WASHINGTON — 

The White House has issued a formal objection to House Democrats’ impeachment probe into President Trump without an official vote.

In a blistering letter to House Democrats, the White House’s lawyer said President Trump “cannot participate in your partisan and unconstitutional inquiry under these circumstances.”

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MORE COVERAGE: Defiant letter marks a major milestone in the impeachment drama

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) announced two weeks ago that a formal impeachment inquiry would focus on the president’s outreach to foreign governments to help him win reelection in the 2020 presidential election. However, she did not seek the consent of the full chamber. In response, Republicans have used the lack of a vote to argue the probe isn’t legitimate.

A House vote was held for impeachment investigations into Presidents Nixon and Clinton. When the House impeached President Andrew Johnson in 1868, there wasn’t one. Some experts say that while the House voted to open an inquiry in the past, that doesn’t mean it must always do so.

“There’s no real technical reason for a full House vote,” Brookings Fellow Margaret L. Taylor recently told The Times. “The Constitution does not prescribe how the House impeaches.”

The letter from the White House follows comments by President Trump on Friday that Democrats in the House “have the votes” to begin a formal inquiry, even if they don’t have enough votes to convict him in the Senate. But he added that he believes the move would backfire politically.

“I really believe that they’re going to pay a tremendous price at the polls,” he said.

When asked last week about whether she had taken a full House vote on the impeachment inquiry off the table, Pelosi said she hadn’t.

“There is no requirement that there be a floor vote. That’s not anything that is excluded. By the way, there are some Republicans that are very nervous about our bringing that vote to the floor,” Pelosi said at a press conference.