The Trump administration has started to circle the wagons by formally refusing to cooperate with investigations led by Democrats that could pave the way to impeachment. But the White House’s strategy could prove risky, especially if Democrats are successful in characterizing it as an effort to obstruct justice.
The White House plans to formally stonewall Congress, setting up a constitutional clash.
In a letter sent on Tuesday evening, the top lawyer for the White House said that the president and his administration will not participate in ongoing investigations run by House Democratic leaders. The letter also dismissed Democrats’ efforts to gather information about Mr. Trump’s dealings with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine as partisan and illegitimate.
The standoff sets up a clash between two branches of government, and forces Democrats to consider how and whether to move forward with impeachment.
Mr. Trump on Wednesday continued to dismiss the whistle-blower’s claims at the heart of the impeachment investigation, saying on Twitter that he was owed an apology by the whistle-blower.
Emails show U.S. diplomats were advised to down play the release of Ukraine aid when it was approved.
American diplomats who had pushed for the Trump administration to restore security funding to Ukraine were advised by the White House to play down the release of the money when it was finally approved, documents show.
“Keep moving, people, nothing to see here …” Brad Freden, the State Department’s acting deputy assistant secretary overseeing issues in Europe and Eurasia, wrote in a Sept. 12 email obtained by The New York Times.
He said the National Security Council would not publicly announce that $141 million in State Department assistance was being restored after being held up in what the White House described as a normal review.
The money — $391 million in funding — is now at the heart of the impeachment inquiry into whether Mr. Trump withheld the funds as part of his pressure campaign on Ukraine.
— Lara Jakes
Trump’s Ukraine call was “crazy” and “frightening,” a White House official said the next day, according to the whistle-blower.
As The Times’s Nicholas Fandos reported on Tuesday, a White House official who listened to Mr. Trump’s July phone call with Ukraine’s leader described it as “crazy,” “frightening,” and “completely lacking in substance related to national security,” according to a memo written by the whistle-blower at the center of the Ukraine scandal who spoke to the official.
The White House official was “visibly shaken by what had transpired,” the whistle-blower, a C.I.A. officer, wrote in his memo, one day after Mr. Trump pressured Mr. Zelensky.
A palpable sense of concern had already taken hold among at least some in the White House that the call had veered well outside the bounds of traditional diplomacy, the officer wrote.
“The official stated that there was already a conversation underway with White House lawyers about how to handle the discussion because, in the official’s view, the president had clearly committed a criminal act by urging a foreign power to investigate a U.S. person for the purposes of advancing his own re-election bid in 2020,” the C.I.A. officer wrote.
Catch up on impeachment: What you need to know about the inquiry.
President Trump repeatedly pressured President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to investigate people and issues of political concern to Mr. Trump, including former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. Here’s a timeline of events since January.
A C.I.A. officer who was once detailed to the White House filed a whistle-blower complaint on Mr. Trump’s interactions with Mr. Zelensky. Read the complaint.