Oct 8, 2019

White House declares war on impeachment inquiry

Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The White House sent a blistering 8-page letter to House Democratic leaders on Tuesday informing them that the Trump administration will not participate in their impeachment inquiry into the president, blasting it as "constitutionally illegitimate."

Given that your inquiry lacks any legitimate constitutional foundation, any pretense of fairness, or even the most elementary due process protections, the Executive Branch cannot be expected to participate in it. Because participating in this inquiry under the current unconstitutional posture would inflict lasting institutional harm on the Executive Branch and lasting damage to the separation of powers, you have left the President no choice.

Why it matters: The House committees leading the inquiry intend to call and subpoena more witnesses as they continue to investigate allegations that the president pressured Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden to assist him in the 2020 election. The White House's blanket refusal to cooperate suggests that their strategy is to fight the Democrats in court and stonewall the investigation for as long as possible.

  • House chairs have already warned that not complying with requests will be considered evidence of obstruction in a future article of impeachment.

What they're saying: The White House argues the president's due process rights have been violated and that the investigation is being carried out in a way that contradicts precedent from previous impeachment inquiries. It also argues Democrats are using impeachment as an election "strategy" for 2020.

  • "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 writes. "Your highly partisan and unconstitutional effort threatens grave and lasting damage to our democratic institutions, to our system of free elections, and to the American people."
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi responded in a statement on Tuesday, "The American people have already heard the President’s own words – ‘do us a favor, though.’ The President’s actions threaten our national security, violate our Constitution and undermine the integrity of our elections. The White House letter is only the latest attempt to cover up his betrayal of our democracy, and to insist that the President is above the law."

Of note: In a briefing with reporters, a senior administration official would not outline exact benchmarks the investigation would have to meet for the White House's participation — such as a full House vote authorizing an impeachment inquiry. They made clear, however, that the White House's lack of participation is based on current circumstances.

Read the letter:

Go deeper ... Trump-Ukraine scandal: The key players, dates and documents

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Pence tells House committees he will not cooperate in impeachment inquiry

Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The counsel for Vice President Mike Pence sent a letter to the chairmen of the House committees investigating President Trump and Ukraine on Tuesday informing them that he will not cooperate with a request for documents in their "self-proclaimed" impeachment inquiry.

Why it matters: This is in line with the White House's current stance of blanket noncooperation, which has prompted the House chairmen conducting the investigation to warn that defiance could be used as evidence of obstruction in a future article of impeachment. Some have speculated that Speaker Nancy Pelosi could call the White House's bluff and announce a full House vote authorizing the impeachment inquiry, daring the administration to continue to defy subpoenas and document requests.

House plans to formalize impeachment procedures this week

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The House will vote on a resolution Thursday that will formalize procedures for the next phase of the impeachment inquiry into President Trump, Speaker Nancy Pelosi confirmed on Monday.

Why it matters: Trump and his allies have argued that the current impeachment inquiry is unconstitutional because it hasn't been voted on by the full House — a claim that Pelosi and Democratic leaders have called baseless. However, in a letter to House Democrats Monday, Pelosi wrote that members will vote in order to "eliminate any doubt as to whether the Trump Administration may withhold documents, prevent witness testimony, disregard duly authorized subpoenas, or continue obstructing the House of Representatives."

Go deeperArrowOct 28, 2019

Trey Gowdy agrees to serve as outside counsel for Trump

Trey Gowdy conducts a House Oversight and Government Reform committee hearing in 2018. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

President Trump has asked former South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy to assist him with legal advice from outside the White House and Gowdy has agreed, though details are yet to be finalized, according to people familiar with the situation.

Where it stands: As the president faces an impeachment inquiry, Gowdy can offer Trump another opinion on where legal theory meets political reality, a person familiar told Axios' Margaret Talev, adding that his Benghazi experience is seen as an asset. Gowdy is expected to advise the White House behind the scenes and appear on TV to advocate on behalf of the president.

Go deeperArrowOct 9, 2019