WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House blocked adviser Stephen Miller from testifying before congressional committees on immigration and a staff shakeup at the Department of Homeland Security, prompting lawmakers on Thursday to demand internal communications on the topic from Homeland Security officials.
In a letter dated Wednesday, the White House counsel said Miller and other members of President Donald Trump’s executive staff could refuse the request.
“The precedent for members of the White House staff to decline invitations to testify before congressional committees has been consistently adhered to by administrations of both political parties,” counsel Pat Cipollone wrote in his letter to House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md. Trump has said he is opposed to aides testifying.
Miller is Trump’s top immigration policy adviser, and several people familiar with the matter say he orchestrated the effort to replace top leaders at Homeland Security when Trump’s frustrations boiled over again recently on border security. The people were not allowed to speak publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
The shakeup started with the withdrawal of Ron Vitiello to lead U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen then resigned, and so did Undersecretary for Management Claire Grady. Some, like U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services head Lee Francis Cissna, were rumored to be on the chopping block but have not yet left.
The Democratic heads of the House Judiciary, Oversight and Homeland Security Committees sent a letter to Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan on Thursday saying they were investigating the shakeup and asked for all internal communications related to the departure of several top officials.
“We are deeply concerned that the firing and forced resignation of these officials puts the security of the American people at risk,” the lawmakers wrote.
The decision not to allow Miller to testify comes as Trump contests Democrats’ efforts to ramp up investigations following the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
“We’re fighting all the subpoenas,” Trump declared on Wednesday.