The Hill’s Morning Report
The impeachment inquiry battle kicked into overdrive on Tuesday as the White House declared it will not cooperate with the ongoing investigation by House Democrats, who responded by warning the White House that its lack of cooperation will be considered an act of obstruction as lawmakers move toward impeachment.
In a letter to House Democratic leaders and investigators, the White House counsel argued that the ongoing inquiry violated the president’s due process rights and that the executive branch will not provide any testimony or documents for the investigation. Although the White House largely cooperated with the special counsel’s Russia probe, with the exception of granting an interview with Trump, the eight-page letter sent on Tuesday contends that the House investigation violates the Constitution and “every past precedent.”
“Your unprecedented actions have left the president with no choice,” said Pat Cipollone, the top lawyer for the president and the presidency and the lone signatory of the letter. “In order to fulfill his duties to the American people, the Constitution, the Executive Branch, and all future occupants of the Office of the presidency, President Trump and his administration cannot participate in your partisan and unconstitutional inquiry under these circumstances,” Cipollone wrote (The Hill).
Hours later, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) fired back in a statement of her own, panning Trump for “trying to make lawlessness a virtue,” adding that he “will be held accountable.”
The New York Times: White House declares war on impeachment inquiry, alleging effort to undo Trump’s election.
Politico: The shelter-in-place strategy to survive Trump’s impeachment.
The new standoff came after the State Department blocked Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, from testifying before House investigators earlier in the day shortly before he was expected to do so (The Hill).
The move by State forced the hand of House Democrats, who responded in kind by issuing a subpoena for Sondland’s testimony. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) told reporters on Tuesday that the EU ambassador had messages on a personal device that the State Department is withholding from Congress, with Schiff issuing a formal subpoena on Tuesday evening.
The last-minute block of Sondland’s testimony caught Republican lawmakers off guard, with some going over to the White House to share their frustration over the lack of communication in advance (Bloomberg).
While lawmakers made the push, the White House attempted to beef up its impeachment legal team, including a push to bring former House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) on board. Reports were conflicted as of Tuesday evening about whether he officially accepted a role after meeting with Mick Mulvaney, acting White House chief of staff, on Tuesday, but some expect him to ultimately join the team in some fashion.
Elsewhere, more layers of the original whistleblower’s call were peeled back on Tuesday. According to ABC News, a White House official who listened in on the president’s infamous July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky described it as “crazy” and “frightening,” and was “visibly shaken” by the call’s contents, according to notes taken by the whistleblower after speaking with the official and others.
The notes were part of a two-page memo the whistleblower wrote a day after the call, during which Trump pressed Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.
In the Senate, Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) invited Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, to appear before the committee to testify about Ukraine, specifically pointing to the “corruption and other improprieties” that have taken place there.
Giuliani indicated he is “very interested” in doing so but may bow to a claim of executive privilege (Bloomberg). He added that he will not take part in Schiff’s investigation on the House side (The Washington Post). Bottom line: Giuliani’s sworn testimony about his role as one of Trump’s personal lawyers is highly unlikely.
On the political side, polls are showing troubling signs for the president as the impeachment inquiry picks up steam and only 13 months stand between him and Election Day. As Jonathan Easley reports, new surveys show that independents and a growing share of Republicans warming to the inquiry
While early shifts in support of impeachment appeared to be driven by Democrats, a Washington Post-Schar School poll released on Tuesday rocked Washington, finding that nearly 30 percent of Republicans said they support the investigation, while nearly 20 percent said they would support a Senate vote to remove the president if he is impeached in the House.
According to FiveThirtyEight’s average of polls, support for impeachment among Republicans has increased from 8 percent last month to 16.2 percent presently, while support among independents has leaped from 33.9 percent to 44.4 percent.