Trump slams 'witch hunt' after House impeachment vote

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump faces high stakes in meeting with Erdoğan amid impeachment drama Democrats worry they don't have right candidate to beat Trump Trump threatening to fire Mulvaney: report MORE and the White House on Thursday blasted a House vote to formalize an ongoing impeachment inquiry into his alleged abuse of power as a "witch hunt" and "unhinged."

In a tweet sent immediately after the vote Thursday morning, Trump declared the impeachment probe “The Greatest Witch Hunt In American History” — echoing language he has often used to describe the impeachment inquiry and special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSpeier says impeachment inquiry shows 'very strong case of bribery' by Trump Gowdy: I '100 percent' still believe public congressional hearings are 'a circus' Comey: Mueller 'didn't succeed in his mission because there was inadequate transparency' MORE’s Russia investigation before that.

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White House press secretary Stephanie GrishamStephanie GrishamPublisher: Record number of pre-orders for 'Anonymous' book White House struggles to get in sync on impeachment White House press secretary says Trump will decide when she holds first press briefing MORE, in a separate statement also issued moments after the vote, derided “Democrats’ unhinged obsession with this illegitimate impeachment proceeding.” She cast the inquiry as “fundamentally un-American” and argued that Democrats were wasting time on “a sham impeachment at the expense of the administration’s policy priorities, like trade and border security."

The Trump campaign also issued an immediate response, accusing Democrats of an “illegitimate” effort “to remove a duly-elected president for strictly political reasons.” 

The House on Thursday morning voted 232-196 in favor of advancing impeachment inquiry procedures. Republicans were unanimous in opposing the resolution, and two Democrats voted against it.

The vote sets the stage for a public phase of impeachment proceedings related to the Trump administration’s policy on Ukraine, and will force the White House’s hand on whether anything might compel it to cooperate with the investigation after it spent recent weeks decrying the lack of transparency in the process thus far.

The resolution also gives Republicans the ability to request documents and testimony and issue subpoenas, though Democrats reserve the right to veto their demands.

Democrats’ impeachment inquiry centers on a July 25 phone call during which Trump asked Ukraine’s president to “look into” former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenDemocrats worry they don't have right candidate to beat Trump Trump threatening to fire Mulvaney: report Giuliani pens op-ed slamming 'unprecedented' impeachment inquiry MORE and his son Hunter Biden’s business dealings in Ukraine, a contact that triggered an intelligence community whistleblower complaint alleging the president solicited foreign election interference. Trump has insisted the call was “perfect” and about fighting corruption in Ukraine, not politics.

The White House has refused to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry since Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiGiuliani pens op-ed slamming 'unprecedented' impeachment inquiry Brindisi, Lamb recommended for Armed Services, Transportation Committees Overnight Health Care: Top health official defends contract payments to Trump allies | Vaping advocates confident Trump will turn from flavor ban | Sanders gets endorsement from nurses union MORE (D-Calif.) announced it just over five weeks ago. The White House has cast the probe as illegitimate and unconstitutional, accusing Democrats of not affording Trump due process and flouting past precedent by failing to hold a vote to formalize the investigation. Trump and his GOP allies have also criticized House Democrats for holding closed-door depositions as part of the first phase of the inquiry.

But Thursday’s vote did little to sway the White House toward cooperating. The president’s allies have in recent days dismissed the House resolution as failing to give Trump proper due process rights and arguing that the proceedings are undermined by the weeks of closed-door testimony that preceded it.

Grisham said Thursday that the vote merely “enshrine[d] unacceptable violations of due process into House rules.” 

“Speaker Pelosi, [Intelligence Committee] Chairman [Adam] Schiff and the Democrats conducted secret, behind-closed-door meetings, blocked the Administration from participating, and have now voted to authorize a second round of hearings that still fails to provide any due process whatsoever to the Administration,” Grisham said.

“The Democrats want to render a verdict without giving the Administration a chance to mount a defense. That is unfair, unconstitutional, and fundamentally un-American,” she continued.

While much of Thursday’s rapid reaction hammered Democrats over the process details of the resolution, Trump has increasingly urged his GOP allies to defend him against impeachment on the merits of his case.

“Republicans are very unified and energized in our fight on the Impeachment Hoax with the Do Nothing Democrats, and now  are starting to go after the Substance even more than the very infair Process,” Trump tweeted Wednesday.

But arguing the president’s case on substance has proven difficult for some members.

A White House rough transcript of Trump’s July 25 call with the Ukrainian president, a whistleblower complaint about the call and private testimony from current and former administration officials has combined to paint a damaging portrait of the president pressuring a foreign government to look into his domestic political rivals.

The White House has faced pressure from some outside allies to formulate a more coordinated response to counter impeachment. Trump, through his Twitter feed, campaign rallies and other public appearances, has largely taken the lead on countermessaging impeachment, though some argue the White House needs to adopt a more strategic approach in the face of the fast-moving inquiry.

White House efforts to block witnesses from testimony have also, for the most part, been unsuccessful, as Democrats have ushered in a number of current and former officials — both career and political appointees — to deliver private testimony under subpoena.