White House lawyer calls Republican request for documents improper

President Joe Biden's special counsel tells two Republican representatives that they currently lack authority to make a request for information

US President Joe Biden is currently on holiday and provided no reaction to the congressmen's request. AP
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The White House on Thursday told Republicans hoping to investigate US President Joe Biden that their requests for information for planned inquiries are improper until they take over the House of Representatives next month.

Mr Biden's special counsel, Richard Sauber, told two Republican politicians expected to hold top oversight posts in the next Congress that they lack authority now and would need to re-do requests for materials they have already sent to the White House once their party takes control of Congress.

Mr Sauber told representatives James Comer and Jim Jordan in separate letters that their demands “were not made as part of the congressional oversight process” and suggested that they would not be honoured yet.

The representatives had requested documents related to investigations into the 2021 US withdrawal from Afghanistan, the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic — which started during the previous administration — and the federal government's response to threats against members of local school boards over pandemic-era restrictions and curriculum disputes.

“Should the committee issue similar or other requests in the 118th Congress, we will review and respond to them in good faith, consistent with the needs and obligations of both branches,” Mr Sauber wrote.

“We expect the new Congress will undertake its oversight responsibilities in the same spirit of good faith.”

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Republicans, who take control of the House next month, have also prioritised investigating the Democratic President and his son Hunter's business dealings.

Democrats, who will retain control of the Senate, are working to aggressively contest those investigations.

Mr Comer, a Kentucky Republican, is expected to head the House Oversight and Reform Committee. Mr Jordan, an Ohio Republican, is expected to lead the judiciary panel. Both have threatened legal action if they are rebuffed.

In a statement, Mr Comer suggested that Mr Biden was falling short on promises to be transparent and vowed to “continue pressing for the answers, transparency and accountability that the American people deserve”.

House Judiciary Republicans posted a tweet calling the latest development “ridiculous”.

Mr Biden's lawyers and Democratic allies have dismissed the investigations as politically motivated, at odds with voters' priorities and worked to position the inquiries as extreme.

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Updated: December 29, 2022, 8:26 PM