WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., blasted the White House Thursday for asserting that it would not comply with a range of requests from the House Judiciary Committee, arguing that Congress needs certain information to perform its oversight duties and guide any moves toward impeachment.
“The letter that came from the White House yesterday was completely outrageous,” Pelosi told reporters at her weekly press conference, referring to the letter White House counsel Pat Cipollone sent to Judiciary Committee Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y. on Wednesday.
She added, “That letter that came from the White House was a joke, beneath the dignity of the presidency of the United States, in defiance of our Constitution. Shame on them.”
Pelosi was responding to a question from NBC News’ Kasie Hunt, who asked for her reaction to Nadler telling reports Thursday morning that President Donald Trump’s “posture now is making it impossible to rule out impeachment or anything else.”
Pelosi also pushed backed on the argument Cipollone outline in his letter — that Congress can’t ask any questions of the administration unless it has a legislative purpose.
UNITED STATES – JULY 23: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California, right, and Nuri al-Maliki, Iraq’s prime minister, shakes hands while addressing the media before a meeting at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, July 23, 2009. Maliki pledged to mend sectarian divisions and fight corruption as he urged the international community to continue providing support to his nation. (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
U.S. Vice President-elect Mike Pence, right, shakes hands with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California, following a meeting in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016. During their closed-door meeting, Pelosi expressed strong concerns about Trump’s decision to name former Breitbart News chief Steve Bannon to be his chief White House strategist, and asked him to reconsider the appointment. Photographer: Chip Somodevilla/Pool via Bloomberg
“One of the purposes that the Constitution spells out for investigation is impeachment,” Pelosi said. “And you can say — and the courts would respect it if you said — we need this information to carry out our oversight responsibilities and among them is impeachment. It doesn’t mean you’re on an impeachment path, but it means if you had the information, you might.”
The speaker was pressed about the use of “inherent contempt” in which Congress would fine or jail Trump administration officials who refuse to comply with subpoenas.
“That is a path,” she said, but declined to say whether she supports that option.
In his letter, Cipollone called on Nadler to “discontinue” his committee’s probes into the president, arguing that they are embarking on a “duplicative investigation” by “issuing subpoenas to replow the same ground the Special Counsel has already covered.”
Last week, the Judiciary panel voted to recommend to the House that it should hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with Nadler’s subpoena for the full unredacted Mueller report and its underlying documents. Pelosi has suggested that she would combine a floor vote to hold Barr in contempt with other possible contempt citations involving Trump officials.