The White House told Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday that Donald Trump and his staff would not be participating in her impeachment inquiry because it amounted to an illegal attempt to overturn the 2016 election.
‘Put simply, you seek to overturn the results of the 2016 election and deprive the American people of the President they have freely chosen,’ White House Counsel Pat Cipollone wrote to the speaker and House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings and Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engle, who are overseeing the inquiry.
In the eight-page letter Cipollone said the president and his administration ‘reject your baseless, unconstitutional efforts to overturn the democratic process’ and would not cooperate with subpoena requests.
‘Your unprecedented actions have left the President with no choice,’ he wrote. ‘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.’
Speaker Nancy Pelosi received the letter from the White House on Tuesday afternoon
Donald Trump’s team vowed to send Pelosi a letter arguing the president can ignore Democrats’ demands in impeachment inquiry until House votes on the matter
The administration vowed last week to send the speaker a letter arguing the president can ignore Democrats’ demands for witnesses and documentation in their impeachment inquiry until the full House votes on proceeding with such a move.
Pelosi argues the blessing of the full House isn’t necessary for Democrats to proceed in their inquiry.
There ‘is no requirement under the Constitution, under House Rules, or House precedent that the whole House vote before proceeding with an impeachment inquiry,’ she told House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy in a letter last week after he urged her to hold a vote in the full House.
Given that Pelosi’s party holds the majority in the chamber, such a measure would be expected to pass.
But Republicans could be concerned about support slipping among their own lawmakers.
Pelosi has made such an argument.
‘There’s some Republicans that are very nervous about our bringing that vote to the floor,’ she said a press conference on Capitol Hill last week.
Polls indicate support among Americans – and slowly among Republicans – is building for the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry.
A Washington Post-Schar School poll out Tuesday showed 28 per cent of Republicans support the inquiry, a new high.
And some GOP lawmakers, like Representative Mark Amodei of Nevada, have indicated an openness to the inquiry, saying Congress should follow the facts in the case. Congressman Fred Upton of Michigan said there are ‘legitimate questions’ about Trump’s request of the Ukrainian president in their July 25 phone call.
A vote now on an impeachment inquiry could lock in GOP lawmakers to the president’s side before further cracks in support show up.
And it would force them on the record at a time many of them have remained silent about the president’s predicament.
There is talk that, privately, not all Republicans are on the president’s side.
Former Arizona Senator Jeff Flake claimed ‘at least 35’ Republican senators would vote to impeach Trump – if they could do it on a secret ballot.
‘I heard someone say if there were a private vote there would be 30 Republican votes,’ he told the Texas Tribune Festival last month. ‘That’s not true. There would be at least 35.’
The president does have his public supporters though. McCarthy and Republican lawmaker Jim Jordan have been vocal and public in their backing the president.
‘You have a speaker of the House that said we need to strike while the iron is hot and the chairman of the committee who is so bias against this president,’ Jordan complained on Tuesday in the Capitol.
But a full vote it the House would also take away a weapon in Trump’s arsenal to fight the investigation.
If the measure passes the House as expected, Team Trump would have to answer for their blocking witnesses from testifying and subpoenaed documents from being sent to Congress.
The resistance movement by the Trump administration has already started when the president directed Gordon Sondland, his ambassador to the European Union, not to testify before lawmakers on Tuesday.
A series of text messages released by the House Intelligence Committee last week place Sondland at the center of talks involving the Ukrainians, U.S. diplomats, and Trump personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
The White House has played hardball with Democrats, forbidding EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland from testifying before lawmakers
Lawmakers wanted to speak to him about the texts and about additional texts and emails they claim are in his possession.
House Democrats, in response, vowed to subpoena Sondland.
If the Trump administration directs him to ignore the subpoena, the matter is likely to end up in the courts.