WASHINGTON (CN) – In a letter sent to the House of Representatives on Tuesday, the top White House lawyer told lawmakers the administration will not participate in Democrats’ impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
“Your unprecedented actions have left the president with no choice,” the letter signed by White House counsel Pat Cipollone states. “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.”
A senior administration official said there will now be a “full halt” in executive branch cooperation with Democrats’ subpoenas and requests for documents and testimony that comes as part of the impeachment probe as it is currently constituted.
The letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and the chairs of the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight and Reform committees particularly faults the House for not holding a formal vote authorizing the impeachment investigation.
While there is no requirement for such a vote in the Constitution, the House held votes authorizing impeachment investigations into Presidents Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon to free up greater investigatory powers. The White House has said without such an authorization, the inquiry Pelosi announced last month has no strength.
The senior administration official, however, did not guarantee the administration would start complying with documents requests if the House were to resolve the flaws the White House sees in the probe.
In a statement Tuesday night, Pelosi said the arguments in the White House’s letter mischaracterize the Constitution and that if the White House does not comply with the investigation, it would be considered “further evidence of obstruction.”
“The president’s actions threaten our national security, violate our Constitution and undermine the integrity of our elections,” Pelosi said in the statement. “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.”
The letter also says the investigation is invalid because the House has not given Trump the ability to cross-examine witnesses and to access and present evidence. The letter accuses Democrats of having been dead-set on impeachment since before Trump was even inaugurated and of using the probe to throw off the 2020 election.
“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 to join the president in focusing on the many important goals that matter to the American people,” the letter states.
The letter comes the same day the State Department blocked U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, who has become a prominent figure in the impeachment investigation, from testifying before the House as part of the probe.
Sondland was on a series of texts the House committees leading the impeachment investigation released last week that detailed the Trump administration’s attempts to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son.
That pressure campaign was revealed in a whistleblower complaint about a July 25 call in which Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to look into work Biden’s son Hunter did while sitting on the board of a Ukrainian energy company. The request came shortly after Zelensky talked about Ukraine’s plans to buy missiles from the United States and has become the center of the impeachment probe into Trump.