The White House has refused any cooperation by President Donald Trump in the Democrats' impeachment investigation, saying the effort being made by the opposition is unconstitutional and an attempt to overturn the democratic process.
Speaking to reporters, White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said that the impeachment probe against President Trump is purely political.
"The President has done nothing wrong and the Democrats know it. For purely political reasons, the Democrats have decided their desire to overturn the outcome of the 2016 election allows them to conduct a so-called impeachment inquiry that ignores the fundamental rights guaranteed to every American," she said.
"These partisan proceedings are an affront to the Constitution-as they are being held behind closed doors and deny the President the right to call witnesses, to cross-examine witnesses, to have access to evidence, and many other basic rights," she said soon after the White House sent a letter to the Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives informing them of the decision of the Trump Administration.
Democrats in the US House of Representatives are examining whether there are grounds to impeach Trump, a Republican, based on a whistleblower's account that said he asked Ukrainian President Zelenskiy in a July 25 phone call to help investigate Democratic political rival, Joe Biden.
In the letter, White House counsel Pat Cipollone rejected the allegations against President Trump terming it baseless and unconstitutional.
“President Trump and his Administration reject your baseless, unconstitutional efforts to overturn the democratic process,” he said in his letter dated October 8, a copy of which was released to the press.
“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,” he said.
Cipollone said Trump is focused on fulfilling his promises to the American people.
"He (Trump) has important work that he must continue on their behalf, both at home and around the world, including continuing strong economic growth, extending historically low levels of unemployment, negotiating trade deals, fixing our broken immigration system, lowering prescription drug prices, and addressing mass shooting violence,” he said.
"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 said.
The letter, Grisham said, demonstrates that the Democrats' inquiry lacks any legitimate constitutional foundation, any pretense of fairness, and even the most elementary due process protections.
“Democrats are pursuing purely partisan goals, including influencing the upcoming 2020 election. In the process, they are violating civil liberties and the separation of powers, threatening Executive Branch officials with punishment simply for exercising their constitutional rights and prerogatives,” she alleged.
“All of this violates the Constitution, the rule of law, and every past precedent. For these reasons, the Executive Branch cannot be expected to, and will not participate in, this exercise of partisan political theater,” Grisham said.
Later a senior administration official told reporters that for the first time in America's history, the House of Representatives is now purporting to proceed on an impeachment inquiry against the President without conducting a vote on the House floor.
“This has never happened in the history of the country. There's always been, in every prior inquiry into a presidential impeachment, a vote on the House floor,” the official asserted.
The House is purporting to proceed simply on the basis of a news conference that the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, had, the official said.
“And that is simply not sufficient to establish the sort of accountability to show the will of the House to embark on this that is required out of due respect for the separation of powers and for the vote of the American people that was taken in the last election,” said the official, who spoke with reporters on condition of anonymity.
The official said even more importantly, the second legal and constitutional flaw is that the House is purporting to proceed without providing any of the due process protections that have been provided in all modern presidential impeachment inquiries in the past.
“They have denied the President the right to cross-examine witnesses, to call witnesses, to receive transcripts as testimony, to have access to evidence, to have counsel present -- all of these. And these have been in the 1970s, in the inquiries into President Nixon; in the late 1990s, the inquiries into impeachment with President Clinton.All these rights were available. It is unprecedented that they are being denied here, and it violates basic due process standards,” the official said.
In addition to that, by failing to have any resolution on the House floor, the House has avoided giving even the minority on the committees the right to subpoena.
President Donald Trump is "trying to make lawlessness a virtue", House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said.
Pelosi's comment came after the White House in a letter to the Democrat leaders on Tuesday refused any cooperation from President Trump in the impeachment investigations by the opposition.
"For a while, the President has tried to normalise lawlessness. Now, he is trying to make lawlessness a virtue,” Pelosi said in a statement.
“The American people have already heard the President's own words – do us a favour 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,” she said.
In a strongly worded statement, Pelosi said that 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. 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,” Pelosi said.
She also said that WH's stonewalling against the allegations was giving evidence of President Trump abusing his office and violating his oath to ‘protect, preserve and defend the Constitution.
In a joint statement, Congressmen Adam B Schiff, Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Eliot L. Engel, Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and Elijah E. Cummings, Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, alleged that White House has once again attempted to impede and obstruct the impeachment inquiry.
Schiff and his Democratic colleagues believe that the call record of the President's July 25 conversation with Ukrainian President Zelensky makes clear that the President pressed Ukraine to initiate investigations to benefit him personally and politically.
The pressure on Ukraine took place as the White House also withheld hundreds of millions of dollars in vital military assistance to counter Russian aggression, they say.
Trump has denied any wrongdoing and accused the Democrats of political witch-hunt. But the Democrats have made it clear that they will continue with their impeachment proceedings.
“This morning, we learned from Ambassador Sondland's personal attorneys that the State Department left a voicemail last night at 12:30 am informing them that the Trump Administration would not allow the Ambassador to appear today as part of the House's impeachment inquiry,” the three influential Democrats said.
“In addition, Ambassador Sondland's attorneys have informed us that the Ambassador has recovered communications from his personal devices that the Committees requested prior to his interview today. He has turned them over to the State Department, however, and the State Department is withholding them from the Committees, in defiance of our subpoena to Secretary Pompeo,” they said.
“These actions appear to be part of the White House's effort to obstruct the impeachment inquiry and to cover up President Trump's misconduct from Congress and the American people. Ambassador Sondland's testimony and documents are vital, and that is precisely why the Administration is now blocking his testimony and withholding his documents,” they said.
The three lawmakers said that they consider this interference to be obstruction of the impeachment inquiry.
“We will be issuing subpoena to Ambassador Sondland for both his testimony and documents,” they said.
Congressman Michael McCaul, lead Republican of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said that Schiff and Pelosi are intentionally skirting prior impeachment precedent in order to deny Republicans basic rights in their partisan investigation.
“In the Nixon and Clinton cases, votes were taken on the House Floor to establish a formal inquiry which set up the rules of the road. Today, Democrats have denied House members the opportunity to take that vote. Their rush to impeachment has ensured there will be no fairness in this process and is reckless when the presidential election is 13 months away,” he said.