Donald Trump declares face-off with Representatives over impeachment probe
President Donald Trump declared a showdown Tuesday with the US House of Representatives probing possible impeachable offence over his flagged phone call to Ukraine leader in July.In a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and the three committees connected to the impeachment inquiry, the White House said it would not cooperate and instead described the investigation as an effort to “overturn the results of the 2016 election.”
White House counsel Pat Cipollone accused House Democrats in an eight-page letter of making “legally unsupported demands” of the executive branch and accused them of violating the Constitution and past precedent in opening the impeachment inquiry into Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. “Given that your inquiry lacks any legitimate constitutional foundation, any pretence of fairness, or even the most elementary due process protections, the Executive Branch cannot be expected to participate in it,” Cipollone wrote. “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.” “Consistent with the duties of the President of the United States, and in particular his obligation to preserve the rights of future occupants of his office, President Trump cannot permit his Administration to participate in this partisan inquiry under these circumstances,” he wrote. The letter came shortly after the Trump administration abruptly blocked a key witness in the Ukraine scandal from appearing before a congressional impeachment inquiry. The U.S. State Department said the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, a Trump political donor, would not be allowed to appear, even though he had already flown from Europe to do so. Trump decried the Democratic-led inquiry into whether he abused his office in the pursuit of personal political gain as a “kangaroo court.” Democratic lawmakers denounced the effort to block Sondland’s testimony, calling it an attempt to obstruct their inquiry and said they would subpoena Sondland, to compel him to submit to questions. The State Department did not respond to requests for comment on why Sondland had been blocked from speaking to lawmakers just hours before his scheduled appearance. The move and subsequent letter were the White House’s most aggressive responses yet to the inquiry, which has cast a pall over Trump’s campaign to win back the White House in 2020. A whistleblower complaint about a July 25 phone call in which Trump pressed his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, to investigate his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, prompted the inquiry. Biden is a leading candidate among Democrats seeking their party’s presidential nomination to face Trump in next year’s election. The investigation could lead to the approval of articles of impeachment – or formal charges – against Trump in the House. A trial on whether to remove him from office would then be held in the U.S. Senate. Republicans who control the Senate have shown little appetite for ousting Trump. Trump has denied he did anything wrong in the phone call. In the letter, White House lawyer Cipollone described the inquiry as “contrived” and called it “constitutionally invalid and a violation of due process.” He said the inquiry was “a naked political strategy” designed to reverse the 2016 election and influence the November 2020 election.