WASHINGTON — House Democrats on Wednesday were undeterred by a White House decision to defy the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump’s alleged effort to pressure a foreign government to investigate a political rival.
“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,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement.
Democrats have scheduled hearings next week for testimony and documents from agency officials.
Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., who is conducting an investigation into the president’s Washington, D.C. hotel and possible violations of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, said “we will not tolerate any stonewalling of our impeachment inquiry, and we will not allow one abuse of power to cover up another.”
Pelosi launched an impeachment inquiry Sept. 24 following allegations the president tried to coerce Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a 2020 Democratic candidate for president.
Trump remained unrepentant on Wednesday and turned up the volume of his defense in a Twitter blast calling the inquiry the “greatest Witch Hunt in the history of the USA!”
Only 25 percent want the President Impeached, which is pretty low considering the volume of Fake News coverage, but pretty high considering the fact that I did NOTHING wrong. It is all just a continuation of the greatest Scam and Witch Hunt in the history of our Country!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 9, 2019
Responding to newspaper headlines, Trump used Twitter to again question and criticize the whistleblower, who came forward with a complaint about a telephone call between the president and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
A transcript of that call released by the White House showed Trump asked Zelenskiy for “a favor,” including an investigation into Biden and his son, Hunter, who was on a board of directors of a Ukrainian energy company.
Biden, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, called Trump’s accusations of wrongdoing a smear campaign. During an appearance in Rochester, N.H., Biden called for Trump’s impeachment for abusing the powers of his office.
Since the country’s founding “we have been constant in our vigilance to keep foreign nations out of our elections. That is — until Donald Trump,” Biden said in remarks distributed by his campaign.
The Trump campaign is running television ads attacking Biden and his son’s “sweetheart job.”
Meanwhile, the Trump request for an investigation into his political opponent was made as the administration withheld nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine that had been approved by the House and Senate.
Texts from diplomats and State Department officials later showed the U.S. also dangled a possible White House visit to entice Zelenskiy to move forward with the Biden investigation.
Secretary State Mike Pompeo, who acknowledged he was on the telephone call, declined to testify before the House impeachment panel and ignored a subpoena to turn over documents.
The State Department also blocked Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, who was on the text chain, from testifying before the House panel this week. He has since been subpoenaed.
Texts given to the House impeachment panel by Kurt Volker, the president’s special envoy to the Ukraine, show that Sondland, other diplomats and Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, were trying to coordinate the request of an investigation with a White House visit and without the appearance of quid pro quo.
After the State Department blocked Sondland’s appearance, the president’s in-house attorney sent a letter to Pelosi and other congressional leaders saying the White House would not cooperate with the impeachment because it is in violation of the Constitution, denies the president due process and seeks to overturn the 2016 presidential election.
The administration’s attempts to stonewall the investigation already has set back a timetable that Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said could be completed by Thanksgiving.
Meanwhile, House and Senate Republicans, while tepid in their defense of Trump, have railed against the process that Pelosi has installed for the impeachment inquiry.
“They’re rushing a sham impeachment process,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said.
Leaders in both parties, and lawyers for the House and the White House, clashed over how an impeachment inquiry should be carried out.
Republicans have called for a floor vote to begin the impeachment investigation, as was done with former Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton. That process would put every member on record as either for or against impeachment.
While the leaders squabbled over the process Wednesday, rank and file lawmakers remained in their congressional districts on recess to observe Yom Kippur. Congress returns to work next week.
Pelosi announced the inquiry without a vote, citing the whistleblower complaint about the telephone call and the fact that the inspector general for intelligence services deemed it credible and “urgent.”
As for procedures, Pelosi said House rules do not require a vote to launch an impeachment inquiry.
The White House has currently stalled investigations by House committees, ordering former and past aides, as well as campaign workers, not to comply with subpoenas for testimony and documents.
Democrats have filed lawsuits currently pending in federal appeals courts seeking a ruling on the president’s claim of executive privilege.
But the recent allegations involving Ukraine have emboldened Democrats and delivered a sharp spike in public opinion that an investigation is warranted into charges the president sought foreign interference in the upcoming election.
Trump has received support from the GOP-led Senate, where Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said he would not impeach a president over a telephone call. Graham told “Fox and Friends” on Wednesday that he would deliver that message directly to Pelosi.
If the Democratic House votes to impeach Trump, the Senate would hold a trial on the charges to determine if he should be removed from office.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., questioned the validity of the House impeachment investigation currently underway without a vote from the chamber to proceed.
“Overturning the results of an American election requires the highest level of fairness and due process, as it strikes at the core of our democratic process,” McConnell said.