United States President Donald Trump has refused to allow testimony or to comply with the subpoenas issued by the Democrat-run U.S. House of Representatives. In a letter, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone announced Tuesday that the president would not cooperate with the investigation.
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By vowing to defy what he calls an “illegitimate” impeachment inquiry, Trump may put himself on the path to making charges more certain as his refusals could lead to a formal accusation against him.
The White House maintains that a formal House vote is essential to start the impeachment process. However, the Democrats are confident they have the Constitution on their side and are advancing without any formal vote.
“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,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in response to the letter. “Mr. President, you are not above the law. You will be held accountable.”
Trump defended his decision not to cooperate saying the whole case is “a fraud being perpetrated on the American public.” He repeated he was being vilified for “a perfect phone call.”
Nonetheless, he also said Wednesday he could eventually cooperate if the House held a vote and Democrats would “give us [the Republicans] our rights.”
Encouraged by polls showing increasing favor for impeachment, Pelosi does not seem to be willing to shift her strategy. Democrats will continue to investigate while focusing on Trump’s own acknowledgments that called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to demand him to investigate his political rival, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.
According to the summary of the half-hour July 25 call, Trump told Zelenskiy that Attorney General William Barr and Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani would speak to him about re-opening a Ukrainian investigation into a Ukrainian gas company for which Biden’s son Hunter had served as director.
The conversation occurred after Trump had ordered a freeze of nearly US$400 million in U.S. aid to Ukraine, which the administration only later released. Trump has denied he did this to get leverage or blackmail Zelenskiy.
Following the scandal, Pelosi announced that the House is moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry of Trump, adding the “the actions revealed the dishonorable fact of the President's betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security and betrayal of the integrity of our elections."
Under the U.S. Constitution, the House has the power to impeach a president for “high crimes and misdemeanors” and the Senate then holds a trial on whether to remove the president from office. No president has ever been removed from office through impeachment. Democrats currently control the House and Republicans control the Senate.