Donald Trump’s Obstruction of Congressional Oversight

Congressional oversight of executive branch officials is fundamental to our democracy and our constitutional system of checks and balances — a system the Trump administration appears determined to delegitimize. The Trump White House’s blanket refusal to comply with congressional requests and subpoenas isn’t just unprecedented. It signals a dangerous vision of a presidency left unchecked and unscrutinized. American Oversight is examining executive branch agencies’ defiance of congressional investigations — and whether those agencies have been acting at the direction of the White House.

Background

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.

What We’re Seeking

  • Email communications about congressional oversight between White House employees and political appointees in the legislative affairs offices of 11 agencies and component agencies
  • All email communications between the legal offices of those agencies and White House employees
  • Any memoranda or directives from the White House or agency leadership about responding to congressional requests

Related Documents

June 24, 2019

FOIA to Commerce Seeking Records Reflecting Communications Between the Agency and the White House Counsel Staff Regarding Congressional Oversight

Department of Commerce
FOIA Request
June 24, 2019

FOIA to FEMA Seeking Records Reflecting Communications Between the Agency and the White House Counsel Staff Regarding Congressional Oversight

Federal Emergency Management Agency
FOIA Request
June 24, 2019

FOIA to DHS Seeking Records Reflecting Communications Between the Agency and the White House Counsel Staff Regarding Congressional Oversight

Department of Homeland Security
FOIA Request
June 24, 2019

FOIA to HUD Seeking Records Reflecting Communications Between the Agency and the White House Counsel Staff Regarding Congressional Oversight

Department of Housing and Urban Development
FOIA Request
June 24, 2019

FOIA to ED Seeking Records Reflecting Communications Between the Agency and the White House Counsel Staff Regarding Congressional Oversight

Department of Education
FOIA Request
June 24, 2019

FOIA to DOI Seeking Records Reflecting Communications Between the Agency and the White House Counsel Staff Regarding Congressional Oversight

Department of the Interior
FOIA Request
June 24, 2019

FOIA to GSA Seeking Records Reflecting Communications Between the Agency and the White House Counsel Staff Regarding Congressional Oversight

General Services Administration
FOIA Request
June 24, 2019

FOIA to Treasury Seeking Records Reflecting Communications Between the Agency and the White House Counsel Staff Regarding Congressional Oversight

Department of the Treasury
FOIA Request
June 24, 2019

FOIA to EPA Seeking Records Reflecting Communications Between the Agency and the White House Counsel Staff Regarding Congressional Oversight

Environmental Protection Agency
FOIA Request
June 24, 2019

FOIA to DOJ Seeking Records Reflecting Communications Between the Agency and the White House Counsel Staff Regarding Congressional Oversight

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
June 24, 2019

FOIA to FBI Seeking Records Reflecting Communications Between the Agency and the White House Counsel Staff Regarding Congressional Oversight

Federal Bureau of Investigation
FOIA Request
June 24, 2019

FOIA to HHS Seeking Records Reflecting Communications Between the Agency and the White House Counsel Staff Regarding Congressional Oversight

Department of Health and Human Services
FOIA Request
June 24, 2019

FOIA to VA Seeking Records Reflecting Communications Between the Agency and the White House Counsel Staff Regarding Congressional Oversight

Department of Veterans Affairs
FOIA Request
June 11, 2019

FOIA to Commerce Seeking Communications Between Agency Lawyers and the White House Regarding Congressional Oversight

Department of Commerce
FOIA Request
June 11, 2019

FOIA to Commerce Seeking Communications Between the Agency and the White House Regarding Congressional Oversight

Department of Commerce
FOIA Request
June 11, 2019

FOIA to FEMA Seeking Communications Between Agency Lawyers and the White House Regarding Congressional Oversight

Federal Emergency Management Agency
FOIA Request
June 11, 2019

FOIA to FEMA Seeking Communications Between the Agency and the White House Regarding Congressional Oversight

Federal Emergency Management Agency
FOIA Request
June 11, 2019

FOIA to DHS Seeking Communications Between Agency Lawyers and the White House Regarding Congressional Oversight

Department of Homeland Security
FOIA Request
June 11, 2019

FOIA to DHS Seeking Communications Between the Agency and the White House Regarding Congressional Oversight

Department of Commerce
FOIA Request
June 11, 2019

FOIA to HUD Seeking Communications Between Agency Lawyers and the White House Regarding Congressional Oversight

Department of Housing and Urban Development
FOIA Request
June 11, 2019

FOIA to HUD Seeking Communications Between the Agency and the White House Regarding Congressional Oversight

Department of Housing and Urban Development
FOIA Request
June 11, 2019

FOIA to ED Seeking Communications Between Agency Lawyers and the White House Regarding Congressional Oversight

Department of Education
FOIA Request
June 11, 2019

FOIA to ED Seeking Communications Between the Agency and the White House Regarding Congressional Oversight

Department of Education
FOIA Request
June 11, 2019

FOIA to DOI Seeking Communications Between Agency Lawyers and the White House Regarding Congressional Oversight

Department of the Interior
FOIA Request
June 11, 2019

FOIA to DOI Seeking Communications Between the Agency and the White House Regarding Congressional Oversight

Department of the Interior
FOIA Request
June 11, 2019

FOIA to GSA Seeking Communications Between Agency Lawyers and the White House Regarding Congressional Oversight

General Services Administration
FOIA Request
June 11, 2019

FOIA to GSA Seeking Communications Between the Agency and the White House Regarding Congressional Oversight

General Services Administration
FOIA Request
June 11, 2019

FOIA to Treasury Seeking Communications Between Agency Lawyers and the White House Regarding Congressional Oversight

Department of the Treasury
FOIA Request
June 11, 2019

FOIA to Treasury Seeking Communications Between the Agency and the White House Regarding Congressional Oversight

Department of the Treasury
FOIA Request
June 11, 2019

FOIA to EPA Seeking Communications Between Agency Lawyers and the White House Regarding Congressional Oversight

Environmental Protection Agency
FOIA Request
June 11, 2019

FOIA to EPA Seeking Communications Between the Agency and the White House Regarding Congressional Oversight

Environmental Protection Agency
FOIA Request
June 11, 2019

FOIA to DOJ Seeking Communications Between Agency Lawyers and the White House Regarding Congressional Oversight

Department of Justice
FOIA Request
June 11, 2019

FOIA to FBI Seeking Communications Between Agency Lawyers and the White House Regarding Congressional Oversight

Federal Bureau of Investigation
FOIA Request
June 11, 2019

FOIA to FBI Seeking Communications Between the Agency and the White House Regarding Congressional Oversight

Federal Bureau of Investigation
FOIA Request
June 11, 2019

FOIA to HHS Seeking Communications Between Agency Lawyers and the White House Regarding Congressional Oversight

Department of Health and Human Services
FOIA Request
June 11, 2019

FOIA to HHS Seeking Communications Between the Agency and the White House Regarding Congressional Oversight

Department of Health and Human Services
FOIA Request
June 11, 2019

FOIA to VA Seeking Communications Between Agency Lawyers and the White House Regarding Congressional Oversight

Department of Veterans Affairs
FOIA Request
June 11, 2019

FOIA to VA Seeking Communications Between the Agency and the White House Regarding Congressional Oversight

Department of Veterans Affairs
FOIA Request
June 10, 2019

FOIA to Multiple Agencies Seeking Guidance Regarding Congressional Oversight Requests and Subpoenas

Department of Commerce, Department of Education, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Justice, Department of the Interior, Department of the Treasury, Department of Veterans Affairs, Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Federal Emergency Management Agency, General Services Administration
FOIA Request