[Marxism] White House Declares War on Impeachment Inquiry, Alleging Effort to Undo Trump’s Election
lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Oct 8 16:43:21 MDT 2019
(A Constitutional crisis is inevitable.)
NY Times, Oct. 8, 2019
White House Declares War on Impeachment Inquiry, Alleging Effort to Undo
By Nicholas Fandos, Peter Baker, Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman
WASHINGTON — The White House declared war on the House impeachment
inquiry on Tuesday, announcing that it would not cooperate with what it
called an illegitimate and partisan effort “to overturn the results of
the 2016 election” of Donald J. Trump.
In a letter to House Democratic leaders, the White House said the
inquiry violated precedent and President Trump’s due process rights in
such an egregious way that neither he nor the executive branch would
willingly provide testimony or documents, a daring move that sets the
stage for a constitutional clash.
“Your unprecedented actions have left the president with no choice,”
said the eight-page letter signed by Pat A. Cipollone, the White House
counsel. “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
The letter came hours after the White House blocked the interview of a
key witness, Gordon D. Sondland, the United States ambassador to the
European Union, just hours before he was to appear on Capitol Hill.
Read the White House Letter in Response to the Impeachment Inquiry
In a letter to House Democratic leaders, the White House counsel called
the House’s impeachment inquiry illegitimate.
Mr. Trump, defiant as investigators dig further into his efforts to
pressure Ukraine to find dirt on his political rivals, ridiculed the
inquiry as spurious, signaling even before the release of the top White
House lawyer’s letter that he planned to stonewall Congress, an act that
could itself build the case for charging him in an impeachment
proceeding with obstruction.
“I would love to send Ambassador Sondland, a really good man and great
American, to testify,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter Tuesday morning around
the time Mr. Sondland was to appear, “but unfortunately he would be
testifying before a totally compromised kangaroo court, where
Republican’s rights have been taken away.”
Earlier on Tuesday, House Democrats said they would regard the
president’s stance as obstruction. Representative Adam B. Schiff,
Democrat of California and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee,
said the administration’s refusal to allow Mr. Sondland to appear was
“strong evidence” of “obstruction of the constitutional functions of
Congress, a coequal branch of government.”
Mr. Schiff told reporters that the State Department was also withholding
text messages Mr. Sondland had sent on a private device that were
“deeply relevant” to the inquiry. He later indicated the House would
issue a subpoena for his testimony and the messages.
“The American people have the right to know if the president is acting
in their interests, in the nation’s interests with an eye toward our
national security, and not in his narrow personal, political interests,”
Mr. Schiff told reporters. “By preventing us from hearing from this
witness and obtaining these documents, the president and secretary of
state are taking actions that prevent us from getting the facts needed
to protect the nation’s security.”
The decision to block Mr. Sondland from being interviewed was delivered
at the last minute, after the ambassador had already flown to Washington
from Europe, and lawmakers had returned from a two-week recess to
observe the questioning.
Trump administration lawyers and aides have spent days puzzling over how
to respond to the impeachment inquiry, and the abrupt move suggested
that the president’s team has calculated that he is better off risking
the House’s ire — and even an impeachment article focused on the
obstruction — than setting a precedent for cooperation with an
investigation they have strenuously argued is illegitimate.
The strategy, if it holds, carries substantial risk to the White House.
Privately, some Republicans had urged the White House to allow witnesses
like Mr. Sondland to appear, in order to deflate Democratic accusations
of a cover-up and offer a public rationale for the president’s actions
toward Ukraine. Now, some Republicans worry, Democrats have more fodder
to argue publicly that Mr. Trump has something to hide.
Mr. Schiff said the Intelligence Committee, working with both the
Foreign Affairs and the Oversight and Reform panels, would continue its
work regardless. But beyond issuing a subpoena for Mr. Sondland, the
chairman did not detail how he might seek to crank up pressure on the
White House to comply, and the standoff may create a quandary for
Democrats who had hoped to move quickly in extracting crucial evidence
and decide in short order whether to push forward on impeaching Mr. Trump.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said it was too early to know whether Democrats
might draft an article of impeachment based on the obstruction issue,
akin to one adopted by the House Judiciary Committee in the 1970s
impeachment proceedings against Richard M. Nixon.
“The president is obstructing Congress from getting the facts that we
need,” Ms. Pelosi told reporters in Seattle, where she was holding an
unrelated event. “It is an abuse of power for him to act in this way.”
