Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Trump won’t cooperate in inquiry
White House calls impeachment probe illegitimate; Pelosi says she has not ruled out full House vote
WASHINGTON – The White House will not provide documents or witnesses to House impeachment investigators because it considers their investigation to be unfair and illegitimate, President Donald Trump and his team told Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders on Tuesday.
“You have designed and implemented your inquiry in a manner that violates fundamental fairness and constitutionally mandated due process,” White House counsel Pat Cipollone said in a letter to Pelosi and the chairmen of three key House committees.
House Democrats have said Trump is using the lack of a vote by the full House as an excuse to refuse to cooperate with investigators. Some said Trump’s refusal to answer subpoenas and provide documents could constitute an impeachable offense in and of itself as they investigate the president’s dealings with Ukraine.
Just before the White House release, Pelosi sent House colleagues a letter protesting Trump’s actions, saying the president “is obstructing justice, abusing power and diminishing the office of the presidency.”
In his letter, Cipollone described what he called a number of irregularities in the investigation, slamming Democrats for not allowing the administration to cross-examine witnesses, receive transcripts of testimony or have access to evidence. The process used by the Democrats, Cipollone argued, is an overreach of congressional authority.
Also, echoing political arguments Trump has made on the campaign trail, Cipollone accused the Democrats of seeking “to overturn the results of the 2016 election and deprive the American people of the President they have freely chosen.”
He added: “Many Democrats now apparently view impeachment not only as a means to undo the democratic results of the last election, but as a strategy to influence the next election, which is barely more than a year away.”
In discussing the letter last week, officials said Trump might demand a full House vote to authorize the impeachment inquiry. The letter stopped short of such a demand, but did protest the absence of a full vote as one of the unfair things about the letter.
Pelosi has not ruled out a full House vote, telling the Atlanta Journal Constitution editorial board last week: “If we want to do it, we’ll do it. If we don’t, we don’t. But we’re certainly not going to do it because of the president.”
The White House released the letter hours after it acted to prevent a key witness from providing testimony to House members. Gordon D. Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, had dealings with Ukraine as Trump asked it to investigate U.S. political opponent Joe Biden.
House Democratic investigators said they would now subpoena Sondland.
Defending his decision to block Sonderland’s testimony, Trump tweeted that he “would be testifying before a totally compromised kangaroo court, where Republican’s rights have been taken away.”
The investigation revolves around Trump’s request that the government of Ukraine investigate Biden and his son Hunter Biden, who had business interests in Ukraine. House Democrats have cited evidence that Trump withheld U.S. aid from Ukraine until it agreed to investigate Biden, effectively injecting the issue into the 2020 U.S. presidential campaign.
Trump is also under criticism for asking China to investigate Biden and his son, who also had business dealings in that country. Chinese officials have rejected Trump’s request.
Biden has said Trump is asking foreign countries to dig up dirt because he fears the former vice president will defeat him in 2020.
The White House letter sent Tuesday underscores the political pressures surrounding impeachment.
White House and Republican officials have said they want to get all House members on the record about whether they favor an impeachment investigation, particularly Democrats who represent districts carried by Trump in 2016.
Trump denies wrongdoing and calls the impeachment drive a “coup” designed to drive him from office.