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

- David Jackson and John Fritze

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 offense 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 office 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 influence the next election, which is barely more than a year away.”

In discussing the letter last week, officials 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, effectively 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 officials 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 officials 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 office.

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