2019-10-09 10:05:251 Oct 2018 01:53 AM EST
To the surprise of no one, the White House said on Tuesday it will not cooperate with the impeachment inquiry. After they didn't cooperate all year long with other House Democrat investigations, it was probably assumed at this point.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had already refused to give up documents on Friday while also saying that he wouldn't allow any State employees to testify. He made good on that promise when the department blocked Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, from a scheduled deposition. Additionally, Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani said on Tuesday he would not cooperate and that he "can't imagine" anyone from the administration doing so either.
The Democrats viewed the White House's announcement as "obstruction of the impeachment inquiry," while Trump complained that the House committees were a "kangaroo court."
White House counsel Pat Cipollone sent an eight-page letter to House Democratic leaders where he said the impeachment inquiry "lacks any legitimate constitutional foundation" and is an effort to "nullify the outcome of the democratic process" by trying to change the 2016 election results and influence 2020.
That, however, is a surprise that he would say that, as it is widely seen by many that during Trump's phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, that by asking the other leader to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, the top Democratic contender for 2020, and his son Hunter, he is trying to influence the election.
Cipollone also contended that because there hasn't been a formal vote for the impeachment inquiry and no official process begun, that the administration is not required to comply.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) referred to the letter as "manifestly wrong."
"The White House should be warned that continued efforts to hide the truth of the president's abuse of power from the American people will be regarded as further evidence of obstruction," she said in a statement, adding, "Mr. President, you are not above the law. You will be held accountable."
The way she sees it, an official vote is not necessary under House rules, and the three House committees can continue to investigate under the umbrella of impeachment.
But Cipollo believes that with no vote, it means Republicans don't have investigative and other means to defend Trump.
"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," he 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."
House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA) who is heading up the inquiry tweeted, "The White House says there is nothing wrong with pressuring a foreign government to intervene in a U.S. election. They say: they will not cooperate with an impeachment inquiry unless it's on their terms. They mean: the president is above the law."
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement that the Democrats' effort is "purely political" and "ignores the fundamental rights guaranteed to every American."
She added, "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."
The problem with this argument is they are allowing anyone who wants to testify to do so. They are not denying anyone anything. If Trump wanted to testify, it's hard to believe the Democrats would say no.
Even though they're not participating, this is going along much differently than the other House investigations. They are continuing to gather evidence and suggest they have multiple whistleblowers. They also have texts that show much of what was going on behind the scenes.
The Democrats are collecting evidence to impeach on their own. They'll be able to hold that vote, and then the White House will be in a bind as far as defending Trump. The horse will be out of the barn at that point, and it will be hard to put him back inside.
Aside from that, they probably don't want to force the vote right now, as there have been more than enough members of the House agreeing to vote to impeach than what they need. By waiting for a vote while the House conducts the inquiry, they're only giving them the chance to get more votes.
It seems it would make more sense to defend themselves now and try to shake up those votes, that is, unless they have something to hide.
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