Over the past few weeks, the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump has been on everyone's minds. As House Democrats continue their investigation, it doesn't seem like the White House is willing to cooperate. So, can a president fight impeachment? Things are getting heated.
A few weeks ago on Sept. 24, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced she was opening an official impeachment inquiry into the president, and needless to say the public was shocked at the news. At the time, White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham told Elite Daily in an emailed statement that the inquiry was Democrats' way to "weaponize politics," and now it looks like the president is pushing back.
On Tuesday, Oct. 8, the White House announced that it will not cooperate with the impeachment investigation against President Trump, and refused to turn over requested documents concerning Ukraine to the House Intelligence Committee. In a statement, the White House accused the Democratic Party of violating the Constitution and attempting to override the results of the 2016 presidential election by continuing the impeachment inquiry. Grisham claimed in the statement that the inquiry is "being held behind closed doors and den[ies] the President the right to call witnesses, to cross-examine witnesses, to have access to evidence." The statement also states that White House counsel Pat Cipollone sent a letter to Pelosi and House Intelligence Chairmen Eliot Engel, Adam Schiff, and Elijah Cummings announcing the administration's decision. A part of the statement read,
[T]he Democrats’ inquiry lacks any legitimate constitutional foundation, any pretense of fairness, and even the most elementary due process protections. ... For these reasons, the Executive Branch cannot be expected to, and will not participate in, this exercise of partisan political theater.
Elite Daily reached out to the White House for further comment on the letter, but did not hear back in time for publication.
It appears that the Trump administration isn't letting this impeachment inquiry happen without a fight. However, it's not entirely true that the inquiry lacks a "constitutional foundation." In fact, the Constitution directly gives Congress — and only Congress — the right to impeach a president. Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution says expressly, "The House of Representatives shall choose their speaker and other officers; and shall have the sole power of impeachment."
That doesn't meant the president has no recourse, either. Should the House vote to impeach a president, the president has the right to a trial in the Senate, which has (also per the Constitution) the "sole power to try all impeachments." The trial, which is overseen by the chief justice of the Supreme Court, doesn't have the hard-and-fast set rules of a trial in any other federal court, but precedent indicates that both sides — prosecution and defense — will be allowed to bring and depose witnesses, per The New York Times.
So what can Congress do now? Per The Washington Post, Congress has the right to request pretty much any testimony it wants, and now that the Trump administration has denied to cooperate, Congress has the options of holding Trump in contempt, filing a civil lawsuit, or drafting an article of impeachment alleging obstruction of justice based solely on the White House's refusal to cooperate.
Democratic leaders have already indicated their support for the latter. On Oct. 8, Pelosi and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff voiced their opposition to the White House's decision. In an official statement, Pelosi called the letter from the president's lawyers "manifestly wrong." She continued,
Despite the White House’s stonewalling, we see a growing body of evidence that shows that President Trump abused his office and violated his oath to ‘protect, preserve and defend the Constitution.' 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.
Elite Daily reached out to the White House for response to Pelosi's statement, but did not hear back in time for publication.
Schiff responded to the White House's letter via Twitter.
Well, it appears that this impeachment process is about to get a whole lot trickier. Even if the White House won't cooperate, I doubt that'll stop House Democrats from continuing their investigation.