Oversteps in dealing with congressional oversight requests: Comments on a top White House lawyer’s note on the case of the Biden White House
A top White House lawyer told two leading Republicans the oversight requests they issued during the last Congress would have to be reissued once the GOP assumes their House majority next week.
The White House has been working over the past several months to assemble a team of lawyers and other advisers to handle an expected onslaught of oversight requests. Thursday’s letter is the first indication of the team’s approach – one that vows cooperation but nonetheless pushes back on what the White House views as oversteps.
The Republicans in Congress often accuse the President and his administration of wrongdoing, but don’t have the power to compel testimony or demand documents. That changed in January when the GOP took over the House majority and all the investigative powers that come with it.
The Special Counsel to the President writes that the two Republicans don’t have the ability to make their own requests after the new Congress convenes next week.
“Congress has not delegated such authority to individual members of Congress who are not committee chairmen, and the House has not done so under its current Rules,” wrote Sauber, who is one of the White House’s top oversight lawyers.
“Should the Committee issue similar or other requests in the 118th Congress, we will review and respond to them in good faith, consistent with the needs and obligations of both branches. The new Congress is expected to take its oversight responsibilities in the same spirit of good faith.
If Republicans win control of Congress last year, they will look into the Biden family’s claims that Republicans are trying to undermine them and the administration of President Biden.
The White House was accused of playing games by the House Judiciary Republicans and said that it showed how scared the administration was of congressional oversight.
In a statement, Comer said, “President Biden promised to have the most transparent administration in history but at every turn the Biden White House seeks to obstruct congressional oversight and hide information from the American people.”
The White House said the investigations are politically motivated and a waste of time. Such reports are not conclusive and do not necessarily indicate wrongdoing.
“As we have over the past two years, we intend to work in good faith to provide appropriate information to Congress, but Americans have made clear they expect their leaders in Washington to work together on their top priorities, like lowering costs. That’s what the president will focus on, and we hope House Republicans join him,” Ian Sams, a spokesman for White House Counsel’s Office, said in a statement.
“Unfortunately, political stunts like subpoena threats from the minority suggest House Republicans might be spending more time thinking about how to get booked on ‘Hannity’ than on preparing to work together to help the American people,” Sams said, referring to the Fox News program.
Now that a House speaker has been selected following a dayslong stalemate and members have finally been sworn in, the chamber can look toward picking back up business and organizing GOP-led committees.
A new set of House rules is the top priority for the 118th Congress when it convenes on Monday.
House Republicans will be limited in their ability to pass bills through Congress with Democrats in control of the Senate and the White House – where the president can exercise veto power over legislation. House Republicans will be able to push messages that highlight their agenda.
During an interview with CNN prior to the 2020 elections, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy talked about his plans for power. Those plans include tackling inflation, rising crime and border security, and he left the door open to launching eventual impeachment proceedings, which some of his members have already begun to call for.
Some policy issues will test the ability of Republicans and Democrats to work together, like funding the government.
The southern border. After winning the majority, Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas telling him and other department officials to be prepared to testify.
There was a withdrawal from Afghanistan. Biden’s decision to remove US troops from Afghanistan in 2021 led to a frantic attempt by many Afghans to flee the county, with devastating scenes of people clinging to the wings of planes as they tried to escape before the Taliban government officially assumed power. Republicans have signaled that they are eyeing potential probes into the events.
The Select Subcommittee: Defending the Biden Administration with Covid-19 in the ‘War Room’ at the White House
The Covid-19 origins are not clear. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the top Republican on the Energy and Commerce panel, has said that “how the pandemic started, that’s probably the most important public health question that needs to be answered.” Two studies last year found that a seafood market in China was most likely the epicenter of the virus.
The new House panel held its first hearing on Thursday as part of the Republican’s push for more scrutiny of the Biden administration.
The House Judiciary Committee’s select subpanel was the scene of a battle during the hours-long meeting. Jim Jordan is the Republican Chairman who leads the full committee and the new subcommittee.
The panel’s ranking Democrat, Del. Stacey Plaskett, said the panel’s Republicans are fueling dangerous rhetoric for law enforcement through its efforts. The congressman served as a House manager during Trump’s second impeachment trial.
“I’m deeply concerned about the use of the select subcommittee as a place to settle scores, showcase conspiracy theories and advance an extreme agenda that risks undermining Americans’ faith in our democracy,” she said.
The subcommittee hearing is the latest effort to make good on that promise. Hardline conservatives had pushed for the panel’s formation in negotiations with now-Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
The subcommittee is expected to probe claims that the Department of Justice, FBI and other federal agencies are biased against conservatives. Republicans have raised a variety of concerns, including the department mishandled allegations against Donald Trump, it abused its power and retaliated against parents who spoke out.
According to a Washington Post-ABC News poll, over half of Americans say the subcommittee is just an attempt to score political points.
These days, a team of about two dozen White House lawyers, strategists, and Capitol Hill veterans gather regularly in that suite to plan their strategy for dealing with a barrage of oversight demands launched by House Republicans: an investigations ‘war room’ that is literally working out of a war room.
“Unfortunately, many of what we’ve seen so far has been political stunts, and hearings that the American public doesn’t care about,” Sams said.
In an ad from a group called the Congressional Integrity Project, ominous music plays as the chairman of the Judiciary Committee tells people that the investigations will “help frame up the 2024 election” when he hopes that Donald Trump will run and win again.
The Executive Director of the group said that they wake up every morning to call attention to their lies. “Beyond that, we are doing opposition research to call attention to their hypocrisy. Folks like James Comer, Jim Jordan, the people running these investigations.”
If this sounds like brass knuckles politics, it is. David Brock leads a bunch of people who are in favor of Biden called Facts First USA. It doesn’t give out its donors’ names.
Brock stated that a group like ours can say and do things that the White House wouldn’t or shouldn’t say. Brock and his group won’t stay away from Hunter Biden or his laptop, even if the White House doesn’t want to talk about it.
Eric Schultz was part of the team that was put together by the White House in response to the investigations, and he said there’s a need for a robust response.
“If there are hints of corruption or scandal or impropriety, that will undermine the president’s ability to stay in the good graces of the electorate,” said Schultz, who said he is a bit jealous Biden has air cover from outside groups that Obama didn’t have.
James Barnette, a partner with Steptoe and Johnson said that the White House needs to cooperate in any investigations they are involved in. He led the investigation into the Obama administration loans to Solyndra, which was closed a decade ago.
He said the White House has seasoned lawyers on this team who know how to handle investigations. Sometimes it can be hard to tell if the scathing letter coming from Capitol Hill is a serious demand for documents or more of a press release meant to generate attention. The legal team on opposite ends of Pennsylvania Avenue meet to negotiate.
“Republicans have the ability to hold hearings, as long as they want to,” said Barnette. If you’re not at the table, then you’re going to be eaten for dinner.