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White House complaints over Pelosi not holding a vote for inquiry is just a dodge

Attorney Scott Pilutik wrestles with the news of the day, from a lawyerly perspective…

The crux of the White House’s impeachment push-back (as expressed in yesterday’s Pat Cipollone letter) is that the House’s inquiry is illegitimate because it didn’t vote to conduct an impeachment inquiry, which robs Trump’s of his due process rights. There have been votes in the past prior to “official” impeachment inquiries in the House.

A few notes on that.

There is no requirement (either in the Constitution or House rules) that the House conduct a vote in order to proceed with an impeachment inquiry. The executive branch doesn’t get to define the legislative branch’s process.


When the House took up a vote on Clinton they were in receipt of a dense report by independent counsel Ken Starr; the House’s inquiry was only a formality at that point. Here, the House is starting from scratch.

Clinton had no right to, say, cross-examine Linda Tripp at the inquiry stage. After the articles of impeachment are voted on, they’re sent to the Senate which conducts a trial. It’s there that the accused’s due process rights kick in. It’s axiomatic that in all investigation contexts, whether criminal or impeachment, the accused has fewer rights at the evidence collecting phase.

Here’s everything you need to know about procedure and impeachment. Everything flows through these two constitutional clauses:

“The House of Representatives shall choose their speaker and other officers; and shall have the sole power of impeachment.”

“The Senate shall have the sole power to try all impeachments. When sitting for that purpose, they shall be on oath or affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no person shall be convicted without the concurrence of two thirds of the members present.”

The House gets to determine its rules. No court is going to tell them they needed to conduct a vote. Pelosi’s having said that it is an official inquiry is all that’s required.

We also all know that even if the House conducted a vote to conduct an impeachment inquiry, the White House would just find some other irrelevant basis to not participate. The Cipollone letter makes a lot over supposed coordination between the whistleblower and Adam Schiff prior to filing the complaint, as if that somehow undermined the legitimacy of the complaint itself (the contents of which are not only unrefuted but perfectly track the call summary and the texts provided by Volker). I mean, does anyone honestly think that if the Democrats conducted a vote tomorrow the White House would suddenly start honoring subpoenas?

Good piece by Greg Sargent here blowing up the White House’s talking points. (1) the call wasn’t “perfect” because immediately after it was made White House officials tried to bury it; (2) Trump continues to contradict what the call summary they released actually says and what; (3) the texts released by Volker actually say about Trump pressuring Zelensky; (4) the call summary itself is quite possibly heavily edited (read out, the call summary is 10 minutes long but the call itself is recorded as taking a half hour); and (5) the White House’s blocking Sondland’s testimony.

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