This week, the Trump administration escalated its efforts to stonewall a House impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump’s abuse of power regarding Ukraine, sending the House a letter refusing to cooperate with the “constitutionally invalid” inquiry. Fox News has adopted the White House’s inaccurate spin that the House investigation is illegitimate and invalid and therefore Trump is not required to cooperate.
On October 8, the White House sent House Democrats a letter explaining that the president will not cooperate with an investigation that “violates fundamental fairness and constitutionally mandated due process." White House counsel Pat Cipollone wrote that the Democrats are attempting to “overturn the results of the 2016 election” and called the inquiry “highly partisan and unconstitutional.” Cipollone argued that the impeachment inquiry “lacks the necessary authorization”; that Trump has not been granted due process; and that there is “no legitimate basis” for the inquiry because Trump released a memo summarizing the transcript of his July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
The White House’s letter shows that the Trump administration aims to misrepresent the process of impeachment in order to claim to voters that the inquiry is illegitimate and, therefore, he is not required to participate. Third Way's Mieke Eoyang explained that impeachments are not criminal trials but instead political processes and that the House Democrats are following normal procedures, playing a grand jury-like role.
The trial then takes place in the Senate, which is where the due process concerns discussed by Cipollone’s letter would be negotiated.
Ultimately, there is little to no legal basis for the White House’s argument; the constitution says little about procedural requirements for impeachment, as it is ultimately a political process that is determined by the House.
On Fox & Friends, Fox contributor Newt Gingrich said the president is “exactly right” to obstruct the inquiry because “what you are seeing is a three-year war, which really is an effort to have a coup against the Constitution by the Democrats in the House.” Gingrich added that “what Pelosi and company are doing is an absurdity,” concluding that “the president is absolutely justified in saying that he will not cooperate in any way.”
Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy falsely claimed that while “the House has the power to start impeachment proceedings, however the speaker does not have the privilege of declaring it all by herself.”
On her Fox show, host Laura Ingraham claimed the White House is “100% correct” because “this non-impeachment impeachment is not a constitutional undertaking; it’s a political hit job.”
On his Fox show, host Sean Hannity agreed with the White House’s position to “not cooperate with the unconstitutional, invalid, baseless inquiry.” Even though the trial occurs in the Senate, Hannity complained that there’s “no ability for the president’s lawyers to cross-examine witnesses,” “call witnesses,” or “enter evidence into the record.”
On Lou Dobbs Tonight, Fox contributor Ed Rollins asserted that the White House’s refusal to cooperate is “the best strategy of all.” He added that if he was a member of the House GOP, he “wouldn’t even show up for these hearings.” Host Lou Dobbs gave the White House credit for “lay[ing] it straight out” that the inquiry is “invalid, illegitimate, and to hell with you.” He concluded that “it’s just so nice to see the president stand up here and tell them exactly where they stand.”
Later in his show, Dobbs said that the House impeachment inquiry is “a determined effort … to deny the minority any of its traditional rights and anything approaching American values of fair play and due process.”