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White House refuses Democrats' demand to hand over security clearance records

White House slams investigations into Trump

The White House Counsel's Office is refusing to release documents requested by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform related to its issuance of security clearances, teeing up a potential subpoena battle between Capitol Hill and 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. 

In a letter addressed to Chairman Elijah Cummings on Monday, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone said the White House will not provide "unilateral concessions without any offer of accommodation" by the committee. Cummings launched an investigation into the White House's process for granting security clearances in January, including the circumstances surrounding Trump son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner's clearance. 

"We will not concede the Executive's constitutional prerogatives or allow the Committee to jeopardize the individual privacy rights of current and former Executive Branch employees," Cipollone wrote in Mondays' letter. Cipollone said an offer to brief the committee on the clearance process and allow them to review certain documents still stands.

Cummings wrote to Cipollone on March 1 demanding the White House provide documents and make witnesses available following a New York Times report that Mr. Trump had overruled White House officials and ordered Kushner be given a top-secret clearance. In a statement Tuesday, Cummings strongly disagreed with Cipollone's assessment and said he will consult with committee members on what to do next. 

"The White House appears to be arguing that Congress has no authority to examine decisions by the Executive Branch that impact our national security — even when the President's former national security adviser has pleaded guilty to lying about his contacts with foreign government officials," Cummings said. "There is a key difference between a president who exercises his authority under the Constitution and a president who overrules career experts and his top advisors to benefit his family members and then conceals his actions from the American people."

When reporters asked Mr. Trump about the security clearance investigation on Tuesday afternoon, the president decried the growing list of congressional investigations as a "witch hunt." The White House response on the security clearance investigation comes as the House Judiciary Committee sent letters to 81 individuals and entities seeking documents for its own probe. 

"The witch hunt continues," Mr. Trump told reporters at the White House Tuesday. "The fact is that I guess we got 81 letters. There was no collusion. That was a hoax. There was no anything. And they want to do that instead of getting legislation passed. Eighty-one people or organization got letters. It's a disgrace. It's a disgrace to our country. I'm not surprised they're doing it. Basically they've started the campaign. So the campaign begins. But the campaign — their campaign's actually been going on for the last two and a half years.  So it's a shame and the people understand it. When they look at it, they just say presidential harassment. But that's OK." 

Rebecca Kaplan and Jack Turman contributed to this report.