The White House Thursday rejected a call by House Democrats for documents relating to private conversations between President Trump and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin.
In a letter sent to House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., and Oversight and Reform Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and obtained by Fox News, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone said that “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.”
Cipollone added there is precedent going back to George Washington that gives the president control over conducting foreign affairs and that Congress does not have the right to information about conversations between the president and other world leaders.
“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.
The Democrats reacted: “Our Committees are in receipt of the White House Counsel’s letter, which continues a troubling pattern by the Trump Administration of rejecting legitimate and necessary congressional oversight with no regard for precedent or the constitution.”
The White House refusal marks the latest move in the ongoing fight between the Trump administration and House Democrats looking to flex their oversight muscles since retaking control of the lower chamber of Congress in January.
Trump has consistently labeled Democratic attempts to look into his campaign and his dealings as “presidential harassment" and a "witch hunt."
Cipollone’s letter was in response to two letters sent to the administration by Cummings, Schiff and Engel earlier in the month.
In one letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the three lawmakers said they wanted to know whether any Trump-Putin communications had led to the "reconsideration, modification, or implementation" of any aspect of American foreign policy.
The chairmen specifically were seeking access to all State Department employees and contractors with knowledge of Trump's communications with the Russian leader, including "linguists, translators, or interpreters who participated in [sic] attended, or in any way listened in on President Trump's in-person meetings with President Putin, as well as President Trump's phone calls with President Putin."
The top Democrats also said they were interested in knowing whether Trump or anyone acting on his behalf had "failed to create records of, or in any way destroyed, suppressed, mishandled, or otherwise withheld any federal or presidential records" contrary to federal laws.
The Washington Post reported in January that, following his meeting with Putin in Hamburg, Germany in 2017, Trump took possession of the notes from his own interpreter and instructed the individual not to discuss what had taken place in the meeting with other administration officials.
Fox News' Jason Donner, Meghan Welsh and Gregg Re contributed to this report.