The latest on the Trump impeachment inquiry
A source familiar with impeachment deliberations said the President’s legal team is prepared for the current battle to go to the courts.
“All options are on the table,” the source said.
The source declined to describe its letter today as going to “war” with House Democrats. But the source agreed it’s an “escalating skirmish.”
About the letter: The White House sent a blistering letter to congressional Democrats today. In it, President Trump's lawyers said the President and his administration won't cooperate in an ongoing impeachment inquiry, arguing the proceedings amount to an illegitimate effort to overturn the 2016 election results.
Republican presidential candidate and former South Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford reacted tonight to a letter the White House sent to House Democrats.
"Whether one likes it or not, the Legislative Branch has oversight power on the Executive Branch," the South Carolina Republican tweeted. "@realDonaldTrump should trust the American people to see the truth if there is nothing to hide..."
In the letter to the House, the White House claims Trump's due process rights have been circumvented without a vote, and that Trump has no choice but to not cooperate. The letter also makes clear the administration will continue to reject requests from Democrats if the proceedings continue in their current fashion.
President Trump directed Secretary of Energy Rick Perry and two top State Department officials to deal with his private attorney Rudy Giuliani when the Ukrainian president sought to meet Trump in a clear circumvention of official channels, according to two sources familiar with the conversation.
Trump believed the country was still rampantly corrupt and said that if Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky wanted to meet with him, Giuliani would have to be convinced first, one source said.
"If they can satisfy Rudy, they can satisfy the President," a person familiar with the meeting said.
Trump's push to have Giuliani — his personal attorney — as gatekeeper is more direct than what was previously disclosed by one of the meeting's participants in his statement to the House last week. It also further demonstrates how significant Giuliani was in brokering access to the President regarding Ukraine policy and in passing messages to other administration officials.
A key accusation in the whistleblower's complaint that has prompted the impeachment probe into the President's dealings with Ukraine is that Giuliani, a private citizen, had been presenting to Ukraine a US policy different than that from US diplomats.
At the May 23 meeting, Perry, US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland and Kurt Volker, the State Department's special representative to Ukraine, were reporting back to Trump after they returned from Zelensky's inauguration.
Their goal was to tell Trump that they had a favorable impression of Zelensky and his government, and that he was a reformer who Trump should trust and engage with, according to three sources familiar with the meeting.
Trey Gowdy, a former congressman and an ex-federal prosecutor, is expected to work with the White House from the outside as counsel, two sources tell CNN.
As of now, he is not expected to join the administration.
CNN was first to report the White House reached out to him to help with the impeachment fight. Gowdy was at the White House today and met with chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, an additional official said.
Here are some of the latest developments in the impeachment inquiry into President Trump:
- White House letter: The White House sent a blistering letter to congressional Democrats this afternoon. In it, Trump's lawyers said the President and his administration won't cooperate in an ongoing impeachment inquiry, arguing the proceedings amount to an illegitimate effort to overturn the 2016 election results.
- Subpoena issued: House Democrats issued a subpoena for US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland after the State Department directed him not to testify before Congress this morning. The subpoena demanded Sondland turn over documents by Oct. 14, and appear for a deposition on Oct. 16.
- Focus on another Trump phone call: CNN reports that Sondland called Trump to find out what was going on after the top US diplomat in Ukraine, Bill Taylor, raised concerns in a text to Sondland about withholding assistance, according to a source with knowledge. Trump emphatically told him no quid pro quo, the source said.
- Giuliani invited to the Hill: Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham extended an invitation to Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee. In a tweet, Graham said he has "heard on numerous occasions disturbing allegations by [Giuliani] about corruption in Ukraine." In response to the invite, Giuliani told CNN: “Love Lindsey, but I am still a lawyer and I will have to deal with privilege.”
- The Ukraine call: A White House official who listened in on Trump's July call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky characterized the conversation as "crazy," "frightening" and was described as "shaken" by the call, according to a memo written by the whistleblower behind the recent intelligence community report about the conversation flagged to Congress.
The three chairmen leading the investigation into President Trump's phone call with Ukraine's president issued a subpoena today for US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland.
The subpoena requires Sondland to "testify at a deposition next Wednesday and to produce documents recovered from his personal devices before the deposition," according to the chairmen's statement.
Sondland was scheduled to testify before three House committees today, but the State Department blocked him from talking to Congress. Sondland's attorney Robert Luskin said he had no choice but to comply.
“He is a sitting ambassador and employee of State and is required to follow their direction,” Luskin said this morning.
In the White House's letter to congressional Democrats, President Trump's lawyers said the President and his administration won't cooperate in an ongoing impeachment inquiry, arguing the proceedings amount to an illegitimate effort to overturn the 2016 election results.
In the letter to the House, the White House claims Trump's due process rights have been circumvented without a vote, and that Trump has no choice but to not cooperate.
"For these reasons, President Trump and his Administration reject your baseless, unconstitutional efforts to overturn the democratic process. Your unprecedented actions have left the President with no choice. 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," the letter said.
A senior administration official declined to say how the White House would cooperate with the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives if a successful impeachment vote was held.
“I don’t want to speculate about what would happen in various hypothetical situations. You know, we’ll take this step by step. We have one concrete situation now that we’re confronting, we’ve addressed it. If the House wants to engage and alter the current circumstances then we’ll have to evaluate that as it goes along,” a senior administration official told reporters on a briefing call outlining the White House’s letter to the House today.
Asked again what the bar for the White House’s cooperation would be, the official said, “I’m not going to try to provide particular red lines or things like that... We’d have to see what the House wants to do to try to remedy” the flaws within its current process, as the White House counsel expressed in the letter.
The senior official also described the letter during the call, lamenting that the House’s current process “violates basic due process standards,” and criticizing the House’s process has containing “flaws denying fundamental fairness and due process contrary to all history and precedent in this country.”
The senior official said that the White House would not participate “under the current circumstances.”
“He cannot have an administration participate in this unconstitutional procedure, and that under the current circumstances, which is currently framed that he and his administration will not participate in this process,” the official said.
“I don’t want to try to predict” a future response, the official later reiterated, adding, “We’ll have to see how it develops.”
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham called the impeachment inquiry into President Trump “partisan proceedings” that are “an affront to the Constitution."
In a statement, Grisham slammed House Democrats, saying they are "pursuing purely partisan goals, including influencing the upcoming 2020 election.
Read her full statement:
"The President has done nothing wrong, and the Democrats know it. For purely political reasons, the Democrats have decided their desire to overturn the outcome of the 2016 election allows them to conduct a so-called impeachment inquiry that ignores the fundamental rights guaranteed to every American. These partisan proceedings are an affront to the Constitution — as they are being held behind closed doors and deny the President the right to call witnesses, to cross-examine witnesses, to have access to evidence, and many other basic rights.
Today, on behalf of President Donald J. Trump, Pat Cipollone, Counsel to the President, sent a letter to Speaker Pelosi and Chairmen Engel, Schiff, and Cummings. The letter demonstrates that the Democrats’ inquiry lacks any legitimate constitutional foundation, any pretense of fairness, and even the most elementary due process protections. Democrats are pursuing purely partisan goals, including influencing the upcoming 2020 election. In the process, they are violating civil liberties and the separation of powers, threatening Executive Branch officials with punishment simply for exercising their constitutional rights and prerogatives. All of this violates the Constitution, the rule of law, and every past precedent. For these reasons, the Executive Branch cannot be expected to, and will not participate in, this exercise of partisan political theater.
President Trump and his entire Administration will, however, keep fighting for the American people, growing the economy, building prosperity, and protecting America’s interests at home and abroad."