Republicans dare Pelosi to hold impeachment vote

Republicans are daring House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to hold a formal impeachment vote against President Donald Trump, new Republican National Committee talking points obtained by CNN indicate.

The talking points don’t appear to defend the President’s behavior on a call flagged in a whistleblower complaint that is now at the center of the impeachment inquiry, which indicated that Trump asked Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden’s family over baseless corruption claims.

The talking points also do not address the text messages released on Thursday between US diplomats and a senior Ukrainian aide showing how a potential Ukrainian investigation into the 2016 election was linked to a desired meeting between Zelensky and Trump.

Though the RNC talking points hit at the credibility of the whistleblower, the whistleblower’s allegations have, so far, matched what intelligence officials have found.

In addition, the talking points do not address new reporting indicating that Trump similarly talked about Biden and another presidential rival, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, on a June 18 call with Chinese President Xi Jinping. He raised their political prospects, according to two people familiar with the discussion. In that call, Trump also told Xi he would remain quiet on Hong Kong protests as trade talks progressed.

Among the talking points is the point that Democrats are refusing to hold an impeachment inquiry vote on the House floor, a point made in recent days from high-profile Republican lawmakers. The full House voted to authorize impeachment inquiries for Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.

But Democrats say there’s nothing in the rules or the Constitution requiring such a vote, and the current House rules give the committees the tools they need already to conduct an inquiry, like subpoena power.

Pelosi reiterated that defense in a letter responding to a similar request by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Thursday afternoon. She also said she hopes McCarthy and other GOP members “share our commitment to following the facts, upholding the Constitution, protecting our national security, and defending the integrity of our elections at such a serious moment in our nation’s history.”

RNC spokesman Steve Guest told CNN in a statement Friday afternoon, “As we have reiterated multiple times in multiple ways, President Trump did nothing wrong.”

This comes as White House officials are developing their own impeachment strategy.

Trump on Friday insisted that there was no quid pro quo in his dealings with Ukraine, despite the material in the newly released text messages. Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump was asked about the text messages. He claimed he didn’t know the ambassadors involved in the messaging. He repeated there was no quid pro quo, but said he would continue asking foreign countries for help investigating corruption.

White House officials have been largely sidelined as the President and his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani take command of the anti-impeachment narrative, at times driving the news cycle in ways White House allies believe hurt the President’s case — or, at a minimum, make his position harder to defend — administration officials and sources close to the White House said.

But inside the White House, officials have begun to “unwind” the timeline and circumstances surrounding the President’s call with Zelensky, one White House official said.

The goal, according to the official, is to ensure the White House has a full picture of the events in hand as it fields inquiries from Congress and prepares to build the President’s defense to impeachment. The effort has involved lawyers in the White House counsel’s office and Situation Room staff who are involved in connecting the President with foreign leaders and compiling a record of those calls.

Also, Trump and top officials, including his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner and acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, have dismissed the need for a war room to bolster the White House’s response to Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, as President Bill Clinton’s White House established when he faced impeachment.

Officials said Mulvaney and Kushner are the officials most focused on developing an impeachment strategy.

This story has been updated with additional developments Friday.

CNN’s Jeremy Diamond, Haley Byrd, Pamela Brown and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.