Trump fully defies House impeachment inquiry

White House lawyers called the inquiry unconstitutional in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, but Democrats are still issuing new subpoenas.
5:38 | 10/09/19

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Transcript for Trump fully defies House impeachment inquiry
Thousand to that dramatic escalation in the impeachment showdown. President trump has decided to fully defy the investigation refusing to cooperate in any way. His lawyers now calling the inquiry unconstitutional. Democrats are undeterred issuing new subpoenas. Cecilia Vega tracking all the latest from the white house. Good morning, Cecilia. Reporter: Hey, George, good morning to you. The white house strategy on fighting this impeachment had been unclear until now. They are calling this an affront to the constitution but this is not stopping Democrats. This morning, the white house defiant, the trump administration declaring in this eight-page letter to house Democrats that it will not cooperate with the impeachment inquiry blasting it as baseless, dangerous, illegitimate and unconstitutional. A lawyer for the president writing, because participating in this inquiry under the current unconstitutional posture would inflict lasting institutional harm on the executive branch and lasting damage to the separation of powers, you have left the president no choice. The move setting up a showdown between the white house and congress. Overnight house speaker Nancy Pelosi saying the white house letter is only the latest attempt to cover up his betrayal of our democracy and to insist that the president is above the law. Both sides now gearing up for a long fight. The president can do that but it's not going to change the outcome but increase the outcome of him being formally impeached by the house. The only place where we had trials like this is in the soviet union and that's what the Democrats are trying to do. Reporter: The white house letter came just hours after the state department blocked a key witness from testifying. Ambassador to the eu, Gordon sondland. President trump said he would have loved sondland to testify, but, quote, unfortunately he would be testifying before a totally compromised kangaroo his Republican allies right there with him. What we see in this impeachment is a kangaroo court and chairman Schiff is acting like a malicious captain kangaroo. Reporter: Democrats say it all amounts to obstruction. The failure to produce this witness, the failure to produce these documents we consider yet additional strong evidence of obstruction. Reporter: And another twist in all this. ABC news has learned that the whistle-blower at the center of it all had a conversation with a white house official after that phone call, the person had listened in on the phone call between president trump and the president of Ukraine. This whistle-blower wrote a two-page memo. In it he says this official from the white house was visibly shaken and described the call as crazy and frightening. The memo is now in the hands of the inspector general and, George, this is really just upping the Democrats' desire to hear from that whistle-blower and so many others. Yeah, we don't know if the white house official is the second whistle-blower that has come forward. The Democrats do have other witnesses scheduled to testify and they do have those subpoenas out there. Reporter: Yeah, they are still moving ahead full force on this one, George, in spite of that letter from the white house as you said, Democrats issued a subpoena compelling Gordon sondland, the ambassador to the eu, a key witness in this to testify next week. The former ambassador to the Ukraine is also on the calendar to testify on Friday, and you know this, the president's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, he is now indicating that he will refuse to show up. Okay, Cecilia, thanks very much. More on this from Dan Abrams. Impeachment is a political, not a legal process and this letter from the white house, more a little letter than a legal document. They try to use legal language in there, et cetera, but, look, no president who's faced impeachment has liked it, right, from Nixon to Clinton to Andrew Johnson, they've all talked about how unfair it is. They've all argued that congress is overstepping, that this is political. And yet -- The others cooperate -- In the end either by a court order or based on agreeing to doing it so in the end, the president and the administration don't get to decide do we want to cooperate? This isn't voluntary. They're going to be court orders. They are going to say to some degree that there has to be cooperation. Exactly what does that mean? Which subpoenas potentially wouldn't have to be adhered to, we'll have to see, but, remember, you don't even need an impeachment inquiry to force a lot of these people to testify. Congress can simply subpoena them and say it's part of our oversight role. It only increases congress' hand. Would it be strengthened even more with the Democrats even though it's not required to pass a formal resolution? Sure, sure, a vote would help them. It would certainly help when you talk about it -- it would help them in the court of public opinion to say, yes, there was a vote just like all the other impeachment proceedings, there was this up-or-down vote. The difference here is that one of the main reasons that you wanted this vote in past cases was to give you subpoena power. Unilateral subpoena power. The republican-led congress changed the rules since the Clinton impeachment to say, congress has that unilateral subpoena power so they now don't need that vote to get the subpoena power. And the Republicans are not complaining about something they created but meantime, at minimum with the white house strategy gets them is delay and -- Yeah. Of the witnesses and they seem to have made the political calculation that revealing this information quickly costs more than the charge of cover-up? That's right. Look, this is why you have to look at the pulse. You have to see where the American public is going with regard to how both the Democrats and the Republicans are acting. And support for impeachment has been climbing. Yeah. Thanks very much.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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