House Democrats wrestle with White House over investigations

WASHINGTON (AP) — The struggle between House Democrats and the Trump administration over investigations intensified as a former White House official defied a subpoena and the Treasury Department ignored a deadline for providing President Donald Trump’s tax returns.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said the White House has adopted the “untenable” position that it can ignore requests from the Democratic majority in the House.

“It appears that the president believes that the Constitution does not apply to his White House, that he may order officials at will to violate their legal obligations, and that he may obstruct attempts by Congress to conduct oversight,” Cummings, D-Md., said in a statement.

Cummings was specifically referring to Carl Kline, a former White House personnel security director, who was subpoenaed by Democrats.

Kline did not show up Tuesday for a scheduled deposition, and Cummings said he is consulting with other lawmakers and staff about scheduling a vote to hold Kline in contempt of Congress. The committee subpoenaed Kline after one of his former subordinates told the panel that dozens of people in Trump’s administration were granted security clearances despite “disqualifying issues” in their backgrounds.

Trump said he doesn’t want former or current aides testifying in Congress, “where it’s very partisan — obviously very partisan.”

Trump told The Washington Post in an interview published Tuesday night, “I don’t want people testifying to a party, because that is what they’re doing if they do this.”

Meanwhile, the administration on Tuesday defied a demand from Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., to turn over six years of Trump’s tax returns by the close of business — a strong signal that they intend to reject the request.

In a letter to Neal, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin asked for more time and said he would give the panel a final decision by May 6.

Mnuchin wrote Neal that he is consulting with the Justice Department “due to the serious constitutional questions raised by this request and the serious consequences that a resolution of those questions could have for taxpayer privacy.”

Neal hasn’t announced next steps, but he could opt to issue a subpoena to enforce his demand, sent under a 1924 law that requires the Treasury secretary to furnish any tax return requested by a handful of lawmakers with responsibility over the IRS.

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