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Key House chairman plans call with White House counsel

Rep. Elijah Cummings, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, will hold a call with the White House c...

Posted: Jan. 12, 2019 1:10 AM
Updated: Jan. 12, 2019 1:10 AM

Rep. Elijah Cummings, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, will hold a call with the White House counsel Friday, a sign of shifting dynamics on Capitol Hill where Democrats now have subpoena power to investigate any corner of the Trump administration they deem necessary.

"I will be speaking with the new counsel for the President today, and we'll see where he stands, and we can kind of figure out what that relationship will be," the Maryland Democrat said.

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Friday also marked the deadline Cummings set for the White House to respond to 51 letters he'd sent in December requesting information on everything from the Trump administration's handling of immigration to security clearances to the travel of Cabinet secretaries. The letters -- which had been sent before with the backing of Republicans -- had gone unanswered when Republicans held control of Congress.

"The fact is that the Republicans had agreed to these requests. When the administration failed to give us one syllable of documents, there were no follow-ups by the Republicans, and I think the reason for that was the administration assumed there would be no consequences," Cummings said.

Cummings has not said what he plans to do if the White House or various agencies deny the requests for information, saying he expected to get more clarity on the issue when he spoke to White House counsel Pat Cipollone Friday.

"The White House counsel ... I would imagine he will give me some answers with regard to what they are going to do or what they may not do," Cummings said about his call.

Cummings added that it was hard to say how compliant the agencies and White House would be before the deadline expired.

"Usually if we get anything (on) the deadline, we usually get it at the very end of the day," Cummings said.

If Democrats are denied the documents. They have steps they can take, including using their subpoena power, but Cummings has urged caution.

"We'll cross that bridge when we get to it. The reason I am very careful with that is because there may be different responses to different letters," Cummings said.

Still, the document request and the subsequent waiting game marked a new era on Capitol Hill. After nearly a decade in the minority and two years without subpoena power in the Trump administration, Democrats have wasted no time trying to follow up on requests they made during the first two years of President Donald Trump's time in office. The House Judiciary Committee has also re-sent letters requesting information they didn't get when they were in the minority.

The House Oversight Committee has already begun its work. On Thursday, Cummings announced his committee would hear testimony from Michael Cohen, the President's former lawyer and longtime fixer. Additionally, the committee has scheduled hearings on legislation that would make sweeping ethics reforms and expand voting rights. The committee is also looking into the cost of prescription drugs in the country.

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