WASHINGTON — The combative White House letter vowing to defy the “illegitimate” impeachment inquiry has actually put President Donald Trump on a more certain path to charges. His refusal to honor subpoenas or allow testimony would likely play into a formal accusation against him.

The letter sent to House leaders by White House Counsel Pat Cipollone Tuesday evening declared the president would not cooperate with the investigation — a clear reason, Democrats say, to write an article of impeachment charging him with obstruction.

The White House insists that a formal House vote is necessary just to start the impeachment process. But Democrats are moving ahead without one, confident for now that they are backed by the Constitution and Trump’s own acknowledgments of trying to persuade a foreign government to investigate a political foe.

“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 again defended his decision not to cooperate, calling a whistleblower’s complaint about his call with Ukraine’s leader “a fraud being perpetrated on the American public” and saying Republicans are being treated unfairly. He repeated he was being vilified for “a perfect phone call.”

But the president also undercut his no-cooperation argument Wednesday by putting conditions on his willingness, saying he would cooperate only if the House held a vote and Democrats would “give us our rights.”

Bolstered by polls showing increased public support for impeachment, Pelosi has shown no signs of shifting her strategy. Democrats plan to continue investigating while focusing on the president’s own acknowledgments that he asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate his country’s involvement in the 2016 presidential election and also political rival Joe Biden and his family.

“The evidence provided by the president and his people has already been overwhelming,” even without additional witness testimony, said Connecticut Rep. Jim Himes. Himes is a Democratic member of the House intelligence committee, which is leading the Ukraine investigation.

The intelligence panel, along with the Foreign Affairs and Oversight and Government Reform panels, subpoenaed Gordon Sondland, the U.S. European Union ambassador, on Tuesday after Trump’s State Department barred him from showing up at a scheduled deposition. Texts provided by another diplomat last week showed Sondland and others navigating Trump’s demands for investigations as they spoke to Ukrainian government officials about a possible visit to Washington.

Trump’s stonewalling of impeachment comes as polls find that Americans are more likely to approve than disapprove of the inquiry, even as they divide on whether Trump should be removed from office. A new Washington Post-Schar School poll finds 58% supportive of the decision by Congress to launch an impeachment inquiry that could lead to Trump being removed from office. About half of all Americans also think Congress should remove Trump from office.

Still, the White House signaled it would not give an inch. Trump has taken to Twitter frequently to bash the investigation, charging that the inquiry is not about anything more than partisan politics.

“The Do Nothing Democrats are Con Artists, only looking to hurt the Republican Party and President,” Trump wrote. “Their total focus is 2020, nothing more, and nothing less.”

After two weeks of an unfocused response to the impeachment probe, the White House letter amounted to the first volley in a strategy that is more defined — but one that carries its own risks.

“All that defiance does is add to the case” against the president, including obstruction of Congress, said Virginia Rep. Gerry Connolly, a Democrat who sits on the Oversight and Foreign Affairs panels. He said the White House strategy actually works to convince the public of the president’s guilt, citing the recent polls.

“The public gets what’s happening,” Connolly said.

But Trump allies both inside and outside the West Wing were pleased at the shot the letter represented.

They argue their best chance at winning the politics of impeachment is to emulate the just-say-no tactics they used for much of the special counsel’s Russia probe and against other investigations launched by Democrats in the House majority.

By making the fight as contentious as possible, the White House hopes to convince voters that the impeachment process is simply about politics. They also want to push the proceedings into next year, when the first ballots of the 2020 primaries are cast. That would make it easier for Republicans to demand that impeachment be put aside in favor of letting the voters decide in November.

He also said that the impeachment fight will end up in the Supreme Court, but it’s unclear whether Democrats will go to court at all and risk long delay. They could simply move to an article of impeachment on obstruction.

Aware of the risks, Democrats are planning to move quickly — unlike the two-year Russia investigation, which Republicans had ample time to try and discredit. Multiple subpoenas sent by the House panels — including to the White House, Cabinet agencies and Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani — came with a deadline to respond within the next two weeks.

As the House returns from a recess next Tuesday, the Democrats plan to hold hearings and votes to make their case, including legislation designed to improve the security of elections and prevent foreign interference. But they are so far declining to hold high profile hearings featuring fierce, argumentative allies of the president, including Giuliani, who was involved in the negotiations with Ukraine.

Democrats believe the president’s own words are paramount to impeachment and don’t want to distract from that.

But they will also continue to investigate.

“I think what we have is overwhelming evidence that the president has engaged in multiple wrongdoings,” said Florida Rep. Val Demings, a member of both the intelligence and Judiciary panels. “But what we don’t know is how much more is out there.”


Associated Press writers Lisa Mascaro, Jill Colvin and Darlene Superville contributed.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(19) comments


The presidents personal attorney attorney has retained a criminal lawyer today.


😮 More than half of US voters want President Donald Trump impeached and removed from office, according to a Fox News Poll out on Wednesday.


Just turn off the spotlight. He's a figment.


The latest fiasco by the mobster in the White house makes Impeachment more and removal more likely. Now he has Republicans upset too.


Beginning an impeachment inquiry without having the House vote to do so is certainly unprecedented and of questionable legality. I wouldn't cooperate with it either if I was Trump and it does lend some credence to his claim of a coup. I get why Pelosi doesn't want her Freshmen Reps from Red districts to have to vote given that Trump's popularity has exploded among Republicans. It will doom them in 2020. I get it but it doesn't make it okay. You can't make up the rules as you go. Or maybe you can. Ultimately i guess the SCOTUS will have to decide and that won't happen until after the 2020 election given their schedule so all those promising a quick and certain Pelosi presidency..... come back to us on planet Earth. I'm sure someone misses you.[wink]


Questionable legality? How do you think that, Dave?


Because they didn't have a vote Dick! What is she, Dictator Pelosi?


Just like the polls that said Hillary had a 14 point lead. Stop the impeachment nonsense and just win the election next year.


They, the democrats, can’t win the election in a traditional sense, so they have resorted to third world tactics.

Comment deleted.

Cut Bunny some slack. She is still worried she will catch small pox from Mexicans.

Comment deleted.

"America: Love it of Leave it!" is now a "Liberal" mantra? The world's turned upside down. (Who can name the significance of that tune without consulting Google? I know Pub can but what about the rest of you normal humans?) Nevermind, I just found out it was in the play Hamilton. Now probably any old yahoo knows it.


Des, In your quest to categorize and box away everything as liberal or conservative, it looks like you missed Sam's sarcasm.


You give Sam far too much credit 3. Yea, I'm the American out of 330 million trying to "box" everything?! Where have you been brother?


A majority of Americans — 51 percent — want President Donald Trump to be impeached and removed from office, according to a Fox News poll announced Wednesday night.


Wow, 51%! 49% said no. A powerful mandate![wink] Since when does anyone here believe Fox about anything?




Tell us your thoughts on Trump's betrayal of the Kurds, Dave. We want to hear from someone with a political degree in politics.


I think it as a mistake Dick. His isolationism is one of the many reasons i didn't vote for him. remember me? I'm a neo-con. Trump is more Democrat than Republican as he was registered until his 60s i believe. It's just that he has done such a fine job with almost everything else (and he probably reflects the mood of the country in wanting to bring our kids home I concede) and the Democrats are so God awful that I'll vote for him in 2020. This impeachment is stillborn. It's why Pelosi handed it to Schiff.


No undecideds?

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