(Bloomberg) -- The Trump administration told former White House Counsel Don McGahn not to turn over documents subpoenaed by congressional investigators, escalating a battle between between the two branches of government.
The current White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, said in a letter to the House Judiciary Committee that President Donald Trump may want to assert executive privilege over the documents. He said the documents being sought by the panel from McGahn were given to him to comply with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation and that McGahn isn't authorized to turn them over.
McGahn has emerged as a central figure in Mueller's investigation into whether Trump attempted to obstruct justice, providing a detailed account to Mueller about an attempt by Trump to have Mueller removed from his post. The White House gave McGahn permission to speak with Mueller.
The House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed McGahn for the records and testimony last month with a Tuesday deadline to comply with the records request. Cipollone told the committee to redirect its subpoena to the White House. The letter said White House acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney instructed McGahn not to hand over the records.
"The White House provided these records to Mr. McGahn in connection with its cooperation with the special counsel's investigation and with the clear understanding that the records remain subject to the control of the White House for all purposes," Cipollone said.
A lawyer for McGahn, William Burck, said he told his client to honor the White House request, unless the committee and Trump administration reach an agreement.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told ABC News that she doesn't anticipate McGahn testifying before the committee.
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