White House counsel Pat Cipollone in a letter to three Democratic committee chairmen — House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel and House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings — wrote that the courts have long established that presidential communications with foreign leaders are protected and confidential.
“The President must be free to engage in discussions with foreign leaders without fear that those communications will be disclosed and used as fodder for partisan political purposes,” Cipollone wrote in the letter, obtained by CNN. “And foreign leaders must be assured of this as well.”
“Presidents from all political parties have determined that the law does not require the Executive Branch to provide Congress with documents relating to confidential diplomatic communications between the President and foreign leaders,“ Cipollone added. “No foreign leader would engage in private conversations with the President, or the President’s senior advisors, if such conversations were subject to public disclosure (or disclosure to committees of Congress).”
The three Democrats, earlier in the month, had sent a letter to the White House, asking for information on communications between Trump and Putin.
“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 chairmen wrote in a statement.
Trump came under intense criticism from both parties following his meeting with Putin in Helsinki, when he appeared to cast doubt on the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 election during a press conference alongside the Russian president. Trump later walked back his remarks, saying he accepts the intelligence community’s findings.
Democrats have since sought to compel the administration to share more information about the private meeting between Trump and Putin in Helsinki.