A White House letter to the leaders of the impeachment inquiry has declared that the Trump administration will not be cooperating in any form with the House in this process, announcing that they will not comply with requests for interviews or generally “participate” in the inquiry. The letter was signed by White House counsel Pat Cipollone and written “on behalf of President Donald J. Trump.”
.@SpeakerPelosi's office confirms she's received letter from WH outlining why the administration won't be cooperating with impeachment inquiry. Below is the link to the 8-pg letter from WH Counsel Pat Cipollone. https://t.co/23V5TSeHBl— Ramsey Touchberry (@ramsberry1) October 8, 2019
Lawyers across American have widely panned the letter for being “totally absurd” and “utter and total garbage,” saying that the legal arguments (if they could so be called) don’t hold water. Georgetown Law Professor Heidi Li Feldman called the letter an attempt to “justify what is clearly contempt of Congress.”
The language in the letter certainly does drip with contempt. It accuses Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and other impeachment leaders of violating the constitution and accuses them of trying to “overturn” the 2016 election results.
Wow. This letter is bananas. A barely-lawyered temper tantrum. A middle finger to Congress and its oversight responsibilities.— Gregg Nunziata (@greggnunziata) October 8, 2019
No Member of Congress should accept it, no matter his or her view on the behavior of Pelosi, Schiff, or Trump.
Things are bad. Things will get worse. https://t.co/AesJ6cGHrl
Pelosi herself responded to the letter with a public statement calling the whole thing “manifestly wrong” and warning that the administration’s refusal to play ball “will be regarded as further evidence of obstruction.”
Multiple legal experts have said that the letter reads like a cleaned-up collection of Trump tweets with footnotes, echoing his standard talking points on the impeachment inquiry. Here are the most ridiculous highlights:
1. Trump essentially declares his office to be above the law.
“Given that your inquiry lacks any legitimate constitutional foundation, any pretense of
fairness, or even the most elementary due process protections, the Executive Branch cannot be
expected to participate in it,” the letter reads in its concluding section. Stripped of the legalese, this basically says “because of reasons Trump decided exist, we are in contempt of Congress.”
Another Georgetown law professor explains:
10/ ... that the accommodation process will be futile because they won't give an inch. In *that* instance, the proper resort is to do what all other witnesses/targets/defendants have always done, rather than to assert the power to ignore legal process entirely.— Marty Lederman (@marty_lederman) October 9, 2019
2. Accusing Adam Schiff of making up the transcript of the Ukraine call.
Another Trump talking point, this part of the letter (which is also the longest) repeats the accusation that Schiff’s paraphrasing of the call one time somehow invalidates the entire Ukraine scandal, calling it a “fact” that Schiff “chose to concoct a false version of the call and to read his made-up transcript.”
In reality, the representative began his paraphrasing by announcing that he was paraphrasing: “In not so many words, this is the essence of what the president communicates,” he said before he began.
3. Repeating the claim that Schiff helped prepare the whistleblower complaint.
This is another unsubstantiated claim repeatedly made by Trump and parrotted by his supporters.
“In addition, information has recently come to light that the whistleblower had contact
with Chairman Schiff’s office before filing the complaint,” the letter reads. In reality, the whistleblower only followed the advice of aides to Adam Schiff to get a lawyer and file his complaint to Michael Atkinson, the inspector general of the intelligence community, as is procedure.
4. Claiming that Democrats are trying to “overturn” the 2016 election.
There is an entire section on this titled: “The Invalid ‘Impeachment Inquiry’ Plainly Seeks To Reverse the Election of 2016 and To Influence the Election of 2020.” The entire section is invalid because impeachment does not reverse elections. If Donald Trump was successfully impeached by the House and then somehow removed from office by the Republican-controlled Senate, he would be replaced by Vice President Mike Pence, who is next in line.
Can we at least all agree that “impeachment overturns an election” is an idiotic talking point? Last I checked the constitution, Mike Pence would become president if Trump is removed, not Hillary Clinton.— Matthew Miller (@matthewamiller) October 9, 2019
5. Accusing House Democrats of denying minority members equal right to subpoena.
This one might be the funniest of all.
“The House’s failure to provide co-equal subpoena power in this case ensures that any inquiry will be nothing more than a one-sided effort by House Democrats to gather information favorable to their views and to selectively release it as only they determine,” the letter reads.
This is one of the few things the letter gets semi-right. Minority House members don’t have the same ability to pursue subpoenas in situations like these. However, it’s not a “failure to provide co-equal power in this case.” Republicans changed the rule that allowed co-equal subpoena power in 2015 during one of their many and extremely partisan “investigations” in former President Barack Obama’s supposed crimes. Democrats were very much against this rule change, and now it’s come back around to bite Republicans in the spine cushion.
All in all, Pat Cipollone better have a nest egg to fall back on after this tanks his career.
2. The White House is done even pretending to care about our laws, including our sacred Constitution. Cipollone’s letter reads like a combination of a grammatically cleaned-up version of the president’s tweets and a legal brief written by someone unfamiliar with the law.— Glenn Kirschner (@glennkirschner2) October 9, 2019