President Donald Trump is facing a number of legitimate investigations, from his business dealings and his taxes to his efforts to interfere in the Mueller investigation. And his administration is fighting all of them to an unprecedented degree, with the president on April 24, 2019, going so far as to say, “We’re fighting all the subpoenas.”
The next month, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone wrote to the House Judiciary Committee stating that current and former administration officials would not be permitted to testify before Congress, characterizing Congress’ investigations as efforts to “harass” the president. That month, former White House lawyer Don McGahn ignored a House Judiciary Committee subpoena. And in early June, the White House directed Annie Donaldson, who had served as McGahn’s chief of staff, and Hope Hicks, who had been White House communications director, to ignore the committee’s subpoenas for testimony and documents.
But it hasn’t just been the White House that has been rejecting Congress’ oversight authority. Executive branch agencies have also been following Trump’s lead in “fighting all the subpoenas.” In early April, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had — despite a law instructing his department to comply with such requests from the House Ways and Means Committee — refused to turn over the president’s tax returns, admitting that the Treasury had discussed the issue with the White House. The next month, Attorney General William Barr failed to appear at a Judiciary Committee hearing, defying a subpoena for the unredacted Mueller report and its underlying evidence.
The administration also has been uncooperative in the investigation of the decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, an issue currently before the Supreme Court. Barr directed Justice Department official John Gore not to comply with a subpoena for testimony about the department’s involvement in the decision, and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has also refused to testify or provide requested documents about the citizenship question.
American Oversight is investigating agencies across the federal government to find out whether and to what extent the White House has directed agency officials to match its defiance of congressional requests.