The White House on Thursday rejected congressional Democrats’ demands for documents relating to President Donald Trump’s private discussions with Russian President Vladimir Putin — escalating tensions between the Trump administration and Congress over a crucial piece of Democrats’ oversight ambitions.
“The committees’ letters cite no legal authority for the proposition that another branch of the government can force the president to disclose diplomatic communications with foreign leaders or that supports forcing disclosure of the confidential internal deliberations of the president’s national security advisors,” White House Counsel Pat Cipollone wrote in a letter obtained by POLITICO to the chairmen of three House committees seeking documents and witness interviews.
In his letter to Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), and Oversight and Reform Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), Cipollone cited precedents going back to the George Washington and Bill Clinton administrations to assert Trump’s authority to conduct foreign affairs, and to argue that Congress has no right to information about one-on-one conversations between the president and a foreign leader.
“It is settled law that the Constitution entrusts the conduct of foreign relations exclusively to the Executive Branch, as it makes the President ‘the sole organ of the federal government in the field of international relations,’” Cipollone wrote.
Cipollone also argued that Congress’ demand for information about a president’s private conversations with foreign leaders could jeopardize similar talks involving future American presidents.