Experts see several possibilities. Either the Democratic-dominated House could go to court and try to force the White House to give up the information. Or the House could forge onward with investigating and impeaching controversial, divisive Republican President Trump. Or it could do both.
The path forward for the House was unclear Wednesday.
CNN reported that a growing number of Democrats felt that the lack of cooperation by the White House would bolster rather than hurt their case.
US Representative Gerry Connolly, a Virginia Democrat, said the transcript, whistle-blower complaint, and text messages that have already been publicly released as the scandal has rocked Washington are “so compelling” and “so damning” they tell the “complete story.”
“You know what you need to know from the documents that we already have,” he said. “It is why I think the stonewalling is counterproductive and ultimately futile. There are going to be more people coming forward irrespective of WH stonewalling. All it does is persuade the public . . . [the president] is resisting for a reason.”
House Democratic leaders are pushing to complete articles of impeachment by the end of next month, Bloomberg News reports.
The investigation can continue without cooperation from the White House, Chuck Rosenberg, former US attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, said on MSNBC-TV’s “Morning Joe” program.
He said investigators can follow other threads, finding “other places to go to get information,” including text messages and testimony from witnesses the White House can’t muzzle.
“It doesn’t mean the investigation comes to a dead halt,” he said.
Stephen Vladeck, a professor at the University of Texas School of Law, said on NPR’s “Alll Things Considered,” “Obviously, the Democrats can try to round up evidence and information . . . from other places, from other individuals, from folks who are not, you know — would not comply with a White House directive not to testify.”
The House could also go to court, where precedents set in a 1974 US Supreme Court case at the time of the Nixon impeachment inquiry could help it pry loose the information, legal experts said.
But House leaders have said they do not want to get bogged down in a long legal fight.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, who is leading the Trump-Ukraine probe, has said Democrats will ‘‘have to decide whether to litigate, or how to litigate.’’
“We’re not fooling around here,” Schiff said last week. “We don’t want this to drag on months and months and months, which appears to be the administration’s strategy.”
The House has another card to play. It could ultimately draw up an article of impeachment against the president for obstruction.
“The White House should be warned that continued efforts to hide the truth of the president’s abuse of power from the American people will be regarded as further evidence of obstruction,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement. “Mr. President, you are not above the law. You will be held accountable.”
Schiff tweeted that Trump’s refusal to cooperate with the inquiry signals an attitude that ‘‘the president is above the law.’’
‘‘The Constitution says otherwise,’’ he said.
Frank Bowman, a professor at the University of Missouri School of Law who is the author of “High Crimes and Misdemeanors: A History of Impeachment for the Age of Trump,” said, “A refusal to provide material requested by the House in an impeachment inquiry is itself an impeachable offense. That was certainly the conclusion of the Nixon Judiciary Committee, which approved as its third article of impeachment the charge that Nixon had unjustifiably refused to respond to Committee subpoenas.”
“Of course, this is a debatable point. Nixon’s Republican defenders resisted the idea and the third article passed the committee by the narrowest margin of the three. But I personally think the principle unassailable. If a president can refuse to provide information that, if provided, would form the basis of impeachment, but suffer no consequence, then impeachment becomes a toothless tiger, a useless constitutional appendage,” Bowman said in an e-mail.
Material from Globe wire services was used in this report.