The Evidence Collected So Far in the Trump Impeachment Inquiry
The status of the documents and witness testimony being collected by
Mr. Sondland has become enmeshed in the burgeoning saga of how the
president sought to push the Ukrainians to investigate former Vice
President Joseph R. Biden Jr., his son and Democrats. Although Ukraine
is not in the European Union, Mr. Trump instructed Mr. Sondland — a
wealthy hotelier and contributor to his campaign — to take a lead in his
administration’s dealings with the country.
Democrats consider him a key witness to what transpired, including
whether the president sought to use a $391 million package of security
assistance and the promise of a White House meeting as bargaining chips
to essentially bully President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine into
digging up dirt on the Bidens and other Democrats.
Mr. Trump’s allies on Capitol Hill rushed to his defense on Tuesday and
condemned Mr. Schiff and the Democrats for running what they described
as an unfair process, though they made clear they thought Mr. Sondland
would have been a helpful witness for the president’s case.
“We were looking forward to hearing from Ambassador Sondland,” said
Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, the top Republican on the Oversight
and Reform Committee, adding that Republicans believed Mr. Sondland
would “reinforce exactly” what lawmakers and aides heard least week from
Kurt D. Volker, the former American special envoy to Ukraine. Mr. Volker
told investigators he knew of nothing improper between the two
countries, although he turned over a trove of documents that raised
“But we understand exactly why the administration, exactly why the State
Department has chosen to say, ‘Look if it’s going to be this kind of
process …,’ ” Mr. Jordan added.
And in the Senate, Mr. Trump’s allies shifted into high gear to
orchestrate a counteroffensive on his behalf. Senator Lindsey Graham,
Republican of South Carolina and the chairman of the Senate Judiciary
Committee, said he would invite Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s
personal lawyer who was deeply involved in the pressure campaign on
Ukraine, to testify before his panel. Mr. Giuliani led the push to
enlist the Ukrainians to help investigate the business dealings of the
Bidens and a conspiracy theory that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election.
“Given the House of Representatives’ behavior, it is time for the Senate
to inquire about corruption and other improprieties involving Ukraine,”
Mr. Graham said.
Democrats did not flinch at the suggestion, and Senator Dianne Feinstein
of California, Mr. Graham’s Democratic counterpart on the committee,
said she looked forward to questioning “Rudy Giuliani under oath about
his role in seeking the Ukrainian government’s assistance to investigate
one of the president’s political rivals.”
It was unclear what the Trump administration’s position would mean for
other witnesses expected to testify in the House investigation. Marie L.
Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Ukraine, is currently scheduled to
appear on Friday. The State Department has also missed a subpoena
deadline to hand over documents the House has demanded related to Ukraine.
Mr. Sondland interacted directly with Mr. Trump, speaking with the
president several times around key moments that House Democrats are now
investigating, including before and after Mr. Trump’s July call with Mr.
Zelensky. The president asked Mr. Zelensky in that conversation to do
him “a favor” and investigate the Bidens and matters related to 2016.
Text messages provided to Congress last week showed that Mr. Sondland
and another senior diplomat had worked on language for a statement they
wanted the Ukrainian president to put out in August that would have
committed him to the investigations sought by Mr. Trump. The diplomats
consulted with Mr. Giuliani about the statement, believing they needed
to pacify him in order to allow the United States to normalize relations
with the Ukrainians.
Mr. Sondland was also involved in a back-and-forth with top American
diplomats to Ukraine over text last month that suggests some senior
State Department officials believed that Mr. Trump may have been holding
up the security aid as leverage for getting its leaders to conduct the
investigations Mr. Trump wanted.
“As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security
assistance for help with a political campaign,” William B. Taylor Jr., a
top American official in Ukraine, wrote in one exchange in early September.
After receiving the text, Mr. Sondland called Mr. Trump, who asserted it
“Bill, I believe you are incorrect about President Trump’s intentions,”
Mr. Sondland wrote in the messages. “The President has been crystal
clear no quid pro quo’s of any kind.”
Mr. Sondland added: “I suggest we stop the back and forth by text.”
There have been conflicting accounts of Mr. Sondland’s views, however.
Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, told The Wall Street
Journal last week that Mr. Sondland had told him in August that the
release of the aid was contingent upon Ukraine opening the
investigations. Mr. Johnson said he was alarmed and asked Mr. Trump if
there was a quid pro quo involved. The president adamantly denied it, he
Robert D. Luskin, Mr. Sondland’s lawyer, said in a statement that as a
State Department employee, his client had no choice but to comply with
the administration’s direction. He said Mr. Sondland was “profoundly
disappointed” he was not able to testify, and would do so in the future
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