The U.S. House of Representatives will take a vote this week to formalize Democrats’ impeachment inquiry amid President Donald Trump’s criticism that the probe is “illegitimate.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says the step is being taken “to eliminate any doubt” about the process as the administration tries to block witnesses and withhold documents.
In a letter to colleagues on Monday, Pelosi said the resolution will “affirm the ongoing, existing investigation” and lay out procedures for open hearings and the next steps going forward. She dismissed the White House’s argument that impeachment isn’t happening without a formal vote, saying that “of course, this argument has no merit.”
The Constitution doesn’t require a vote to begin impeachment. But Trump and his Republican colleagues have cited the lack of one to say that the probe is not real. Trump used that argument in a lengthy letter to the House earlier this month saying that he wouldn’t cooperate.
Many government officials have cooperated with the inquiry despite Trump’s orders. But Pelosi’s letter comes as a national security official defied a House subpoena Monday, escalating the standoff between Congress and the White House over who will testify.
Charles Kupperman, who was a deputy to former national security adviser John Bolton, failed to show up for a scheduled closed-door deposition after filing a lawsuit asking a federal court in Washington to rule on whether he was legally required to appear. In a statement, Kupperman said he was awaiting “judicial clarity.”
House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff said Kupperman’s suit has “no basis in law” and speculated that the White House didn’t want him to testify because his testimony could be incriminating. Democrats are investigating Trump’s pressure on the Ukrainian government to pursue politically motivated investigations as the administration was also withholding military aid to the country.
“If this witness had something to say that would be helpful to the White House, they would’ve wanted him to come and testify,” Schiff told reporters. “They plainly don’t.”
Schiff said the three committees leading the impeachment inquiry will move forward, with or without testimony from Kupperman and other witnesses. Democrats have indicated that they are likely to use no-show witnesses to write an article of impeachment against Trump for obstruction of justice, rather than launching potentially lengthy court battles to obtain testimony.
“We are not willing to allow the White House to engage us in a lengthy game of rope-a-dope in the courts, so we will move forward,” Schiff said.