White House plans to spurn Democrats’ request for documents in impeachment inquiry

WASHINGTON — The White House is planning to spurn Democrats’ request for documents sought as part of their impeachment inquiry as administration aides scramble to calibrate a legal response strategy.

White House lawyers plan to argue that until there is a formal vote by the House to begin impeachment proceedings, Congress doesn’t have the right to the information, said people familiar with the discussions.

“Well, we’ll be issuing a letter,” President Donald Trump told reporters as he departed the White House Friday. Asked whether he was going to cooperate with any House subpoenas, Trump was noncommittal. “I don’t know, that’s up to the lawyers,” he said.

Trump had said Thursday he would leave the decision up to the lawyers on whether to cooperate with the congressional investigation into whether he used the power of his office to pressure Ukraine to investigate 2020 rival Joe Biden.

House Democrats have said they would subpoena White House officials by Friday if their demands were not met. Democrats said the panels would not consider contempt or any other penalties for noncompliance, and that White House failure to produce the documents would instead be used as evidence of obstruction for impeachment.

It was unclear what the White House was basing its legal argument on; the congressional rules manual leaders typically follow makes no mention of a vote being required, and there is no constitutional requirement for such an action. A White House spokesman declined to comment.

While Democrats in Congress have said in the past a formal vote would be needed to initiate an impeachment probe, they have denied in recent days that it is a prerequisite for the White House to have to comply with their inquiry.

Even without White House cooperation, Democrats have been amassing a growing body of evidence related to their case.

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