Don McGahn. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

White House counsel Pat Cipollone has instructed former counsel Don McGahn to withhold subpoenaed documents from the House Judiciary Committee.

Driving the news: In a letter to McGahn's lawyer, Cipollone said that the White House provided documents to McGahn as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation with the understanding that they would remain under control of the White House "for all purposes." As such, Cipollone argues that the committee must negotiate with the White House, and that President Trump has the right to invoke executive privilege and prevent the records from being disclosed.

  • McGahn's lawyer William Burck subsequently wrote a letter to House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) informing him of the White House's decision.

Why it matters: Interviews with McGahn, who cooperated for more than 30 hours with the special counsel's office, are cited in the Mueller report 157 times — more than any other witness. Refusals from McGahn — and other top White House staffers — to obey presidential directives are part of the reason that Trump may have avoided obstructing justice.

The big picture: Trump's White House has moved to a strategy of simply ignoring congressional subpoenas, highlighting a key limitation of congressional oversight — there's not much Democrats can do if the Trump administration says no to everything. And attempts to hold members of previous administrations in contempt of Congress all fizzled, setting the stage for protracted legal battles.

  • Trump said in an interview with Fox News last week that McGahn and other administration officials should not testify before Congress: "They've testified for many hours, all of them. I would say, it's done ... They shouldn't be looking anymore."

Go deeper

FDA chief vows agency will not accept political pressure on coronavirus vaccine

Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn promised that "science will guide our decision" for a coronavirus vaccine at a Senate hearing on Wednesday.

Why it matters: More Americans are expressing doubt about a first-generation vaccine, despite President Trump's efforts to push an unrealistic timeline that conflicts with medical experts in his administration.

CEO confidence rises for the first time in over 2 years

Data: Business Roundtable; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

A closely-watched CEO economic confidence index rose for the first time after declining for nine straight quarters, according to a survey of 150 chief executives of the biggest U.S. companies by trade group Business Roundtable.

Why it matters: The index, which still remains at a decade low, reflects corporate America's expectations for sales, hiring and spending — which plummeted amid uncertainty when the pandemic hit.

Official says White House political appointees "commandeered" Bolton book review

John Bolton's book "The Room Where it Happened." Photo: Chris Delmas/AFP via Getty Images

A former career official at the National Security Council claims her pre-publication review of former national security adviser John Bolton's explosive book on President Trump was "commandeered by political appointees for a seemingly political purpose," according to a letter from her lawyers filed in court on Tuesday.

Why it matters: The White House fought against the publication of Bolton's book for most of the year on the grounds that it contained harmful and "significant amounts of classified information."

Get Axios AM in your inbox

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!