Trump White House blocks senior aide from testifying on immigration policy

PHOTO: Senior Advisor Stephen Miller attends a Cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, Aug. 16, 2018.PlayMandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images, FILE
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The White House has declined an invitation from the Democratic chairman of the House Oversight Committee for senior aide Stephen Miller to testify before the committee on the administration’s immigration policies, including a plan to bus migrants to "sanctuary cities."

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"In accordance with long-standing precedent, we respectfully decline the invitation to make Mr. Miller available for testimony before the committee," White House counsel Pat Cipollone wrote in a letter obtained by ABC News.

"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 and is based on clearly established constitutional doctrines."

The White House cites a Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel opinion which states that the president’s immediate advisers are immune from the congressional testimony process. The letter potentially provides a roadmap for how the White House plans to respond to requests for senior aides testifying before Congress.

The chairmen of the House Oversight, Judiciary and Homeland Security Committees sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security on Thursday requesting documents related to Trump and Miller removing senior staffers at the agency.

"We are deeply concerned that the firing and forced resignation of these officials puts the security of the American people at risk," the chairmen wrote, referring to former DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Secret Service Director Randolph Alles, former DHS Undersecretary for Management Claire Grady and former Acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

"We are also concerned that the President may have removed DHS officials because they refused his demands to violate federal immigration law and judicial orders. "

The chairmen also say they are concerned that Miller is in charge of handling the administration's immigration policy.

Cummings requested that Miller come before the committee to explain the administrations’ handling of the border crisis and recent reports about a plan to transfer immigrants detained at the southern border onto the streets of "sanctuary cities" – a plan President Donald Trump confirmed.

"I am offering you an opportunity to make your case to the Committee and the American people about why you—and presumably President Trump—believe it is good policy for the Trump Administration to take the actions it has, including intentionally separating immigrant children from their parents at the border to deter them from coming to the United States, transferring asylum seekers to sanctuary cities as a form of illegal retribution against your political adversaries, and firing top Administration officials who refuse orders to violate the law," Cummings wrote in a letter to Miller last week.

Anticipating that the White House would decline the invitation, Cummings referenced other senior White House aides who had testified, including former White House counsels and President Bill Clinton’s chief of staff.

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