White House Signals Trump Won’t Take Part in Impeachment Hearings

WASHINGTON (CN) – In a letter blasting the House’s handling of the impeachment inquiry, the White House indicated Friday that President Donald Trump will not participate in future proceedings.

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump depart Air Force One on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., had given Trump until Friday to say whether he would participate in the panel’s hearings on impeachment.

The Judiciary Committee is slated to receive presentations on Monday from the Republican and Democratic counsels for the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees, which have been conducting the impeachment inquiry. The hearing will be the second since the Judiciary Committee took over the impeachment inquiry from the House Intelligence Committee earlier this week.

House Counsel Pat Cipollone told Nadler earlier this month that Trump would not be participating in the first Judiciary Committee impeachment hearing, which took place on Wednesday. That letter responded to a separate request from Nadler and excoriated the House’s handling of impeachment.

The short, two-paragraph letter issued Friday indicating Trump would not participate in future Judiciary Committee proceedings struck a similar tone, calling the House’s process “the most unjust, highly partisan and unconstitutional attempt at impeachment in our nation’s history.”

“As you know, your impeachment inquiry is completely baseless and has violated basic principles of due process and fundamental fairness,” Cipollone wrote. “Nevertheless, the speaker of the House yesterday ordered House Democrats to proceed with articles of impeachment before your committee has heard a single shred of evidence.”

The letter urges House Democrats to stop the inquiry now, but says that if the House is going to go forward with impeachment, it should do it quickly so the Senate trial that will determine whether Trump is removed from office can get underway.

Nadler said Trump’s decision not to participate in the proceedings means he can no longer raise complaints about the process being unfair.

“We gave President Trump a fair opportunity to question witnesses and present his own to address the overwhelming evidence before us,” Nadler said in a statement “After listening to him complain about the impeachment process, we had hoped that he might accept our invitation.”

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi on Thursday announced the House would go forward with drafting articles of impeachment against President Trump. The chamber is expected to vote on impeachment before Christmas and is likely to send the matter to the Republican-controlled Senate.

Wednesday’s hearing before the House Judiciary Committee featured a panel of constitutional law scholars, three of whom said the facts the House had compiled thus far in the inquiry were sufficient to support Trump’s impeachment. The Republican-invited witness, George Washington University Law Professor Jonathan Turley, disagreed and said the House should do more work before voting to impeach the president.

Democrats have argued Trump abused his power and committed bribery by asking Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on a July 25 phone call to conduct investigations into the 2016 presidential election and former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, who sat on the board of a Ukrainian gas company.

Witnesses in the impeachment inquiry have testified the announcement of the investigations was a condition of Zelensky securing a visit to the White House. Some have additionally said they understood the investigations were necessary for the White House to release a hold placed on a $400 million military aid package earmarked for Ukraine.

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