You are on page 1of 2

THE WHITE HOUSE

WASHINGTON

March 8, 2019

The Honorable Elijah E. Cunnnings


Chairman
Connnittee on Oversight and Reform
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairman Cunnnings:

I am writing to respond to the Connnittee's February 15, 2019 letter. I am concerned that
your letter does not accurately characterize my prior response and also makes unfair accusations
maligning the reputations of individual attorneys. In addition, I am also responding to the
Committee's February 27, 2019 request to conduct a transcribed interview of Stefan Passantino,
former Deputy Counsel to the President, concerning conversations he had and advice he
provided while serving in the Office of White House Counsel.

First, as I stated in my February 1, 2019 letter, my staff has identified potentially


responsive records in relation to only two of the six categories of information sought by your
request. After a reasonable and diligent search, which we will continue, we have not identified
records responsive to the other categories of your request.

Second, my letter stated that "[m]any of the relevant White House documents concern the
advice provided by the Office of the Counsel to the President and therefore may not be shared."
Both you and former members of the Connnittee have acknowledged the importance of
proceeding with "deliberation and care," particularly when the Committee seeks information
from the White House. See Brief for Representatives Elijah E. Cummings, et al. as Amici Curiae
in Support of Dismissal, Comm. on Oversight & Gov 't Ref v. Holder, 979 F. Supp. 2d 1 (D.D.C.
2013) (No. 12-cv-1332) at 8, 13. I was therefore surprised by the inaccurate suggestion in the
Committee's February 15 letter that the position my office has taken is somehow a "vast
depaiture" from past practice. Instead, it is completely consistent with the longstanding
obligation of this office to protect the legitimate institutional interests of the Executive based on
legal principles and is consistent with the approach taken to protecting those interests in
Administrations of both parties.

We have been cooperative and responsive to the Committee's requests. As you know, on
February 22, 2019, my office already made available relevant responsive documents for in
camera review by the Connnittee staff. My hope was that this acconnnodation would resolve
the Committee's concerns and assist the Committee in moving beyond what has become an
unnecessarily antagonistic inquiry. After that in camera review, I became aware that the
Committee had transmitted a request for a transcribed interview directly to fmmer Deputy
Counsel to the President and White House ethics official, Stefan Passantino.
Chairman Elijah E. Cummings
Page2
Two issues arise from the Committee's request to Mr. Passantino. First, as I have
previously explained (on January 31 and February 25), the Committee must consult with my
office before it seeks potentially confidential information from any current or fmmer White
House officials. Second, because the Committee's request for an interview of Mr. Passantino is
limited to information learned by him during his tenure as an official of the Office of the
President, this request - and those like it- can be accommodated only through this office. In
response to your request, given longstanding law and practice, we are not inclined to make the
former Deputy Counsel to the President available for a transcribed interview inquiring into his
conversations and advice he provided while serving as Deputy Counsel to the President.

The Committee's letter of February 15 is also grossly unfair to Mr. Passantino and to
Sheri Dillon, who is private counsel to the President. Such unfair assertions are the antithesis of
the procedure that you have insisted the Committee should follow. During a June 28, 2013
Committee business meeting during the investigation of former IRS official Lois Lerner, you
stated: "I often say I would like our Committee to operate more like a courtroom by gathering
evidence in a responsible and impartial way before drawing conclusions or malcingjudgments."
Contrary to the sound principle you advocated then, the Committee appears to have rushed to
publicly malign two lawyers, one of whom was a White House official. The Committee's
unfortunate failure to maintain even the semblance of proceeding in a neutral search for the facts
is further evidenced by the fact that the Committee placed only 19 pages from OGE's production
to the Committee on its website. The full production by OGE totaled 282 pages. Considering
that the263 pages the Committee refused to make public may unde1mine the Committee's
allegations, see Letter from Jim Jordan, Ranlcing Member, to Elijah Cummings, Chai1man (Feb.
21, 2019), it is puzzling why the Committee would make accusations that hmm the professional
reputations of two attorneys yet fail to disclose most of the available documents.

Mr. Chai1man, you have assured me that you search for the truth and emphasize fairness
in the Committee's process. Respectfully, the Committee's February 15 letter falls short of your
standard. Dmnaging the reputations of highly-respected professionals without warning, and
before gathering all the facts, is not fair or appropriate.

We welcome the opportunity to discuss with the Committee how we can further
accommodate the Committee's cun-ent informationa · rests.

cc: The Honorable Jim Jordan, Ranking Member