the words of one official, “he’s not sugarcoating it.”
          A source familiar with the process said Cipollone has taken a more aggressive approach toward congressional requests than his predecessor Don McGahn. That strategy is evident in his sternly worded letters to Cummings.
          “You haven’t seen Don McGahn sign letters like that,” the source said.
          But this change in strategy could be because McGahn felt less of an obligation to respond to Democratic lawmakers when they were in the minority in the last Congress, a separate person added.
          Though Purpura is leading the White House’s response to requests from the Hill, sources said Cipollone has been engaged, working the phones to discuss oversight requests with those affected and even sitting down with Cummings, as he acknowledged in a recent letter.
          Despite the aggressive approach, a senior White House official defended how the administration has handled the Democratic requests so far, arguing that the White House’s response is measured compared to Cummings’ approach of circumventing them to interview former officials.
          On a call with the House Oversight Committee earlier this month, aides from the committee said that the White House refused three times to confirm or deny that a memo from Kelly on White House security clearances even existed.
          House Republicans say many of the Democratic requests are out-of-bounds, particularly when it comes to Cummings’ request for details on the security clearance process in the White House — and concerns Kelly and McGahn privately voiced about Kushner and Ivanka Trump’s security clearances.
          “I’m comfortable with the commander-in-chief having sole authority of who gets clearance and who doesn’t — I’m totally comfortable with that,” said Rep. Jim Jordan, the top Republican on the Oversight Committee when asked if the White House should comply with Cummings’ request on security clearances. “I think the President of the United States has the absolute authority on who gets clearance and who doesn’t.”
          Cummings also has been battling with the White House over his investigation into whether a Trump attorney, Sheri Dillon, and a former White House official, Stefan Passantino, misled federal ethics officials about the President’s initial failure to disclose payments he made as part of a hush-money scheme to silence stories about his alleged extramarital affair with adult-film actress Stormy Daniels.
          Passantino no longer works at the White House and is now an attorney at the Trump Organization. But in a letter to Cummings, Cipollone said that the committee was making “grossly unfair” allegations against both Passantino and Dillon — and said that Passantino would not sit down for an interview.
          “In response to your request, given longstanding law and practice, we are not inclined to make the former Deputy Counsel to the President available for a transcribed interview inquiring into his conversations and advice he provided while serving as Deputy Counsel to the President,” Cipollone wrote, referring to Passantino.
          Asked earlier this week if he would subpoena Passantino and Dillon, Cummings said: “I haven’t gotten there yet.”
          But Cummings contended that “there’s precedent” for House panels to reach out to former officials without consulting with the White House first. A Democratic aide provided CNN with letters from 2013 when then-GOP Chairman Darrell Issa reached out to three federal officials — former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, former Energy Department official Jonathan Silver and former White House deputy technology chief Andrew McLaughlin — at their office addresses.
          The fight between Cummings and the White House counsel’s office could set the tone for the broader Democratic House as it conducts numerous investigations of the Trump administration and Trump’s businesses.
          For instance, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff has said he is likely to bring back some of the officials that were interviewed in the Republican-led Russia investigation from the last Congress who refused to answer questions about their time in the White House, such as Steve Bannon.
          Many of the same officials Cummings has reached out to as part of his probe on security clearances have also been contacted by House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, who sent letters to 81 individuals and entities earlier this month as the opening salvo in his investigation into possible corruption, obstruction of justice and abuse of power. Nadler said Thursday that about half of the recipients indicated they would provide documents by Monday’s deadline, while a handful have said they would not do so.
            “We’ve heard from a number of other people who have said they will comply if we give them a subpoena — they want an excuse, they want a friendly subpoena, so-called,” Nadler said. “There are a couple of people who have been defiant and said they’re not going to comply, but that’s only a handful.”
            This story has been updated with additional developments Friday.
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