WASHINGTON – Again claiming the entire impeachment investigation is unfair, the White House told a congressional committee Sunday it will not participate in a new hearing this week.
“This baseless and highly partisan inquiry violates all past historical precedent, basic due process rights, and fundamental fairness,” White House counsel Pat Cipollone wrote to Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
In a five-page letter, Cipollone said the Wednesday hearing would be nothing more than “an academic discussion with law professors” about the concept of impeachment. “Accordingly, under the current circumstances, we do not intend to participate in your Wednesday hearing,” he said.
Cipollone did hold out the possibility of cooperation with future Judiciary Committee hearings, but spent most of his letter attacking the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry.
Nadler had asked the White House if it wanted officials to attend and ask questions at the hearing that is devoted to the constitutional requirements of impeachment.
“Our first task is to explore the framework put in place to respond to serious allegations of impeachable misconduct like those against President Trump,” Nadler said in a statement last week.
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House Judiciary will be the second committee to hold impeachment hearings in an investigation that revolves around claims that Trump tried to extract political favors from Ukraine in exchange for foreign aid.
The House Intelligence Committee, which heard from 12 witnesses during five days of hearings last month, is expected to issue a report this week that will be forwarded to the House Judiciary Committee.
Trump is accused of trying to get Ukraine to investigate domestic political opponents, including Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter, who had business interests in the country.
Democratic-led House committees are also investigating evidence that Trump threatened to withhold military aid from Ukraine if it did not follow through on his request.
Trump and aides have denounced the entire process as a political “witch hunt” designed to remove him from office ahead of the 2020 election.
Legal analysts said they were not surprised by Trump’s refusal to participate in the House Judiciary Committee’s initial hearing, in part because his team had refused to cooperate with the proceedings of the Intelligence Committee.
Trump and his attorneys seem more interested in attacking the process than in providing witnesses of their own, analysts said. They may also be preparing for a trial by the Republican-run Senate, assuming the Democratic House votes to impeach him in the weeks ahead.
Barb McQuade, a former federal prosecutor and now a law professor at the University of Michigan, said the latest White House letter “is consistent with Trump’s strategy to stonewall and attack the legitimacy of the impeachment inquiry.”
The president “complains when he is not invited, and now he complains when he is invited,” she said. “The evidence is devastating, so Trump is focusing on the process in hopes that he can undermine public confidence in the outcome.”
Bradley Moss, a national security lawyer based in Washington, D.C., said the letter “is better viewed more as a political document continuing to the lay the foundation for acquittal in the Senate than anything else.”
As his lawyers developed a response to Nadler’s committee, Trump returned to Washington, D.C., after a holiday weekend at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla.
The president also plans to be abroad as Democrats gear up for a new set of impeachment hearings early this week.
On Monday, Trump is scheduled to leave Washington for a NATO summit to be held in London; he is currently scheduled to return late Wednesday.
“I will be representing our Country in London at NATO, while the Democrats are holding the most ridiculous Impeachment hearings in history,” Trump said in a weekend tweet.
He added: “Read the Transcripts, NOTHING was done or said wrong! The Radical Left is undercutting our Country. Hearings scheduled on same dates as NATO!”
Trump has said he would consider providing evidence at an impeachment hearing, but aides said they have advised him against that.
Arguing he has done nothing wrong, Trump has said that he did not pressure Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky into investigating Biden nor that he tried to use military aid as leverage.
In his letter to Nadler, White House counsel Cipollone also protested the fact that the hearing will be held on the day Trump is scheduled to return from the NATO meeting in London.
In a separate request made over the holiday weekend, Nadler asked Trump if he will mount a defense in subsequent hearings expected to be held later in the month.
Cipollone said the White House is taking that request under advisement. He said the answer depends in part on whether Republican members of the committee can call their own witnesses.
The deadline for the next response to Nadler is 5 p.m. on Friday.
Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, said Wednesday’s hearing would be a “waste of time” because Democrats already have their minds made up.
“The problem is Jerry Nadler and the rest of them have already got in their mind they’re writing the articles of impeachment,” Collins said on Fox News Sunday.
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., a member of the Judiciary Committee also appearing on Fox News, said lawmakers are obligated to look at hard evidence of wrongdoing by Trump.
“We do have a constitutional responsibility to serve as a check and balance on a potentially out-of-control executive branch,” Jeffries said.
In refusing to participate in Wednesday’s hearing, the White House made similar arguments when it refused to participate in the House Intelligence Committee hearings last month. It also worked to block testimony from White House aides such as acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.