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White House Claims Trump Impeachment Inquiry Violates Procedure

October 4, 2019, 7:21 PM UTC

The Trump administration is expected to formally object to the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry as soon as today, saying it won’t cooperate with the probe of President Donald Trump because it was initiated without a vote of the House.

The White House Counsel’s Office is preparing to send a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi objecting to the form of the impeachment investigation, a person familiar with the matter said late Thursday, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the letter before its dissemination.

Pelosi last week announced the House was beginning the formal inquiry but didn’t seek the consent of the full chamber, as was done for impeachment investigations into former Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.

Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal attorney, confirmed the letter was forthcoming.

At the same time, Trump is acknowledging that Democrats in the House have the votes to begin a formal impeachment inquiry into his conduct, initially disclosed by an intelligence community whistleblower. At issue are accusations he withheld U.S. aid to the Ukraine until the country’s leader agreed to investigate the president’s political rival Joe Biden.

While “Republicans have been very unified,” Trump told reporters at the White House, the “Democrats, unfortunately, they have the votes.”

But he’s insisting the move will backfire on the party, saying: “I really believe that they’re going to pay a tremendous price at the polls.”

Trump continues to deny there was any quid pro quo as he sought the Ukrainian investigation of Biden, and says he didn’t do it for political purposes.

Trump said: “We are looking at corruption, we’re not looking at politics.”

He added: “I believe there was tremendous corruption with Biden.”

However, text messages from U.S. diplomats, released late Thursday by the House intelligence committee, indicates Trump wanted to withhold millions of dollars in U.S. aid to the Ukraine until the country agreed to investigate the Bidens. 

Trump’s China and Ukraine requests

Trump said his asking the Ukraine, as well as China, to launch probes into the former vice president and 2020 Democratic hopeful, wasn’t political, because “I never thought Biden was going to win” the primary, the president said. Trump argues his motivations were that of rooting out corruption: “I actually feel I have an obligation to do that.”

Trump also said his request to China regarding a Biden inquiry will have no bearing on upcoming high-stakes trade talks with the nation. “One thing has absolutely nothing to do with the other,” Trump told reporters, noting he believes China wants to make a deal to end the two countries’ protracted trade war.

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow concurred with Trump, saying he “seriously” doubts the president’s call for China to investigate Biden will play a role in upcoming trade negotiations. “I seriously doubt that that is going to be part of the talks,” Kudlow said.

Kudlow also says he’s unaware of the contents of a June phone call between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping in which CNN reports Trump brought up the political prospects of both Biden and Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who’s also running for president.

Kudlow is calling the call and questions about the president’s conduct “way out of my lane.”

More must-read stories from Fortune:

—Why the ouster of U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine is seen in new light with impeachment inquiry
A running list of questions on the impeachment inquiry, answered
—Sizing up a roster of impeachment managers
—12 candidates qualify for October Democratic presidential debate
—How whistleblowers have taken down titans of American business
25 most powerful women in politics
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