of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., left, speaks
with media members with Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash.,
after they spoke about lowering the cost of
prescription drug prices Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2019, at
Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.
WASHINGTON — The
U.S. Constitution gives the House "the sole power of
impeachment" — but it confers that authority
without an instruction manual.
Now comes the battle royal
over exactly what it means.
In vowing to halt all
cooperation with House Democrats' impeachment inquiry, the
White House on Tuesday labeled the investigation
"illegitimate" based on its own reading of the
Constitution's vague language.
In an eight-page letter,
White House counsel Pat Cipollone pointed to House Speaker
Nancy Pelosi's failure to call for an official vote to
proceed with the inquiry as grounds to claim the process a
"You have designed and
implemented your inquiry in a manner that violates
fundamental fairness and constitutionally mandated due
process," Cipollone wrote.
But Douglas Letter, a
lawyer for the House Judiciary Committee, told a federal
judge Tuesday that it's clear the House "sets its own
rules" on how the impeachment process will play out.
The White House document
lacked much in the way of legal arguments, seemingly
citing cable TV news appearances as often as case law. And
legal experts cast doubt upon its effectiveness.
"I think the goal of
this letter is to further inflame the president's
supporters and attempt to delegitimize the process in the
eyes of his supporters," said Stephen Vladeck, a law
professor at the University of Texas.
Courts have been
historically hesitant to step in as referee for
congressional oversight and impeachment. In 1993, the
Supreme Court held that impeachment was an issue for the
Congress and not the courts.
In that case, Walter Nixon,
a federal district judge who was removed from office,
sought to be reinstated and argued that the full Senate,
instead of a committee that was established to hear
testimony and collect evidence, should have heard the
evidence against him.
The court unanimously
rejected the challenge, finding impeachment is a function
of the legislature that the court had no authority over.
As for the current
challenge to impeachment, Vladeck said the White House
letter "does not strike me as an effort to provide
sober legal analysis."
Gregg Nunziata, a
Philadelphia attorney who previously served as general
counsel and policy adviser to Republican Sen. Marco Rubio,
said the White House's letter did not appear to be written
in a "traditional good-faith back and forth between
the legislative and executive branches."
He called it a "direct
assault on the very legitimacy of Congress' oversight
"The Founders very
deliberately chose to put the impeachment power in a
political branch rather the Supreme Court," Nunziata
told The Associated Press. "They wanted this to be a
political process and it is."
G. Pearson Cross, a
political science professor at the University of Louisiana
at Lafayette, said the letter appeared to act as nothing
more than an accelerant on a smoldering fire.
"It's a response that
seems to welcome a constitutional crisis rather than
defusing one or pointing toward some strategy that would
deescalate the situation," Cross said.
After two weeks of a
listless and unfocused response to the impeachment probe,
the White House letter amounted to a declaration of war.
It's a strategy that risks
further provoking Democrats in the impeachment probe,
setting up court challenges and the potential for
lawmakers to draw up an article of impeachment accusing
President Donald Trump of obstructing their
Democrats have said that if
the White House does not provide the information, they
could write an article of impeachment on obstruction of
It is unclear if Democrats
would wade into a lengthy legal fight with the
administration over documents and testimony or if they
would just move straight to considering articles of
Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who is leading
the Ukraine probe, has said Democrats will "have to
decide whether to litigate, or how to litigate."
But they don't want the
fight to drag on for months, as he said the Trump
administration seems to want to do.
A federal judge heard
arguments Tuesday on whether the House had undertaken a
formal impeachment inquiry despite not having taken an
official vote and whether it can be characterized, under
the law, as a "judicial proceeding."
The distinction matters
because while grand jury testimony is ordinarily secret,
one exception authorizes a judge to disclose it in
connection with a judicial proceeding. House Democrats are
seeking grand jury testimony from special counsel Robert
Mueller's Russia investigation as they conduct the
For 1st time, Joe Biden calls
for Trump to be impeached
Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice
President Joe Biden speaks at a campaign event,
Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019, in Rochester, N.H.
ROCHESTER, N.H. — Democratic
presidential candidate Joe Biden said Wednesday for the
first time that President Donald Trump must be impeached
for abusing the powers of his office to help his own
Biden made the remarks as part of a blistering 25-minute
speech in New Hampshire, departing from his usual
campaign pitch and signaling that he will aggressively
confront Trump as the president faces an impeachment
inquiry rooted in his unfounded accusations that the
former vice president and his son had nefarious dealings
Trump is "shooting holes in the Constitution," Biden
said, by asking foreign powers to find dirt on the
Bidens and then refusing to cooperate with the resulting
House impeachment inquiry.
"This is a president who has decided this nation doesn't
have the tools, the power, the political will" to punish
bad behavior, Biden said, cataloguing a litany of
Trump's actions that the former vice president said
The speech comes after two weeks of uneven responses
from Biden as he and his advisers debated internally the
best way to handle Trump's broadsides. Biden had
alternated between muted dismissals at a series of
fundraisers and more aggressive public displays, urging
reporters to "ask the right questions," promising he'd
beat Trump "like a drum" and using a campaign rally in
Reno, Nevada, to hammer the president. His New Hampshire
speech, though, was his most thorough, visible retort to
date, with his impeachment call timed at midday to
ensure that it carries the news cycle.
"He's not just testing us," Biden said. "He's laughing
Before Biden had concluded in New Hampshire, Trump
retorted via Twitter. "So pathetic," he wrote, to see
Biden calling for his impeachment. The president
maintained that he had done nothing wrong.
In a July 25 phone call to Ukraine's president, Trump
asked for "a favor" of investigating Biden and his son
Hunter, who previously served on the board of a
Ukrainian energy firm that had drawn scrutiny in that
country. A rough White House transcript of that call and
a related whistleblower complaint prompted House
Democrats to begin impeachment proceedings.
Without evidence, Trump insists Biden used his role as
vice president to protect his son from corruption
investigations when Biden pressed for the firing of the
top Ukrainian prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, during
President Barack Obama's second term. Ukrainian
officials, including one Shokin successor, have disputed
Trump's theories; the Obama administration's position
was supported by many other Western governments, who saw
Shokin as incompetent or corrupt.
Since the disclosure of Trump's Ukrainian telephone
call, the president has publicly suggested China should
investigate Hunter Biden's business dealings there,
comments that Biden noted came with Trump "standing in
front of reporters and cameras like I am at this
U.S. election law forbids soliciting or accepting
foreign aid in American elections. "It's stunning and
it's dangerous because it directly threatens our
democracy," Biden said of Trump's requests.
Biden on Wednesday again blasted Trump's "lies and
smears and distortions," saying the president peddles
them because he fears facing Biden in a general
"He's trying to create a campaign where truth and facts
are irrelevant," Biden said, adding that the spectacle
covers the president's "manifest incompetence."
But Trump advisers believe impeachment could help him
politically, energizing his base and leaving some
independents disenchanted with Democrats. The
administration, however, has made clear it will not
cooperate with Democrats on Capitol Hill and has been
resisting requests for documents and testimony from
administration officials — all while keeping up the
verbal assault on Biden.
"We're not going to let Donald Trump pick the Democratic
nominee for president," Biden declared. "I'm not going
to let him get away with it. He's picked a fight with
the wrong guy."
But even with Biden's more assertive posture, questions
remain about how Trump's tactics and the impeachment
proceedings affect the Democratic primary.
Some Biden aides see the episode as underscoring his
fundamental arguments about Trump, a point Biden himself
nodded toward in New Hampshire. "When I announced my
candidacy," he recalled, "I said I was running in order
to restore the soul of America. That wasn't hyperbole."
Yet his advisers point to the 2016 presidential
campaign, when Trump dominated media narratives of the
Republican primary and the general election against
Democrat Hillary Clinton with a barrage of attacks on
his opponents that forced them to campaign on his terms.
And they know the impeachment inquiry could last months
— and potentially never result in the Republican-led
Senate removing Trump from office even if the
Democratic-led House impeaches him.
In his speech, Biden noticeably did not mention the
Senate or its potential role in deciding Trump's fate.
But he did pledge not to campaign exclusively on Trump's
turf, saying he wouldn't be distracted.
"None of these attacks are true, and I'm going to stay
focused on your lives. That's what this election is
about," he said, adding that the country "can't wait"
for action on health care, education, gun regulations
and the climate crisis. "The world can't wait for
America once again to lead a stable, peaceful
Biden got an enthusiastic reception, including from some
New Hampshire voters who hadn't considered him their top
choice in the nation's first presidential primary state.
"He spoke with conviction. He answered some of Trump's
charges, and he got some good shots in at Trump," said
Bill Hurley, a 71-year-old Democrat who named Biden his
second choice behind Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
One undecided voter, Virginia Schonwald, a 63-year-old
retired school librarian, said she Biden was "very
fact-based and that he was forceful." She said she's now
considering voting for Biden in the Democratic primary.
"I don't think I was when I got here," she said. "His
speech made me more confident about him as a candidate."
state senators running for Congress stand by Trump
MADISON — Republican
state senators running for Congress in Wisconsin are
standing by President Donald Trump as Democrats launch
But Senate Majority
Leader Scott Fitzgerald and state Sen. Tom Tiffany
said Tuesday they continue to support the president.
Fitzgerald is running for the 5th Congressional
District while Tiffany is a candidate in the 7th
Fitzgerald calls the
impeachment inquiry a "political witch
Tiffany says Democrats
were needlessly conducting an impeachment inquiry.
Trump's call for China to investigate political rival
and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.
Fitzgerald says Trump said it "off the cuff"
and "I don't know that anyone would take it
The impeachment inquiry
is also looking into efforts Trump made to get Ukraine
to investigate Biden.
Fitzgerald says he
thinks Trump's telephone call with Ukraine's president
"was within the purview of what a president of
the United States should be able to do with any