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White House spurns House impeachment probe as illegitimate

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House declared it should halt any and all cooperation with what it termed the “illegitimate” impeachment probe by House Democrats, sharpening the constitutional conflict between President Donald Trump and Congress.

Trump attorneys on Tuesday despatched a prolonged letter to House leaders bluntly stating White House refusal to take part within the inquiry that was given a lift by final week’s launch of a whistleblower’s criticism that the president sought political favors from Ukraine.

“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,” White House counsel Pat Cipollone wrote.

That means no further witnesses underneath administration purview will probably be permitted to seem in entrance of Congress or adjust to doc requests, a senior official stated.

The White House is objecting that the House has not voted to start an impeachment investigation into Trump. It additionally claims that Trump’s due course of rights are being violated.

House intelligence committee Chairman Adam Schiff tweeted in response that Trump’s refusal to cooperate with the inquiry indicators an perspective that “the president is above the law.”

“The Constitution says otherwise,” he asserted.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has insisted the House is effectively inside its guidelines to conduct oversight of the chief department underneath the Constitution no matter a proper impeachment inquiry vote.

“Mr. President, you are not above the law,” Pelosi stated in a press release Tuesday night time. “You will be held accountable.”

The Constitution states the House has the only energy of impeachment, and that the Senate has the only energy to conduct impeachment trials. It specifies {that a} president might be faraway from workplace for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors,” if supported by a two-thirds Senate vote. But it gives little steerage past that on proceedings.

The White House letter marks the start of a brand new all-out technique to counter the impeachment risk to Trump. Aides have been honing their method after two weeks of what allies have described as a listless and unfocused response to the probe.

The president himself is sticking with the identical Trump-as-victim rhetoric he has used for greater than a 12 months.

“People understand that it’s a fraud. It’s a scam. It’s a witch hunt,” he stated on Monday. “I think it makes it harder to do my job. But I do my job, and I do it better than anybody has done it for the first two and half years.”

Early Tuesday, Trump escalated his struggle with Congress by blocking Gordon Sondland, the U.S. European Union ambassador, from testifying behind closed doorways in regards to the president’s dealings with Ukraine.

Sondland’s lawyer, Robert Luskin, stated his consumer was “profoundly disappointed” that he wouldn’t have the ability to testify. And Schiff stated Sondland’s no-show was “yet additional strong evidence” of obstruction of Congress by Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that can solely strengthen a potential impeachment case.

The House adopted up Tuesday afternoon with subpoenas for Sondland’s testimony and information.

Trump can also be bulking up his authorized group.

Former Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy is being introduced on as exterior counsel, based on an administration official. Gowdy, who didn’t search reelection final 12 months, led a congressional investigation of former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and the terrorist assaults in Benghazi, Libya.

The whistleblower’s criticism and textual content messages launched by one other envoy painting U.S. Ambassador Sondland as a probably vital witness in allegations that the Republican president sought to dig up grime on Democratic rival Joe Biden in Ukraine and different international locations within the identify of overseas coverage.

Pelosi stated thwarting the witness testimony on Tuesday was an “abuse of power” in itself by the president.

The White House letter to Pelosi, Schiff and different House committee chairmen, although asserting a authorized argument that Trump and different officers can not cooperate, wouldn’t be prone to win respect in courtroom, stated Stephen Vladeck, a regulation professor on the University of Texas.

“This letter reads to me much more like a press release prepared by the press secretary than an analysis by the White House counsel,” he stated.

The White House is claiming that Trump’s constitutional rights to cross-examine witnesses and evaluate all proof in impeachment proceedings lengthen even to House investigations, not only a potential Senate trial. It additionally is asking on Democrats to grant Republicans within the House subpoena energy to hunt proof within the president’s protection.

Elsewhere in Washington, a federal decide heard arguments Tuesday in a separate case on whether or not the House has truly undertaken a proper impeachment inquiry regardless of not having taken a vote and whether or not the inquiry might be characterised, underneath the regulation, as a “judicial proceeding.”

That distinction issues as a result of whereas grand jury testimony is ordinarily secret, one exception authorizes a decide to reveal it in reference to a judicial continuing. House Democrats are in search of grand jury testimony from particular counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation as they conduct their impeachment inquiry.

“The House under the Constitution sets its own rules, and the House has sole power over impeachment,” Douglas Letter, a lawyer for the House Judiciary Committee, advised the courtroom.


Associated Press writers Eric Tucker and Michael Balsamo contributed to this report.


Follow Miller on Twitter at https://twitter.com/zekejmiller and Colvin at https://twitter.com/colvinj

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