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Trump orders two former White House assistants not to testify at the congressional committee hearing on Tuesday

September 17, 2019

WASHINGTON, Sep. 17 (Reuters / EP) –

The president of the United States, Donald Trump, has ordered two ex-advisors of the White House not to testify at a hearing of the House of Representatives Commission on Tuesday, while the panel considers whether it will recommend dismissing the president.

Former White House staff chief Rick Dearborn and former staff secretary Rob Porter were summoned by the Congressional Judiciary Commission to appear at a hearing on Trump’s possible obstruction of justice.

“The president has ordered Mr. Dearborn and Mr. Porter not to appear at the hearing,” said White House lawyer Pat Cipollone in a letter addressed to committee chairman Democrat Jerrold Nadler.

Cipollone has pointed out that the Department of Justice had determined that Dearborn and Porter “are absolutely immune to the mandatory testimony of Congress regarding matters related to their service as principal advisors to the president.”

The lawyer has indicated that Trump's former campaign advisor Corey Lewandowski, who was also summoned to appear at this Tuesday's hearing, could testify but not about talks with Trump after becoming president or his chief advisors.

Nadler has described the White House measure as a “shocking and dangerous statement of executive privilege and absolute immunity.”

“If it prevailed in this cover-up while the Judicial Commission is considering recommending or not articles of political judgment, it would annul the separation of powers as provided by our founders,” he said in a statement, referring to Trump.

Democrats want to interrogate the three men about an episode described by former special prosecutor Robert Mueller in which Trump allegedly tried to pressure then-attorney general Jeff Sessions to redirect Russia's investigation away from his 2016 presidential campaign.

The episode is among a series of incidents that include Mueller's 448-page report on Russian interference in the 2016 election campaign that Democrats see as evidence that Trump obstructed justice.