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White House counsel: No compliance with ‘illegitimate’ impeachment probe

Constitutional showdown begins over impeachment inquiry

The White House has notified the U.S. House of Representatives that the administration of President Donald Trump will not participate in what it is calling Democrats’ “illegitimate” impeachment probe.

White House Counsel Pat Cipollone wrote in a letter to House Democratic leaders Tuesday that their inquiry has been processed in a “manner that violates fundamental fairness and constitutionally mandated due process”, and “lacks any legitimate constitutional foundation” or “pretense of fairness.”

The letter comes the same day Trump intensified his fight with Congress by blocking Gordon Sondland, the U.S. European Union ambassador, from testifying behind closed doors about the president’s dealings with Ukraine.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff called Sondland’s no-show “additional strong evidence” of obstruction of Congress by Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that will only strengthen Democrats’ case.

The stances are the strongest signal yet of a potential Constitutional impasse and showdown between Trump and Congressional Democrats intent on investigating whether he tried to pressure Ukraine into assisting his reelection campaign, among other matters.

Earlier Tuesday, Sondland had been scheduled to face questions about the episode, the second time in as many weeks that lawmakers would have privately interviewed an ambassador about the president’s push to get Ukraine to investigate Democrat Joe Biden ahead of the 2020 presidential election.

Text messages released by House Democrats show Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, working with another of Trump’s envoys to get Ukraine to agree to investigate any potential interference in the 2016 U.S. election and also probe the energy company that appointed Biden’s son Hunter Biden to its board. In exchange, the American officials dangled the offer of a Washington meeting with Trump for Ukraine’s new president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

There has been no evidence of wrongdoing by Biden or his son.

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