- The White House told House Democrats on Tuesday that President Donald Trump “cannot permit his administration” to cooperate with their impeachment inquiry.
- In a letter sent to the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the three committee chairmen conducting the investigation, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone said the Trump administration sees the inquiry as being constitutionally invalid, despite the fact that impeachment is a process explicitly outlined in the Constitution.
- “In order to fulfill his duties to the American people, the Constitution, the Executive Branch, and all future occupants of the Office of the Presidency, President Trump and his Administration cannot participate in your partisan and unconstitutional inquiry under these circumstances,” the letter said.
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The White House told House Democrats on Tuesday it will not cooperate with them as they conduct an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, setting the stage for a momentous constitutional clash between the legislative and executive branches.
White House Counsel Pat Cipollone said in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the chairmen of the three House committees spearheading the probe that Trump and his administration will not cooperate with the investigation because it views it as “partisan and unconstitutional.”
“In order to fulfill his duties to the American people, the Constitution, the Executive Branch, and all future occupants of the Office of the Presidency, President Trump and his Administration cannot participate in your partisan and unconstitutional inquiry under these circumstances,” the letter said.
The move comes as Trump continues lashing out at congressional Democrats, accusing them of trying to launch a “coup” to overthrow his presidency.
At the heart of the impeachment inquiry is a July 25 phone call Trump had with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, during which he repeatedly pressured Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son for corruption. Biden is a 2020 Democratic frontrunner and one of Trump’s chief political rivals.
The phone call is the subject of an explosive whistleblower complaint that a US intelligence official filed against the president in August. In addition to accusing Trump of abusing his power and violating federal law, it says Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, is a “central figure” in Trump’s effort and that Attorney General William Barr “appears to be involved as well.”
Trump and his allies have attacked the whistleblower, suggesting the individual is disloyal to the US and committed espionage against Trump, despite the fact that they followed the law when filing their complaint. The president has also repeatedly called for the whistleblower’s identity to become public.
A White House summary of the call confirms the main details of the complaint, and Trump’s handpicked spy chief testified to Congress that the complaint is “in alignment” with the memo.
The intelligence community watchdog, moreover, deemed the complaint to be “urgent” and “credible.” Last week, Trump confirmed the complaint’s central allegation — that he wanted a foreign government to investigate a political opponent — when he publicly called for both Ukraine and China to look into the Bidens.
In his letter to the House Democrats leading the impeachment inquiry, Cipollone accused them of taking action that “violates the Constitution, the rule of law, and every past precedent.”
“For example, you have denied the President the right to cross-examine witnesses, to call witnesses, to receive transcripts of testimony, to have access to evidence, to have counsel present, and many other basic rights guaranteed to all Americans,” he wrote.
“You have conducted your proceedings in secret,” he continued. “You have violated civil liberties and the separation of powers by threatening Executive Branch officials, claiming that you will seek to punish those who exercise fundamental constitutional rights and prerogatives.”
Cipollone went on to argue that in order to validate the impeachment inquiry, Democrats need to give Republican ranking members the authority to unilaterally issue subpoenas.
The White House press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, also said in a statement that the executive branch — which includes the White House, State Department, and Justice Department — would not cooperate with the investigation as a general rule.
“The Executive Branch cannot be expected to, and will not participate in, this exercise of partisan political theater,” Grisham said.