Thu, Oct 10, 2019 - Page 6 News List

White House refuses to cooperate with inquiry

The Guardian

US President Donald Trump pushed the US toward a constitutional crisis on Tuesday when his legal counsel said that the White House would refuse to cooperate with the US Congress’s impeachment inquiry.

“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 said in a letter to Democratic leaders in the US House of Representatives.

The eight-page missive came after the Trump administration abruptly blocked a key witness in the Ukraine scandal from appearing before the congressional impeachment inquiry and sets up a clash between the White House and Congress — the executive and legislative branches — in the weeks ahead.

The letter appeared to put the emphasis on political rebuttal rather than structured legal argument — perhaps marking a new strategy to counter the impeachment threat with stalling and counter-attacking.

Trump aides have begun honing their approach after two weeks of what some allies have described as a listless and unfocused response to the inquiry.

The inquiry was launched by US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi last month after it emerged that, in a July telephone call, Trump had pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate former US vice president Joe Biden.

The president and his allies have sought to question the inquiry’s legitimacy.

In particular, the White House objects that the House did not formally vote to begin the impeachment inquiry, breaking with precedent set in the inquiries into former US presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.

Pelosi has insisted the House is well within its rules to conduct oversight of the executive branch under the constitution regardless of a vote.

“Your unprecedented actions have left the president with no choice. In order to fulfill his duties to the American people, the Constitution, the Executive Branch and all future occupants of the Office of the Presidency, President Trump and his administration cannot participate in your partisan and unconstitutional inquiry under these circumstances,” Cipollone wrote in the letter.

Cipollone’s letter threatens to end cooperation with the Congress on important oversight matters, accusing members of formulating their investigation “in a manner that violates fundamental fairness and constitutionally mandated due process.”

“To comply with the Constitution’s demands, appropriate procedures would include — at a minimum — the right to see all evidence, to present evidence, to call witnesses, to have counsel present at all hearings, to cross-examine all witnesses, to make objections relating to the examination of witnesses or the admissibility of testimony and evidence, and to respond to evidence and testimony,” it adds.

“The White House letter is only the latest attempt to cover up his betrayal of our democracy, and to insist that the president is above the law,” Pelosi said in a statement. “The letter is manifestly wrong, and is simply another unlawful attempt to hide the facts of the Trump Administration’s brazen efforts to pressure foreign powers to intervene in the 2020 elections.”

Earlier, the US Department of State said that US Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland, a Trump political donor, would not be allowed to appear, even though he had already traveled from Europe to testify behind closed doors.

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