WASHINGTON — The White House accused Congressional Democrats Tuesday of violating the president's "constitutionally mandated due process" and announced it would not take part in the House's impeachment inquiry.
- White House calls impeachment probe invalid
- Letter accuses Democrats of violating constitution
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The eight-page letter comes hours after the Trump administration blocked an ambassador from speaking in a Congressional hearing.
Pat Cipollone, counsel to the president, laid out the argument for not cooperating with the probe in an eight-page letter to House Democrats, which can be read below or on the White House website.
Cipollone says the probe is invalid because the House has not voted to authorize the launch of an impeachment inquiry.
He accused Democrats of denying the president "the right to cross-examine witnesses, call witnesses, receive transcripts of testimony, have access to evidence, to have counsel present, and many other basic rights guaranteed to all Americans."
Cipollone also accused Congress of threatening executive branch officials with punishment for exercising "fundamental constitutional rights and prerogatives."
Earlier Tuesday the White House blocked Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, from testifying behind closed doors about the president's dealings with Ukraine.
Later Tuesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a statement in response to the White House letter, pointing out that Cipollone made "false claims about the Constitution, House rules and House precedent."
“For a while, the President has tried to normalize lawlessness. Now, he is trying to make lawlessness a virtue. The American people have already heard the President’s own words – ‘do us a favor, though.’ The President’s actions threaten our national security, violate our Constitution and undermine the integrity of our elections. 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.
“This 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. Despite the White House’s stonewalling, we see a growing body of evidence that shows that President Trump abused his office and violated his oath to ‘protect, preserve and defend the Constitution.’
“The White House should be warned that continued efforts to hide the truth of the President’s abuse of power from the American people will be regarded as further evidence of obstruction.
“Mr. President, you are not above the law. You will be held accountable.”
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-California, said Sondland had taken part in conversations regarding military aid to Ukraine, along with Trump's request that Ukraine investigate the Biden family. Schiff says the State Department is impeding requests for those records.
"The failure to produce this witness, the failure to produce these documents, we consider yet additional strong evidence of obstruction of the constitutional functions of Congress, a co-equal branch of government," Schiff said.
Schiff and two other congressional committee chairmen have subpoenaed Sondland to produce the documents by October 14 and appear for an interview on October 16. That letter can be read on the U.S. House website.