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White House tees up a fight with GOP over subpoena and interview requests

The White House says the impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden lacks constitutional legitimacy and is calling on GOP-led congressional committees to rescind their subpoenas and interview requests, according to a new letter obtained by CNN.

The move sets up a showdown with House Republicans as the White House criticizes what it describes as “Congressional harassment of the President,” calling on the committees to withdraw subpoenas and a series of requests for interviews aimed at White House officials and Biden family members and associates.

Earlier this week, House Oversight Chairman James Comer said he sent a subpoena to former White House counsel Dana Remus to discuss Biden’s alleged mishandling of classified documents. The Kentucky Republican had previously requested that Remus to appear for a voluntary interview, but the White House did not comply. And last week, the House Oversight Committee issued subpoenas to the president’s son Hunter and brother James as well as a Biden business associate.

In the letter to Comer and House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan, special counsel to the president Richard Sauber railed against the Republican lawmakers for characterizing their efforts as an “impeachment inquiry” without an authorization vote by the House for such an investigation. The Trump administration made a similar argument against House Democrats leading the 2019 impeachment into then-President Donald Trump, when they did not hold a House vote on their inquiry right away.

“The Constitution requires that the full House authorize an impeachment inquiry before a committee may utilize compulsory process pursuant to the impeachment power — a step the Republican House Majority has so far refused to take,” Sauber wrote.

Republicans are searching for momentum for a presidential impeachment inquiry that remains unsupported by the full conference as it has yet to show wrongdoing by the president. Since taking the gavel, House Speaker Mike Johnson has shifted his tone from outspoken proponent to measured realist when speaking about the inquiry.

Sauber, who was hired by the White House last year to assist in the Biden administration’s response to potential investigations, called on Comer and Jordan to “reconsider your current course of action and withdraw these subpoenas and demands for interviews,” broadly referring to the range of requests the committee has submitted.

Sauber also argued in the letter that Remus’ requested testimony “involves the subject matter of an ongoing Special Counsel investigation.”

Special counsel Robert Hur was appointed in January to investigate after classified documents were found at Joe Biden’s former office at the Penn Biden Center in Washington, DC, and at his Wilmington, Delaware, home. Hur interviewed the president on the matter in October and the Justice Department has said that he will produce a final report explaining his findings from the investigation, a standard part of a special counsel’s work.

Reacting to the letter, Rep. Jamie Raskin, the top Democrat on the Oversight panel, said in a statement that Comer “just ran into a brick wall of arguments by the White House that should really make him rethink the whole embarrassing and self-destructive exercise.”

Judiciary Republicans, meanwhile, posted on X: “The White House is TERRIFIED of what we’re uncovering with our impeachment inquiry.”

The withdrawal request exacerbates already high tensions as House Republicans are preparing to enter the last stage of their impeachment inquiry into the president.

Committee chairmen are focusing on a remaining list of high-profile interviews and starting to strategize over a final report that will likely include criminal referrals and serve as their bedrock for potential impeachment articles. Still, it’s unclear how long the effort will take or whether House Republicans leading the effort will be able to convince enough of their GOP colleagues that Joe Biden himself committed any high crimes or misdemeanors.

It’s unclear if Remus will ultimately comply with a subpoena request. Remus helped oversee a Supreme Court nominee selection and a blitz by Biden’s team to fill vacant seats on the federal bench, and departed the White House last year.

Sauber writes that the Comer’s requests “appear to be motivated by a desire to boost your subpoena numbers … rather than any legitimate investigative interest.” He slams the committee chairmen for “consistently (misrepresenting) the documents and testimony you have received.”

“Congressional harassment of the President to score political points is precisely the type of conduct that the Constitution and its separation of powers was meant to prevent,” he said in the letter.

This story has been updated with additional developments.

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