Dems denied info on possible Trump role in attempts to block AT&T-Time

Dems denied info on possible Trump role in attempts to block AT&T-Time
Time Warner/AT&T via CNN

The White House is rejecting a demand from two top House Democrats to detail whether President Donald Trump improperly sought to block the AT&T-Time Warner merger, the latest refusal to turn over records to Democrats probing all aspects of the Trump administration.

The Democrats, Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York and Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island, sent a letter last month seeking information in the wake of a New Yorker report saying that Trump directed his then-economic adviser Gary Cohn to block the $85 billion merger.

Nadler and Cicilline contended that White House interference in anti-trust enforcement is “unacceptable” and is similar to circumstances in the Nixon administration, as they requested communications between Trump and senior White House officials over the merger.

But the White House sent a letter dated Monday to the Democrats turning down the request, arguing that “robust confidentiality protections are essential for the proper functioning of the Presidency.”

“We cannot, however, provide the Committee with protected communications between the President and his most senior advisers that are at the very core of the Executive Branch’s confidentiality interests,” White House counsel Pat Cipollone said in the letter.

The merger was unanimously approved by a three-judge panel after the Department of Justice appealed a decision by a lower court judge denying the government’s attempt to block it. Time Warner has since been renamed WarnerMedia, which also includes networks such TNT and HBO, in addition to CNN.

It is just the latest squabble in the growing list of spats between House Democrats and the Trump administration, which has rejected scores of requests for records that could lead to court battles testing the scope of Congress’ oversight of the Executive Branch.

The White House has also rejected multiple records requests from House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings, who in some cases has issued subpoenas in response. One of those subpoenas was issued Monday to an accounting firm that prepared several years of Trump’s financial statements, Mazars USA. The firm had requested the move, a so-called friendly subpoena, before providing the committee records.

Trump’s personal attorneys sent Mazars a letter arguing the firm should not comply with the subpoena.

In addition, Cummings has issued subpoenas related to investigations into White House security clearances and a citizenship question on the US Census, which Cummings said were necessary because of White House stonewalling.

The House Judiciary Committee is also preparing for a showdown with the White House over documents. It’s authorized subpoenas for five former White House officials related to records that Democrats on the committee say should not be subject to executive privilege.

CNN’s Jeremy Herb contributed to this report.