The Republican National Committee on Monday asked the Department of Justice to investigate whether the president's reelection fundraising broke federal law.
In a letter sent to Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderOregon legislature on the brink as Democrats push gerrymandered maps Christie, Pompeo named co-chairs of GOP redistricting group Democrats look to state courts as redistricting battle heats up MORE, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus cited a fundraising video President Obama appears in that seems to have been taped in the White House.
Federal law makes it a crime for the president to solicit political contributions in a place of official government business.
The RNC is pushing for an investigation despite White House denials of any wrong-doing. "As we have said in the past, this was wholly appropriate and routinely done in past administrations, as evidenced by an abundance of examples spanning the past three decades. In fact, experts and lawyers have said publicly that all of what this administration is doing is above board," said White House spokesman Eric Schultz.
"In this case, despite the White House Counsel's indication to the contrary, it appears that President Obama recorded the video in the Map Room," Priebus wrote in the letter. The Map Room is actually part of the White House residence, but Priebus asserts it has been used for official government business.
"The Map Room has been used for a myriad of official duties, including the administration of the oath of office to President Obama by Chief Justice Roberts," Priebus wrote.
The letter asserts that if the president recorded the fundraising video in the Map Room, "then it appears he has committed a crime under federal law."
The Democratic National Committee Communications Director Brad Woodhouse called the RNC letter "a disgraceful, desperate and politically-motivated attempt at getting headlines" in a statement later on Monday.
The RNC asks the Department of Justice to investigate where the video was filmed, whether the location was a place of business or residence in the White House and whether the president knowingly participated in a fundraising effort by filming the video, among other questions.
Priebus is asking Holder to begin the investigation without appointing a special counsel for now. "Despite my reservations about your objectivity, I believe it is in the public interest to save the taxpayers the expense of a Special Counsel at this time of fiscal peril," he wrote, urging Holder to conduct a "quick and thorough investigation."
The video in question accompanied an invitation from the Obama for America campaign asking supporters to buy tickets for a raffle to go to "Dinner with Barack and Joe [Biden]." Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight Committee, has previously raised questions about the legality of the president's fundraising and whether the video had been filmed in the White House.
--This post was updated with new information at 5:08 p.m. and 6:01 p.m.