Annie Donaldson, the former chief of staff to White House counsel Don McGahn and a crucial witness in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, found herself blocked from replying to questions from a House panel more than 200 times because of “constitutionally-based Executive Branch confidentiality interests.”
The 55-page list of responses from Donaldson records 212 separate assertions of the clunky phrase, which appears to demand confidentiality without formally asserting executive privilege.
Donaldson issued the responses after House Judiciary Committee chair Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) subpoenaed her, along with former White House Communications Director Hope Hicks, for testimony and documents in May as part of the panel’s probe into possible obstruction of justice by President Trump.
Across the responses, Donaldson replied with the same boilerplate statement that the White House had asserted that the subject of the response was confidential.
“The White House has directed that I not respond to this question because of the constitutionally-based Executive Branch confidentiality interests that are implicated,” the statement reads.
In a few cases, Donaldson added some detail when declining to answer a question.
For example, in response to a question about whether Donaldson knows about a July 22, 2017, conversation in which Trump allegedly told then-White House chief of staff Reince Priebus to get Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign immediately, Donaldson replied with the following:
“I am aware of a conversation between Mr. Priebus and Mr. McGahn, although I do not, today, have an independent recollection of whether or not I was present for any such conversation between Mr. Priebus and Mr. McGahn, or subsequently learned about this event.”
She then repeated the boilerplate non-assertion of executive privilege.
Read the transcript of Donaldson’s responses — or lack thereof — here: