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White House won't cooperate with House impeachment inquiry, counsel says

White House refuses to cooperate with House impeachment inquiry
White House says it will not cooperate with House impeachment inquiry 02:05

The White House will not cooperate with House Democrats' impeachment inquiry against President Trump, White House counsel Pat Cipollone wrote in a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and three committee chairmen on Tuesday. Cipollone argued that the investigation "violates fundamental fairness and constitutionally mandated due process."

A senior administration official confirmed on a background call with reporters Tuesday that the White House will not have any administration officials testify or hand over documents. 

In the letter, Cipollone accused the Democrats of cooking up an inquiry to "overturn the results of the 2016 election and deprive the American people of the President they have freely chosen."

"Your highly partisan and unconstitutional effort threatens grave and lasting damage to our democratic institutions, to our system of free elections, and to the American people," Cipollone wrote.

Cipollone argued that the inquiry, which stems from a whistleblower complaint involving the president's communications with the Ukrainian president, is "invalid" because the House has not held a formal vote to open an impeachment inquiry. Pelosi announced the launch of an official impeachment inquiry last month, based upon the ongoing investigations of several House committees, but the full House has not held a formal vote. 

Read the full letter to Nancy Pelosi

Some Democrats are already threatening to make the White House's lack of cooperation an "obstruction of justice" article of impeachment. 

"Your contrived process is unprecedented in the history of the Nation, and lacks the necessary authorization for a valid impeachment proceeding," Cipollone wrote. Democrats have argued that it is not necessary for the full House to vote in order to begin an inquiry. Impeachment proceedings against Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon were initiated with a full House vote, but not for the impeachment of Andrew Johnson. The Constitution does not say that an initial vote is necessary. 

Cipollone also argued that the president is being denied due process because the White House has not been granted the right to see all evidence, call witnesses, or cross-examine witnesses, among other procedures. However, these rights have traditionally been granted during the Senate investigation, not during the initial House inquiry. Cipollone condemned House Democrats for not allowing ranking members on the committees to issue subpoenas.

Cipollone wrote that the inquiry clearly seeks "to influence the election of 2020."

"The effort to impeach President Trump — without regard to any evidence of his actions in office — is a naked political strategy that began the day he was inaugurated, and perhaps even before," Cipollone alleged.

The third argument made by the White House is that the investigation has "no legitimate basis" because Mr. Trump released a memorandum summarizing his July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the focal point of the impeachment inquiry. The letter also condemned House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff — Democrat of California and a frequent target of the president — because a staff member had contact with the whistleblower before submitting his or her report to the intelligence community inspector general.

"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," Cipollone argued.

"We hope that, in light of the many deficiencies we have identified in your proceedings, you will abandon the current invalid efforts to pursue an impeachment inquiry and join the president in focusing on the many important goals that matter to the American people," Cipollone concluded.

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