Pelosi blasts White House letter rejecting Congress' demands: 'A joke'

"Shame on them,” the House speaker said.
Image: Nancy Pelosi
Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday called a letter from the White House counsel rejecting congressional investigative demands as "outrageous" and "a joke."Zach Gibson / Getty Images

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By Rebecca Shabad and Alex Moe

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., blasted the White House on Thursday for asserting that it would not comply with a range of requests from the House Judiciary Committee, arguing that Congress needs certain information to perform its oversight duties and guide any moves toward impeachment.

“The letter that came from the White House yesterday was completely outrageous,” Pelosi told reporters at her weekly press conference, referring to the letter White House counsel Pat Cipollone sent Wednesday to Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y.

She added: "That letter that came from the White House was a joke, beneath the dignity of the presidency of the United States, in defiance of our Constitution. Shame on them.”

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Nadler on Thursday evening sent a letter back to Cipollone in which his staff said he detailed the subpoena process and "outlines the legislative purpose of the Committee’s investigation and addresses the Trump Administration’s efforts to stonewall Congress across the board." He also outlined the requests that have gone unanswered from the administration.

Pelosi was responding to a question from NBC News' Kasie Hunt, who asked for her reaction to Nadler telling reporters Thursday morning that President Donald Trump's "posture now is making it impossible to rule out impeachment or anything else."

Pelosi also pushed backed on the argument Cipollone outline in his letter — that Congress can't ask any questions of the administration unless it has a legislative purpose.

“One of the purposes that the Constitution spells out for investigation is impeachment,” Pelosi said. “And you can say — and the courts would respect it if you said — we need this information to carry out our oversight responsibilities and among them is impeachment. It doesn’t mean you’re on an impeachment path, but it means if you had the information, you might."

The speaker was pressed about the use of "inherent contempt" in which Congress would fine or jail Trump administration officials who refuse to comply with subpoenas.

“That is a path,” she said, but declined to say whether she supports that option.

In his letter, Cipollone called on Nadler to “discontinue” his committee’s probes into the president, arguing that they are embarking on a “duplicative investigation” by “issuing subpoenas to replow the same ground the special counsel has already covered."

Last week, the Judiciary panel voted to recommend to the House that it should hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with Nadler’s subpoena for the full unredacted Mueller report and its underlying documents. Pelosi has suggested that she would combine a floor vote to hold Barr in contempt with other possible contempt citations involving Trump officials.