"He must be brought forward to testify," President Donald Trump fumed on Twitter on Monday, regarding the whistleblower who revealed the president's corrupt attempts to extort political favors from Ukraine. "Written answers not acceptable!"
The president considered written answers more than adequate when special counsel Robert Mueller sought information from Trump during the Justice Department's Russia investigation. More to the point, if Trump were interested in fact-finding and truth-telling, rather than distracting from the substance of the charges against him, he would provide documents and encourage all relevant witnesses to testify. Instead, administration officials are refusing to testify before the House Intelligence Committee - officials who likely have firsthand knowledge crucial to the House's impeachment inquiry.
Robert Blair, an aide to acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, was on the call during which Trump pressed Ukraine's president to investigate former vice president Joe Biden. John Eisenberg, a National Security Council lawyer, reportedly suggested limiting access to the transcript of that call and told others not to discuss it. Russell Vought, the acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, might shed light on Trump's peremptory suspension of military aid to Ukraine, an act that appears to have been an element in the president's corrupt pressure campaign.
These no-shows are just the latest examples of the contemptuous war Trump and his allies have waged on Congress and its legitimate, constitutional oversight role, starting well before the impeachment inquiry. Even when Republicans controlled both chambers, former White House adviser Steve Bannon absurdly claimed executive privilege to refuse to answer congressional questions. A White House lawyer in June stopped former Trump aide Hope Hicks from answering even basic queries, on the lawless argument that the onetime presidential assistant had absolute immunity from testifying. That is the same basis on which government lawyers claim former White House counsel Donald McGahn and former deputy national security adviser Charles Kupperman bear no duty to testify before Congress.
Judges will almost certainly dismiss these arguments, but likely too late for their ruling to be useful to the House impeachment inquiry. The record already contains damning evidence of Trump's misconduct, but the public deserves to learn the full story - and the public servants who participated in these events have a duty to recount what they know.
The White House's excuse for total non-cooperation was that the House had not voted to authorize the impeachment inquiry or offered the president certain procedural rights. Neither was required under the Constitution, but the House nevertheless has now voted for an inquiry and has provided the president rights like those accorded chief executives during previous impeachment efforts. Not surprisingly, neither action led to better cooperation. Trump's defiance is revealed all the more sharply as brazen contempt for the constitutional order.
This editorial is the opinion of The Washington Post's editorial board.