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Tuesday, December 10, 2019

White House says it will not participate in Wednesday’s Trump impeachment hearing

Trump has stonewalled the inquiry, seeking to block witnesses and documents, and his lawyers had privately questioned whether to participate in the Wednesday hearing, as the president and his allies continue to call the proceedings “deranged” and a “witch hunt.”

By: New York Times | Washington | Published: December 2, 2019 7:52:53 am
Trump impeachment hearing, Trump impeachment, US president Donald Trump impeachment, Trump Ukraine crisis People familiar with the president’s legal strategy have said privately that his lawyers are deeply suspicious of taking part in a process they view as unfair to Trump.

Written by Emily Cochrane and Michael D. Shear

Lawyers for President Donald Trump said Sunday that they will not participate in the House Judiciary Committee’s first public hearing Wednesday as House Democrats prepare to shift the direction of the inquiry toward drafting articles of impeachment against the president.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., the chairman of the committee, had offered the president or his lawyers the opportunity to participate in the hearing as part of the impeachment inquiry, when a panel of legal experts will offer an assessment of whether Trump committed impeachable offenses.

“We cannot fairly be expected to participate in a hearing while the witnesses are yet to be named and while it remains unclear whether the Judiciary Committee will afford the president a fair process through additional hearings,” Pat A. Cipollone, the White House counsel, wrote in a letter to Nadler. “Under the current circumstances, we do not intend to participate in your Wednesday hearing.”

He did not rule out participation in future hearings.

Trump has stonewalled the inquiry, seeking to block witnesses and documents, and his lawyers had privately questioned whether to participate in the Wednesday hearing, as the president and his allies continue to call the proceedings “deranged” and a “witch hunt.” People familiar with the president’s legal strategy have said privately that his lawyers are deeply suspicious of taking part in a process they view as unfair to Trump.

On Friday, Nadler also informed the administration that the president and his lawyers had a week to tell the committee whether they would call witnesses or present evidence as part of their defense against possible impeachment articles stemming from allegations that Trump pressured Ukraine to help him in his reelection campaign. The House Intelligence Committee is expected to approve a written report of its findings in its investigation of Trump’s dealings with Ukraine on Tuesday, after which the focus of the impeachment proceedings will shift to Nadler’s panel.

“We’re certainly hoping that the president, his counsel, will take advantage of that opportunity if he has not done anything wrong,” said Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., a member of both the Intelligence and Judiciary committees. Speaking on ABC’s “This Week” before the White House announcement, she added, “If he has not done anything wrong, we’re certainly anxious to hear his explanation of that.”

During the remainder of his Thanksgiving vacation at Mar-a-Lago, his Palm Beach, Florida, estate, Trump remained relatively quiet about the inquiry, except for a few Twitter posts sharing articles late Saturday that asserted Trump’s innocence.

Read | Long before Trump, impeachment loomed over multiple US presidents

A number of Trump’s allies appeared on television shows Sunday morning to aggressively condemn the process outlined by the House.

Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, before the announcement questioned why the White House would want to participate in “just another rerun.”

“We’ve already had constitutional scholars in the committee talking about — from the Mueller report and others, is there an impeachable offense?” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Collins renewed demands for Rep. Adam B. Schiff of California, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee and the lead Democrat overseeing last month’s public testimony, to testify. (It is unlikely that Schiff will do so.)

“It’s an internal kind of time frame to try and finish this out by the end of the year because they want to get at this president right now before everybody completely sees through the process sham of the elections for next year,” Collins said. “We’re rushing this.”

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