WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Wednesday said he would consider cooperating with the House Democratic-led impeachment inquiry if lawmakers meet the demands outlined by his legal team a day earlier.
“We would, if they give us our rights,” Trump told reporters at the White House when asked if he would cooperate with the House investigation into his dealings with Ukraine.
The president's remarks came as House Democrats signaled they would issue another round of subpoenas to force the White House to comply with the widening inquiry into Trump's request for Ukraine to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden before the 2020 presidential election.
White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, in an eight-page letter sent to House Democratic leaders on Tuesday, said the Trump administration would not comply with Democrats’ requests for documents and access to administration officials, because it deemed the probe to be “partisan” and an effort to “overturn” the 2016 presidential election.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other top Democrats characterized the letter as the latest effort by the president to obstruct the investigation.
Pelosi and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) have suggested that the Trump administration’s stonewalling of documents and subpoena requests could form the basis for an article of impeachment charge of obstruction.
“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,” Pelosi said Tuesday in response to Cipollone’s letter. “Mr. President, you are not above the law. You will be held accountable.”
Cipollone and Trump’s Republican congressional allies have argued the impeachment inquiry was “invalid” because it was launched by Pelosi without a full floor vote.
Pelosi, who launched the probe last month in response to a U.S. intelligence whistleblower complaint, has defended her move to launch the inquiry, noting there is no constitutional requirement to hold a floor vote to proceed with an inquiry.
Some Democrats have expressed support for holding a full floor vote to combat Trump’s questions about the legitimacy of the inquiry.
Asked if he would cooperate if the House does take a vote to launch an impeachment inquiry, Trump told reporters: “Yeah, that sounds OK.”
Trump then said “it depends” on whether the floor vote satisfied the conditions outlined in Cipollone’s letter.
Cipollone argued that Trump should have the right to examine evidence and cross-examine witnesses as the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees move ahead with their inquiry.
Legal analysts have pushed back on Cipollone’s argument, saying the Constitution gives the House “the sole power of impeachment,” and does not provide the executive branch with the power to dictate the ground rules for an inquiry.
House Democrats on Wednesday signaled that they would escalate their fight with the White House by issuing subpoenas for documents and testimony related to Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
In the conversation, Trump asked the newly elected leader for a “favor” — to investigate former Vice President Biden and his son, Hunter, as well as an American cybersecurity firm hired by the Democratic National Committee in 2016.
The three congressional committees have issued subpoenas to Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Trump’s appointed Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland.
Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), appearing on CNN, said House Democrats were “going to take every legal avenue that we need to, to get that information that the Congress needs, and that the American people deserve to see.”
Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), who sits on the Oversight and Foreign Affairs panels, said the Trump administration’s effort to block access could work against the president.
“All that defiance does is add to the case” against the president, including obstruction of Congress, Connolly said.
With The Associated Press