The Trump administration rejected Chairman Jerry Nadler’s invitation to participate in Wednesday’s impeachment hearing as the Democrat-led Ukraine inquiry shifts from the House Intelligence Committee to the House Judiciary Committee.
White House Counsel Pat Cipollone derided the “baseless and highly partisan” Democratic impeachment investigation in a five-page letter Sunday evening, claiming the Democrat-led effort “violates all past historical precedent, basic due process rights, and fundamental fairness.”
The Trump lawyer zeroed in on Nadler’s upcoming hearing, which is set to focus on the “historical and constitutional basis of impeachment” but remains largely shrouded in mystery. Cipollone claimed Nadler “no doubt purposely” scheduled this hearing when President Trump would be overseas at the NATO Leaders Meeting in London.
“We understand from rumors and press reports (though not from any notice provided in your letter or in the official notice of the hearing) that the hearing will consist of an academic discussion by law professors. We understand this to mean that your initial hearing will include no fact witnesses at all,” Cipollone wrote, adding, “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. More importantly, an invitation to an academic discussion with law professors does not begin to provide the President with any semblance of a fair process. Accordingly, under the current circumstances, we do not intend to participate in your Wednesday hearing.”
Cipollone argued that weeks of closed-door and public testimony conducted by Chairman Adam Schiff’s House Intelligence Committee showed Trump had done nothing wrong, and that there was no reason for Nadler to continue the investigation in his committee.
“Despite the fundamental unfairness of those hearings, the facts that emerged even from Chairman Schiff’s carefully controlled and blatantly unfair process served only to further confirm that the President has done nothing wrong and that there is no basis for continuing your inquiry,” Cipollone wrote. “Inviting the Administration now to participate in an after-the-fact constitutional law seminar-with yet-to-be-named witnesses-only demonstrates further the countless procedural deficiencies that have infected this inquiry from its inception and shows the lack of seriousness with which you are undertaking these proceedings. An academic discussion cannot retroactively fix an irretrievably broken process.”
The hearing Wednesday is expected to cover which actions committed by Trump may have crossed the constitutional threshold of “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Nadler also gave the White House until Friday to say whether it would participate in any other possible impeachment hearings his committee might conduct, and Cipollone left the door open on the Trump administration showing up for future hearings.
Republican Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, the ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee, has called for equal witness representation for Republicans at Wednesday’s hearing, and also insists that Schiff himself should be called to testify about his committee's alleged interactions with the Ukraine whistleblower.
It is expected that staunch Trump defenders such as Collins, along with Judiciary Committee members such as Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio, Matt Gaetz of Florida, and John Ratcliffe of Texas will do the heavy lifting for Republicans in lieu of the White House sending its own representative on Wednesday.
During the July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, which led to the whistleblower complaint that spurred the impeachment proceedings, Trump asked Zelensky “to do us a favor” by looking into the CrowdStrike conspiracy theory and allegations of Ukrainian election interference in 2016. Trump also urged Zelensky to investigate “the other thing,” referring to allegations of corruption related to the Bidens. This request stemmed from Hunter Biden’s position on the board of Burisma Holdings and then-Vice President Biden threatening to withhold $1 billion in loans to Ukraine while pushing for previous Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to fire prosecutor Viktor Shokin.
Over the past few weeks, a series of impeachment witnesses have testified in marathon sessions about U.S. military aid to Ukraine, and Democrats insist Trump’s actions in Ukraine constituted an impeachable abuse of power. The House Intelligence Committee is expected to circulate its report on Monday and on Tuesday his committee is expected to vote on whether Trump should be removed from office. Nadler’s committee is then expected to draw up the possible articles of impeachment based upon Schiff’s legwork.
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