December 8, 2019, 23:28

White House blocks former top Trump aides from testifying

White House blocks former top Trump aides from testifying

President Donald Trump on Monday blocked his former Staff Secretary Rob Porter and former Deputy Chief of Staff Rick Dearborn from testifying on Tuesday before Congress about events related to former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation as part of the House Judiciary Committee’s ongoing probe into potential obstruction of justice and public corruption.

(MORE: House Judiciary Committee subpoenas former White House staff secretary Rob Porter )

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images, FILE

Rick Dearborn attends his Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee confirmation hearing in Russell Building, July 26, 2018, in Washington.

In letters sent to the committee on Monday, obtained exclusively by ABC News, White House counsel Pat Cipollone said Porter and Dearborn are immune from compelled congressional testimony.

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images, FILE

In this August 4, 2017, file photo, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly (R) and White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter (L) walk to Marine One prior to departure from the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C.

“As you know … in accordance with long-standing, bipartisan precedent, senior advisers to the President such as Mr. Dearborn and Mr. Porter may not be compelled to testify before Congress with respect to matters related to their service as senior advisers to the President,” the letter from the White House to House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler , D-N.Y., said.

“Accordingly, in keeping with settled precedent and to protect the Office of President for the future, the President has directed Mr. Dearborn and Mr. Porter not to appear at the hearing scheduled for Sept. 17, 2019,” the letter said.

Alex Brandon/AP, FILE

Jerrold Nadler, left, Rep. Doug Collins, top right, and Rep. Pramila Jayapal, bottom right, listen as former special counsel Robert Mueller testifies before the House Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill, July 24, 2019, in Washington, D.C.

(MORE: Hope Hicks going ‘through hell,’ Trump tweets, as Democrats question her about president’s potential obstruction of justice)

The White House also used the “absolute immunity” argument to block testimony for former White House counsel Donald McGahn and to limit the scope of former White House Communications Director Hope Hicks’ testimony before the panel and behind closed doors in June.

(MORE: House Democrats file lawsuit to enforce subpoena for McGahn testimony)

House Democrats argued in a recent lawsuit filed to enforce McGhan’s subpoena that the “absolute immunity” argument has “no grounding in the Constitution, any statutes, or case law” and stating that the president cited “no legal authority” to instruct a private citizen, like McGhan or Porter, to defy a congressional subpoena.

(MORE: White House counsel cooperated with Mueller’s probe, met with special counsel’s team several times: Sources)

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images, FILE

Corey Lewandowski, former campaign manager for President Donald Trump, watches as Trump disembarks from Air Force One upon arrival at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport in Hebron, Ky., Aug. 1, 2019, for a campaign rally.

The White House also directed Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski not to speak about conversations he had with Trump as president and with senior advisers and only about his time working for Trump on the campaign.

(MORE: Corey Lewandowski ‘seriously considering’ Senate run in 2020 )

“… 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 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 [Mueller] Report that have already been disclosed to the Committee.”

Lewandowski, who served as Trump’s first campaign manager until he was fired in June of 2016, has remained close to the president and the West Wing, serving as an outside adviser to Trump since his election but never served in Trump’s administration.

Porter served as White House staff secretary for Trump from January 2017 until he resigned amid allegations of domestic abuse in February 2018 — allegations he denied. He served as a key witness in Mueller’s investigation.

Both Porter and Dearborn were on the list of a dozen subpoenas the committee authorized in June, requesting documents and testimony from twelve current and former administration officials and associates of Trump related to their obstruction investigation.

Democrats see public testimony from them and other prominent Trump figures as key elements of their investigation to determine whether to take up impeachment against the president.


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