White House And Democrats Clash Over Rules For Impeachment

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Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaks during a news conference and with local officials about Venezuelan democracy efforts on Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019, in Weston, Fla. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Constitution gives the House “the sole power of impeachment” — but it confers that authority without an instruction manual.

Now comes the battle royal over exactly what it means.

In vowing to halt all cooperation with House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, the White House on Tuesday labeled the investigation “illegitimate” based on its own reading of the Constitution’s vague language.

In an eight-page letter, White House counsel Pat Cipollone pointed to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s failure to call for an official vote to proceed with the inquiry as grounds to claim the process a farce.

“You have designed and implemented your inquiry in a manner that violates fundamental fairness and constitutionally mandated due process,” Cipollone wrote.

But Douglas Letter, a lawyer for the House Judiciary Committee, told a federal judge Tuesday that it’s clear the House “sets its own rules” on how the impeachment process will play out.

The White House document lacked much in the way of legal arguments, seemingly citing cable TV news appearances as often as case law. And legal experts cast doubt upon its effectiveness.

“I think the goal of this letter is to further inflame the president’s supporters and attempt to delegitimize the process in the eyes of his supporters,” said Stephen Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas.

Courts have been historically hesitant to step in as referee for congressional oversight and impeachment. In 1993, the Supreme Court held that impeachment was an issue for the Congress and not the courts.

In that case, Walter Nixon, a federal district judge who was removed from office, sought to be reinstated and argued that the full Senate, instead of a committee that was established to hear testimony and collect evidence, should have heard the evidence against him.

The court unanimously rejected the challenge, finding impeachment is a function of the legislature that the court had no authority over.

As for the current challenge to impeachment, Vladeck said the White House letter “does not strike me as an effort to provide sober legal analysis.”

Gregg Nunziata, a Philadelphia attorney who previously served as general counsel and policy adviser to Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, said the White House’s letter did not appear to be written in a “traditional good-faith back and forth between the legislative and executive branches.”

He called it a “direct assault on the very legitimacy of Congress’ oversight power.”

“The Founders very deliberately chose to put the impeachment power in a political branch rather the Supreme Court,” Nunziata told The Associated Press. “They wanted this to be a political process and it is.”

G. Pearson Cross, a political science professor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, said the letter appeared to act as nothing more than an accelerant on a smoldering fire.

“It’s a response that seems to welcome a constitutional crisis rather than defusing one or pointing toward some strategy that would deescalate the situation,” Cross said.

After two weeks of a listless and unfocused response to the impeachment probe, the White House letter amounted to a declaration of war.

It’s a strategy that risks further provoking Democrats in the impeachment probe, setting up court challenges and the potential for lawmakers to draw up an article of impeachment accusing President Donald Trump of obstructing their investigations.

Democrats have said that if the White House does not provide the information, they could write an article of impeachment on obstruction of justice.

It is unclear if Democrats would wade into a lengthy legal fight with the administration over documents and testimony or if they would just move straight to considering articles of impeachment.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who is leading the Ukraine probe, has said Democrats will “have to decide whether to litigate, or how to litigate.”

But they don’t want the fight to drag on for months, as he said the Trump administration seems to want to do.

A federal judge heard arguments Tuesday on whether the House had undertaken a formal impeachment inquiry despite not having taken an official vote and whether it can be characterized, under the law, as a “judicial proceeding.”

The distinction matters because while grand jury testimony is ordinarily secret, one exception authorizes a judge to disclose it in connection with a judicial proceeding. House Democrats are seeking grand jury testimony from special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation as they conduct the impeachment inquiry.

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14 COMMENTS

  1. Right now it’s the Pelosi AOC Dog and Pony Show. POTUS was correct in telling the almighty princess Pelosi to drop dead.

    Perhaps when a vote takes place,potizt will tell her the same thing. The devilcrats are still trying to win the 2016 election, where they lost DESPITE CHEATING!

    • YOU SLANDERER! YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED! YOUR GREAT GRANDMOTHER WOULD BE SO EMBARRASSED TO HAVE YOU AS A SON! I WISH YOU WOULD GO STEP ON A RAT AND HAVE TO TAKE THE RAT TO THE VET AND WATCH IT HAVE SURGERY, THEN RECEIVE THE BILL! IT IS NOT ACCEPTABLE FOR YOU TO SAY MEAN THINGS ABOUT DEMOCRATS JUST BECAUSE THEY KILL BABIES AND STUFF! SHAME ON YOU! JUST BECAUSE PELOSI’S IQ TEST CAME BACK NEGATIVE, YOU HAVE TO HATE ON HER? DEMO-RAT IS FINE, AS LONG AS IT’S JUST THE DEMO AND NOT THE FULL VERSION! THE FULL VERSION IS AT THE VETERINARIAN’S OFFICE!

      • Wow yoni what a mature comment from a college grad like you . ( yes it’s you bec you slipped the other day under this old yeller screen name if yours)

        Anyhow, here is the trick . Trump only needs to procrastinate for about six months . Once it approaches Memorial Day , McConnell will argue that hey it’s already the elections so let the American people decide . You dems made a mistake . It took you 3 years to find a gottcha moment . Now the only way to throw trump out is via elections . Your dream of removing him is over .

        Try Again after he wins in 2020. (Don’t forget Biden name is now tainted . It did the job )

        • Right… Polls get worse for the swamp-king-Trump every day. Even Fox has the numbers looking bad. Over a year to election day… The more dirt the Democrats find between now and then, the worse the polls going to be. If impeachment is widely supported, McConnell not holding a trial, will help the continued destruction of the GOP.

          Hey, remember Nixon… His impeachment proceedings were a disaster for the GOP… Kind of looks like it is happening again.

          Tick, tock, time is running out on the guy who said he will clear the swamp and fix Washington to show he is in this for anyone but himself. The most self-serving swampiest President ever.

          • “Nixon impeachment disaster for GOP” and the results was Jimmy the peanut farmer. who was actually a great POTUS for Israel making Peace with Egypt and saving 1000s of Jewish lives. AOC and the Gang? might not be as good.Why would they care for Israel. They were not in Normandy and they are in a OLD Real Estate fight fay away from us, going on for many many many years and has nothing to do with the USA. Hashem Yerachem

          • Can’t reply to uneducated yhcra comment so replaying to mine… I said from day one of this presidency, he may cause politics to swing extreme left in response. People too focused on short-term gains and can’t see the big picture. Hope Israel does fine under the succeeding administrations, but definitely think we will see a growing anti-Israel bloc in congress going forward.

          • Why do you have to borrow the Tic-toc from your idiotic intergalactic commander Hugo Chavez? These communists lack creativity. Are those the same polls that said Hillary was winning every state and gave Trump as a loser? Anyways, I don’t believe in them but actually the last pills i heard about Trump had a higher approval score than Ohbamba. Anyways the witch hunt impeachment won’t make it pass the Senate. The GOP isn’t delivering the country into communist hands. Keep in dreaming.

        • Over? Clinton was impeached in his 2nd term and Nixon resigned in his 2nd term. Both had much higher rating in year 3. In the unlikely event that Trump makes it till 2020 he will be impeachd/removed/resigned way earlier than Clinton or Nixon.

        • I RESENT BEING COMPARED TO YONI! YONI NEVER SHOUTS, HE ONLY SAYS COMMENTS THAT ARE IN GOOD ENGLISH, BUT THE GOOD ENGLISH DOESN’T MAKE HIM LESS WRONG! I HOPE HE’S LYING ABOUT BEING A COP AND IS ACTUALLY A VET WHO OPERATES ON RATS!

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