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White House damns impeachment probe

PELOSI—You are not above the law

The White House has said it will not cooperate with an impeachment investigation into President Donald Trump, labelling the process partisan, illegitimate and unconstitutional as it blocked an ambassador from giving evidence to the inquiry.

In a fiery eight-page letter, White House counsel Pat Cipollone claimed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the chairmen of three congressional panels leading the inquiry simply wanted to remove Trump from office.

“Put simply, you seek to overturn the results of the 2016 election and deprive the American people of the president they have freely chosen,” Cipollone wrote.

“Your inquiry lacks any legitimate constitutional foundation, any pretence of fairness, or even the most elementary due process protections,” he said of the inquiry, which is weighing whether Trump abused his office by seeking a corruption probe in Ukraine of his rival Joe Biden.

“President Trump cannot permit his administration to participate in this partisan inquiry under these circumstances.”

Pelosi fired back, calling the letter “manifestly wrong” and describing it as “another unlawful attempt to hide the facts.”

“Mr President, you are not above the law. You will be held accountable,” she said, warning 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.”

Pelosi formally launched the impeachment inquiry last month after revelations that Trump pressured Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky in a July 25 phone call.

The stand-off risks a constitutional crisis, with the potential for a court showdown just as the US gears up for the 2020 election.

The House of Representatives launched an official impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump last month after he encouraged a foreign leader to conduct a probe that could damage a political rival.

The White House letter followed Trump’s move to bar a key witness, Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, from speaking to Congress — calling it a “totally compromised kangaroo court.”

“It is an obstruction of the clear constitutional right and responsibility of Congress to investigate the executive branch,” Jeff Hauser, a lawyer and executive director of the Revolving Door Project at the Centre for Economic and Policy Research, told Al Jazeera.

“Congress is the only organ of government that has the clear right to remove a high official including the president and if their ability to do that is being impeded by the president and if their ability to investigate misconduct by the president and his team is being impeded that is clearly, in and of itself, impeachable behaviour.”

In response to Trump’s move, Democrats issued Sondland, a Trump donor who only started in his job in the EU in July, with a subpoena that “compels” him to appear on October 16.—Al Jazeera

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