WASHINGTON (AP) — 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 farce.
“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.