White House set to object to impeachment inquiry
White House says it will not cooperate with inquiry as it was initiated without a vote
House speaker Nancy Pelosi last week announced that the House was beginning an impeachment inquiry. Photograph: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images.
The White House is preparing to formally object to Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, saying it will not cooperate with the investigation because it was initiated without a vote of the House.
The White House counsel’s office was preparing to send a letter to house speaker Nancy Pelosi objecting to the form of the impeachment investigation, a source said.
Ms Pelosi last week announced that the House was beginning the formal inquiry but did not seek the consent of the full chamber, as was done for impeachment investigations into former presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.
Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal attorney, confirmed that the letter was forthcoming.
Allies of Mr Trump have suggested for days that without a formal vote, the House is merely conducting standard oversight, entitling politicians to a lesser level of disclosure from the administration.
The justice department raised similar arguments last month, though that was before Ms Pelosi announced the impeachment investigation.
In a letter to House minority leader Kevin McCarthy, Ms Pelosi said: “There is no requirement under the Constitution, under House Rules, or House precedent that the whole House vote before proceeding with an impeachment inquiry.”
There is no clear-cut procedure in the Constitution for launching an impeachment inquiry, leaving many of these questions about obstruction untested in court, said Allan Lichtman, a history professor at American University.
“There’s no specification in the Constitution in what does and does not constitute a more formal impeachment inquiry or investigation,” he said.
“One can argue if they’re in an impeachment investigation, they’re in an impeachment.”
“The president was not tasking Ukraine to investigate a political opponent,” Mr Giuliani said on Thursday.
“He wanted an investigation into a seriously conflicted former vice president of the United States who damaged the reputation of the United States in Ukraine.”
Democrats have sought to use their declared impeachment investigation to bolster their case to access all sorts of documents from the administration, most recently secret grand jury information that underpinned special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election.
They have also threatened to use the administration’s refusal to turn over documents and make witnesses available to potentially form an article of impeachment over “obstruction” of the congressional inquiry.
Ms Pelosi has sought to avoid a vote on the impeachment investigation for the same reason she resisted, for months, liberal calls to try to remove the president: it would force moderate House Democrats to make a politically risky vote.
The White House, meanwhile, is trying to force the question on Democrats, as it seeks to raise the political cost for their impeachment investigation and to animate the president’s supporters ahead of the 2020 election.