The Trump impeachment drama just got more dramatic.
Senior White House officials confirmed Tuesday (Oct. 8) that counsel to the president Pat Cippolone has sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) saying the Trump Administration would not cooperate with an impeachment hearing the Administration is branding as "illegitimate and unconstitutional" (according to Fox, which secured a copy), and calling on Democrats to call the whole thing off.
White House senior officials, speaking on background, said that one of the reasons the inquiry was bogus was that the House has not yet voted officially on an impeachment inquiry. They also said the House is not providing due process protections, including basic procedural rights to cross examine or call witnesses, to have access to witnesses or have counsel present, as was the case with the impeachment of Bill Clinton and the planned impeachment of Richard Nixon.
They also said the committee minority members have not been given the right to issue subpoenas, which would make this a one-sided effort that is contrary to the adversarial process.
They said the impeachment is nothing but a political strategy to overturn the results of the last election and affect the outcome of the next one. They said that was not the proper use of impeachment.
They said the Administration will not participate in the unconstitutional impeachment process as currently constituted. That means there will be a "full halt" to any cooperation. They also said the President would be protecting constitutional principles and his successors by not participating.
Asked what they would do if the House did vote for impeachment, they said they would have to evaluate that changed circumstance when and if it happens but they did not want to draw red lines or deal in hypotheticals.
Democrats have suggested the lack of cooperation constitutes obstruction of justice, but the officials said they were simply asserting their rights under the constitution, which can't be obstruction.
Pelosi announced Sept. 24 that House Democrats were launching an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
The inquiry was driven by a whistleblower report of the President's conversation with the president of Ukraine about investigating Trump's political opponent, former VP Joe Biden, and his son, Hunter Biden, and the timing of the President's decision to delay hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to that country.
House Democratic leadership has been expanding its investigations into the President's call, issuing subpoenas to a host of parties and signaling there is much to get to the bottom of.
The impeachment drama has captured the attention, and news budgets, of cable news outlets, including leading to a "White House in Crisis" branding for several editions of Jake Tapper's afternoon show, The Lead, on CNN.
In fact, as reporters were awaiting a background call with the White House on the letter, Fox News was already reporting on its existence and the tough language pushing back on impeachment and the President's Democrat critics.
The White House released a statement at about the same time as the background call with reporters.
"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. 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.
"Today, on behalf of President Donald J. Trump, Pat Cipollone, Counsel to the President, sent a letter to Speaker Pelosi and Chairmen Engel, Schiff, and Cummings. The letter 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. 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.
"President Trump and his entire Administration will, however, keep fighting for the American people, growing the economy, building prosperity, and protecting America’s interests at home and abroad."