White House

White House threatens to shut down legislative process during impeachment inquiry

Move comes after Speaker Pelosi accused president of a ‘breach of his Constitutional responsibilities’

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., departs from a meeting of the House chairmen to discuss impeachment in Speaker Pelosi’s office on Tuesday. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

Something might have finally ended Infrastructure Week: House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry.

Hours after Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a formal impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump after he admitted both discussing with Ukraine’s new president his desire for the country’s government to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden and holding up a military aid package to Kiev, his White House threatened to shut down work on major legislation.

[Pelosi announces formal impeachment inquiry, but leaves some questions]

Though it is the House and Senate that, under the Constitution, craft and pass bills, Trump holds ample sway because it is his call whether to sign them into law or kill them with a veto.

“House Democrats have destroyed any chances of legislative progress for the people of this country by continuing to focus all their energy on partisan political attacks. Their attacks on the President and his agenda are not only partisan and pathetic, they are in dereliction of their Constitutional duty,” White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement.

“Americans deserve elected officials who focus on key issues to improve the lives of families, strengthen our communities, grow our economy, and keep our country safe. In President Donald J. Trump they have someone who has not only focused on those goals, but delivered results,” Grisham added.

That came after Pelosi, while announcing the impeachment inquiry, cited media reports about Trump’s late-July call with Volodymyr Zelenskiy in which Trump has admitted discussing the Bidens. During the call, she said, “the president of the United States [was] calling upon a foreign power to intervene in his election.”

“This is a breach of his Constitutional responsibilities,” Pelosi said, adding the Trump administration is violating federal law by withholding information about an intelligence official’s formal complaint to an inspector general about a “promise” the whistleblower claims Trump made during the call.

“The law is unequivocal. The DNI, it says, the Director of National Intelligence ‘shall’ provide Congress the full whistleblower complaint,” said the speaker, who is a former House Intelligence Committee ranking member.

The evening White House statement was more clear than Trump’s own comment to reporters on the sidelines of a UN General Assembly meeting in New York.

Trump called the impeachment process “bad for the country” and signaled it could end any long shot hopes for major legislation to move during the inquiry — which comes as the 2020 election cycle is heating up.

“Then they all wonder why they don't get gun legislation done, then they wonder why they don’t get drug prices lowered,” Trump said. “Because all they do is talk nonsense. No more infrastructure bills, no more anything.”

House Democrats on Tuesday explained Pelosi’s move as one rooted in the law. But, as always, Trump appeared largely focused on politics.

“If she does that they all say that’s a positive for me in the election,” Trump said about an hour before the speaker’s announcement. “You could also say, ‘Who needs it? It’s bad for the country.”

Trump still intends to sign the stopgap spending bill the House approved last week and the Senate is expected to send to his desk soon, according to a source with knowledge of his thinking. Action is needed by Sept. 30 to avert another government shutdown.

"After that, you should ask the speaker what else she wants to get done," the source said, not responding to a question about the fate of the annual Pentagon policy bill, which is still awaiting final action by lawmakers. 

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