WASHINGTON — The White House declared Tuesday it will not cooperate with what it termed an ‘‘illegitimate’’ impeachment probe by House Democrats, setting up a constitutional clash between President Trump and Congress.
Trump attorneys sent a letter to House leaders bluntly stating their refusal to participate in the quickly moving impeachment investigation. The letter threatens to cease cooperation with Capitol Hill on key oversight matters, accusing lawmakers of formulating their probe ‘‘in a manner that violates fundamental fairness and constitutionally mandated due process.’’
‘‘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,’’ White House Counsel Pat Cipollone wrote.
Read the letter:
The White House is objecting that the House did not formally vote to begin the impeachment inquiry into Trump and is also attacking the conduct of House intelligence committee Chairman Adam Schiff.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has insisted the House is well within its rules to conduct oversight of the executive branch under the Constitution regardless of a vote.
The letter comes the same day that Trump intensified his fight with Congress by blocking Gordon Sondland, the U.S. European Union ambassador, from testifying behind closed doors about the president’s dealings with Ukraine.
Sondland’s attorney, Robert Luskin, said his client was ‘‘profoundly disappointed’’ that he wouldn’t be able to testify. And Schiff said Sondland’s no-show was ‘‘yet additional strong evidence’’ of obstruction of Congress by Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that will only strengthen a possible impeachment case.
A whistleblower’s complaint and text messages released by another envoy portray Sondland as a potentially important witness in allegations that the Republican president sought to dig up dirt on a Democratic rival in Ukraine and other countries in the name of foreign policy.
The White House has embarked on a newly clear strategy to counter the impeachment threat to Trump: Stall. Obfuscate. Attack. Repeat.
Trump aides have been honing their approach after two weeks of what allies have described as a listless and unfocused response to the impeachment probe.
Read the statement from the White House:
“The President has done nothing wrong, and the Democrats know it. For purely political reasons, the Democrats have decided their desire to overturn the outcome of the 2016 election allows them to conduct a so-called impeachment inquiry that ignores the fundamental rights guaranteed to every American. These partisan proceedings are an affront to the Constitution—as they are being held behind closed doors and deny the President the right to call witnesses, to cross-examine witnesses, to have access to evidence, and many other basic rights.
Today, on behalf of President Donald J. Trump, Pat Cipollone, Counsel to the President, sent a letter to Speaker Pelosi and Chairmen Engel, Schiff, and Cummings. The letter demonstrates that the Democrats’ inquiry lacks any legitimate constitutional foundation, any pretense of fairness, and even the most elementary due process protections. Democrats are pursuing purely partisan goals, including influencing the upcoming 2020 election. In the process, they are violating civil liberties and the separation of powers, threatening Executive Branch officials with punishment simply for exercising their constitutional rights and prerogatives. All of this violates the Constitution, the rule of law, and every past precedent. For these reasons, the Executive Branch cannot be expected to, and will not participate in, this exercise of partisan political theater.
President Trump and his entire Administration will, however, keep fighting for the American people, growing the economy, building prosperity, and protecting America’s interests at home and abroad.”