Exclusive: White House rejects what it calls ‘dog-and-pony show’ subpoenas from Congress
Bill Chizek/iStock(WASHINGTON) — As the White House and Democrats on Capitol Hill continue waging battles on several fronts, press secretary Sarah Sanders doubled down Tuesday on the administration’s recurring policy of stonewalling what they perceive as oversight outreach from congressional committees.
“If the Congress wants to make reasonable and, frankly, lawful requests, we’d certainly be willing to discuss those,” Sanders said in an interview on ABC News’ “The Investigation” podcast. “This is nothing more than a big dog-and-pony show. But so far we haven’t seen that be the case.”
The White House is showing no signs of relenting, either. Over the weekend, President Donald Trump tweeted that special counsel Robert Mueller “should not testify” before Congress. Sanders said the White House has not officially instructed the Justice Department to bar Mueller from testifying, but it’s a conversation that will happen.
“I think that’s a determination to be made at this point,” Sanders said, when asked whether Trump has explicitly instructed the Justice Department to keep Mueller from testifying. “But that’s the president’s feeling on the matter and the reason is because we consider this as a case closed as a finished process.”
Sanders revealed first to ABC News on Tuesday that the White House would instruct former counsel to the president Donald McGahn not to comply with a subpoena from House Democrats, setting up yet another fight that could end up in the courts.
“I don’t anticipate that that takes place,” Sanders said when asked whether the White House will allow McGahn to comply with Democrats’ request. “We consider this to be a case closed and we’re moving forward to do the work of the American people.”
In a letter to the House Judiciary Committee chairman, Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., the current White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, did not explicitly exert executive privilege, but Sanders said the president’s privacy “is still important.”
“It’s something that we have to consider in this process, the institution of the presidency is at stake,” Sanders said. “This isn’t just about Donald Trump – this is about protecting every president after this.”
Despite the length of her tenure in the job — nearly two years — Sanders has faced criticism for what she has said from the White House briefing room podium, particularly in the wake of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, in which she conceded to investigators that she had a “slip of the tongue” when addressing reporters about the “countless” FBI employees who she said applauded Trump’s decision to fire then-FBI director James Comey.
The special counsel wrote that her comments were “not founded on anything,” even though she repeated the remark several times.
“I feel very comfortable about my credibility – from the misspeak of one word versus the narrative that the media and Democrats have pushed for two years,” Sanders said. “I feel extremely good about the job that I’ve done.”
But pressed by ABC News’ Chris Vlasto about the president’s proclivity to misstate facts, Sanders, as always, defended her boss.
“Isn’t the story now about truth-telling?” Vlasto asked. “Isn’t that the problem? Not about you, but the president — Isn’t that why people get so angry at him?”
“I think they get so angry at him because he proves them wrong time and time again,” Sanders, who last held a press conference on March 11, rebutted. “I think that they have tried to put the president into a box that fits a story that they wanted to write. And every time they put words on the paper he changes them and he has controlled the narrative.”
Making the case for the president is, at times, a difficult task, Sanders conceded.
“For me, the hardest part is when I’m in this job it takes so much time away and a sacrifice from being with my family and having to find that balance can be very difficult at times,” Sanders said. “But because I believe in our country, I believe in what we’re doing.”
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