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Thursday 17 October 2019

White House prepares formal objection to Trump impeachment probe

The president claimed the move will backfire politically on Democrats.

Donald Trump (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Donald Trump (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

By Zeke Miller and Jonathan Lemire, Associated Press

Donald Trump has said the White House is preparing a letter to House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi formally objecting to the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry without an official vote.

It is expected to say the administration will not co-operate with the probe without that vote — but the president also said he believes it will pass.

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Donald Trump addresses the media on the South Lawn of the White House (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

Mr Trump acknowledged that Democrats in the House “have the votes” to begin a formal impeachment inquiry, even if they do not in the Senate, but he claimed the move will backfire politically.

“I really believe that they’re going to pay a tremendous price at the polls,” he said.

Ms Pelosi last week announced that the House was beginning the inquiry but did not seek the consent of the full chamber, as was done for impeachment investigations into former presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.

Trump allies have suggested for days that without a formal vote, the House is merely conducting standard oversight, entitling legislators to a lesser level of disclosure from the administration.

The Justice Department raised similar arguments last month, though that was before Ms Pelosi announced the impeachment investigation.

Mr Trump also denied there was a quid pro quo as he pressed the Ukrainian government to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden, and said he did not do it for political purposes.

He said: “We are looking at corruption, we’re not looking at politics. I believe there was tremendous corruption with Biden.”

The president asked Ukraine and China to launch probes into the former vice president and 2020 Democratic hopeful, alleging without evidence that there was misconduct by Mr Biden and his son Hunter.

Mr Trump claimed his call for the investigations was not political, because “I never thought Biden was going to win” the primary.

He added of rooting out corruption: “I actually feel I have an obligation to do that.”

In a letter on Thursday to House minority leader Kevin McCarthy, Ms Pelosi said: “There is no requirement under the constitution, under House rules, or House precedent that the whole House vote before proceeding with an impeachment inquiry.”

There is no clear-cut procedure in the constitution for launching an impeachment inquiry, leaving many questions about possible presidential obstruction untested in court, said Allan Lichtman, a history professor at American University.

“There’s no specification in the constitution in what does and does not constitute a more formal impeachment inquiry or investigation,” he said.

Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, dismissed the premise of the impeachment inquiry, which is centred on Mr Trump asking Ukraine to investigate Mr Biden.

“The president was not tasking Ukraine to investigate a political opponent,” Mr Giuliani told the Associated Press on Thursday. “He wanted an investigation into a seriously conflicted former vice president of the United States who damaged the reputation of the United States in Ukraine.”

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