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Impeachment Panels Threaten Contempt If Official Defies Subpoena

Bloomberg logo Bloomberg 10/27/2019 Erik Wasson

House Judiciary Committee members debate amendments as the panel moved to approve guidelines for impeachment hearings on President Donald Trump, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) © ASSOCIATED PRESS House Judiciary Committee members debate amendments as the panel moved to approve guidelines for impeachment hearings on President Donald Trump, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) (Bloomberg) -- The House Democrats leading the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump demanded that a former White House official appear for his scheduled hearing Monday, dismissing his attempt to challenge a subpoena in court.

In a letter Saturday to attorneys representing Charles Kupperman, the president’s former deputy national security adviser, leaders of three House committees said his lawsuit is “lacking in legal merit and apparently coordinated with the White House,” and failure to appear for his deposition “will constitute evidence that may be used against him in a contempt proceeding.”

“Such willful defiance of a duly authorized subpoena may cause the committees to draw an adverse inference against the president,” the letter said. “The White House’s overbroad assertion of ‘absolute immunity,’ at its core, is another example of the president’s stonewalling of Congress and concerted efforts to obstruct the House’s impeachment inquiry.”

The episode is the most recent example of the constitutional clash that has slowed congressional oversight of Trump, adding to the legal tussle between two branches of government. The Committees on Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs have issued subpoenas to most of the impeachment witnesses heard this month to give them legal cover to defy White House orders to not cooperate.

The letter was sent by Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel and acting Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney.

Kupperman on Friday made the argument that he was caught between two different directives and asked a federal judge whether he must appear. He said in court papers that he faces “irreconcilable commands” -- a subpoena from House Democrats requiring him to cooperate and an order from the White House not to testify.

His lawyer, Charles Cooper, said in a statement that Trump “has asserted that Dr. Kupperman, as a close personal adviser to the president, is immune from Congressional process, and has instructed Dr. Kupperman not to appear and testify in response to the House’s subpoena.”

Kupperman, Cooper added, “cannot satisfy the competing and irreconcilable demands of both the legislative and executive branches, and there is no controlling judicial authority definitively establishing which branch’s command should prevail.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Erik Wasson in Washington at ewasson@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Kevin Whitelaw at kwhitelaw@bloomberg.net, Anna Edgerton, Linus Chua

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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