White House says Trump 'cannot permit his administration' to cooperate with the 'partisan and unconstitutional' impeachment inquiry

Sonam Sheth
Donald Trump

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images


  • The White House told House Democrats on Tuesday that President Donald Trump "cannot permit his administration" to cooperate with their impeachment inquiry.
  • In a letter sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the three committee chairmen conducting the investigation, the White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, said the Trump administration viewed the inquiry as constitutionally invalid — even though impeachment is a constitutional process.
  • "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," the letter said.
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The White House told House Democrats on Tuesday it would not cooperate with their impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, setting the stage for a constitutional clash between the legislative and executive branches.

The White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, said in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the chairmen of the three House committees spearheading the investigation that Trump and his administration would not cooperate with the investigation because the administration viewed it as "partisan and unconstitutional."

"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," the letter said.

Trump has consistently lashed out at congressional Democrats, accusing them of trying to launch a "coup" to overthrow his presidency.

At the heart of the impeachment inquiry is a July 25 phone call in which Trump repeatedly pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son on suspicion of corruption. Biden is a 2020 Democratic frontrunner and one of Trump's chief political rivals.

The phone call is the subject of an explosive whistleblower complaint that a US intelligence official filed against the president in August. In addition to accusing Trump of abusing his power and violating federal law, it says that Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, is a "central figure" in Trump's effort and that Attorney General William Barr "appears to be involved as well."

Trump and his allies have attacked the whistleblower, accusing the person of disloyalty to the US and of committing espionage against Trump — even though the person followed the law when filing the complaint. The president has also repeatedly called for the whistleblower's identity to become public.

A White House summary of the call confirms the main details of the complaint, and Trump's handpicked spy chief testified to Congress that the complaint was "in alignment" with the summary.

The intelligence-community watchdog, moreover, deemed the complaint to be "urgent" and "credible." Last week, Trump confirmed the complaint's central allegation — that he sought to have a foreign government investigate a political opponent — when he publicly called for both Ukraine and China to look into the Bidens.

Impeachment is part of the US Constitution, but in his letter to the House Democrats leading the impeachment inquiry, Cipollone accused them of taking action that "violates the Constitution, the rule of law, and every past precedent."

"For example, you have denied the President the right to cross-examine witnesses, to call witnesses, to receive transcripts of testimony, to have access to evidence, to have counsel present, and many other basic rights guaranteed to all Americans," he wrote.

"You have conducted your proceedings in secret," he continued. "You have violated civil liberties and the separation of powers by threatening Executive Branch officials, claiming that you will seek to punish those who exercise fundamental constitutional rights and prerogatives."

Cipollone went on to argue that to validate the impeachment inquiry, Democrats needed to give Republican ranking members the authority to unilaterally issue subpoenas.

The White House press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, also said in a statement that the executive branch — which includes the White House, the State Department, and the Justice Department — would not cooperate with the investigation as a general rule.

"The Executive Branch cannot be expected to, and will not participate in, this exercise of partisan political theater," Grisham said.

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