White House Spurns Democrats Over Lawyer in Stormy Daniels Query
(Bloomberg) -- The White House has rebuffed a congressional request to question a former deputy counsel about an allegedly inaccurate account of a payment to the adult movie actress known as Stormy Daniels.
“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," White House Counsel Pat Cipollone said in a letter to Representative Elijah Cummings.
Cummings, the Maryland Democrat who heads the House Oversight and Reform Committee, has been seeking transcribed testimony from Stefan Passantino, the former deputy counsel, and President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Sheri Dillon.
Cummings has said both lawyers were on a call in which Dillon appeared to provide inaccurate information to the Office of Government Ethics, portraying the payment as part of a “retainer” for the services of Michael Cohen.
The lawmaker has said it raises "issues related to President Donald Trump’s financial disclosure reporting and the reimbursement of Michael Cohen for payments to silence women alleging affairs before the 2016 election."
Cohen, who long was Trump’s personal lawyer and fixer, is heading to prison after pleading guilty to crimes including violating campaign finance laws by making the payment he says was hush money.
Cipollone also took exception with assertions by Cummings that his office isn’t adequately cooperating with related document requests.
“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,” he wrote in the letter dated March 8. He said Cummings is being “grossly unfair to Mr. Passantino and to Sheri Dillon," and is failing to maintain "even a semblance of proceeding in a neutral search of the facts."
Dillon, who is a partner with Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP in Washington, didn’t return a message Monday on whether she will provide an interview. Passantino is now a legal adviser to the Trump Organization to help it respond to congressional inquiries.
There was no immediate response Monday from a committee spokesman for Cummings on what the committee will do in response to the White House refusal regarding Passantino.
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