The White House Tuesday denounced as “entirely false” a news report that the Trump administration tried to prevent former acting Attorney General Sally Yates from testifying to the House Intelligence Committee about Russia.
In a statement, the White House said it “has taken no action to prevent Sally Yates from testifying and the Department of Justice specifically told her that it would not stop her and to suggest otherwise is completely irresponsible.”
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said an article on the matter in The Washington Post “is entirely false.”
Mr. Spicer said the White House counsel’s office was given a deadline of March 27 to respond with any objections to Ms. Yates testifying, and didn’t respond.
“We encouraged them to go ahead. That’s the story,” he said.
Mr. Spicer said the White House encourages the committee to go forward with hearing testimony from Ms. Yates
“I hope she testifies. I look forward to it. If they choose to move forward, great,” he said.
The article alleges that the Trump administration sought to block Ms. Yates from testifying about possible links between Russian officials and Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign. It said Justice Department notified her earlier this month that the administration considers much of her possible testimony to be barred because the topics are covered by the presidential communication privilege.
Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores declined to comment on the report, deferring to the White House on the matter.
In correspondence obtained by The Washington Post, DOJ Associate Deputy Attorney General Scott Schools wrote to Ms. Yates’ attorney to say that she should speak to the White House about her intention to testify about communications she and a senior department official had with the Office of the Counsel to the President.
“Such communications are likely covered by the presidential communications privilege and possibly the deliberative process privilege. The President owns those privileges,” Mr. Schools wrote in the letter dated March 24. “Therefore, to the extent Ms. Yates needs consent to disclose the details of those communications to HPSCI, she needs to consult with the White House. She need not obtain separate consent from the Department.”
The House Intelligence Committee canceled meetings this week amid an uproar over the actions of Chairman Devin Nunes, California Republican, whom Democrats are accusing of protecting the White House in the probe.
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