US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., meets with reporters at her weekly news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, May 16, 2019. (Photo: AP)
US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says “nothing is off the table” in pushing the White House to comply with subpoenas for information, including fining administration officials through what’s called inherent contempt of Congress.
Pelosi, D-Calif., said Thursday that she hopes it doesn’t come to that. But she called the White House counsel’s letter to the Judiciary Committee resisting all requests for information “a joke” and “beneath the dignity of the president of the United States.”
White House counsel Pat Cipollone sent a 12-page letter to the committee chairman, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., on Wednesday labeling congressional investigations as efforts to “harass” President Donald Trump in the wake of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian election interference. The letter said that current and former administration officials will not be permitted to testify and that the administration will fight subpoenas as Democrats move to investigate Trump’s presidency and finances.
Cipollone also argued in the letter that Congress is a legislature, not a law enforcement body, and does not have a right to pursue most investigations.
Pelosi noted that one of the constitutional purposes of congressional investigations is impeachment. “It doesn’t mean you’re going on an impeachment path,” Pelosi said. “It means if you had the information you might.”
She said House Democrats aim to “subpoena friendly,” then “subpoena otherwise.”
Nadler responded to Cipollone with his own letter Thursday evening saying the White House’s refusal to comply is “astounding and dangerous.”
He said a Justice Department opinion that says a president can’t be indicted holds the president above the law, so Congress “is therefore the only branch of government able to hold the president to account.”
The Judiciary Committee “urgently requires the subpoenaed material to determine whether and how to proceed with its constitutional duty to provide checks and balances on the president and executive branch,” Nadler said.