The White House said Sunday it would not take part in the first impeachment hearings held by the House Judiciary Committee in the coming days, claiming the inquiry “does not begin to provide the president with any semblance of a fair process.”
White House Counsel Pat Cipollone wrote to Democratic leaders to lambaste the upcoming hearings as “highly partisan,” saying the process would be unfair to President Donald Trump and violate “all past historical precedent.”
“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,” Cipollone wrote in a five-page letter to Judiciary Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.). “Under the current circumstances, we do not intend to participate in your Wednesday hearing.”
Lawmakers on the committee plan to hold their first hearing on Wednesday, which will largely consist of discussions with constitutional scholars and professors who specialize in the impeachment process.
The White House did not rule out participation in future hearings and said it would respond separately later this week.
Nadler on Friday offered Trump or his attorneys the chance to participate in the hearings, saying it was the president’s right to review the evidence leveled against him and request his own witnesses to appear.
“At base, the president has a choice to make: he can take this opportunity to be represented in the impeachment hearings, or he can stop complaining about the process,” Nadler wrote.
Trump has moved to stonewall the inquiry, and the White House has so far refused to participate.
The Judiciary Committee is set to take a leading role in the impeachment hearings this week from the Intelligence Committee, which questioned a parade of current and former administration officials to determine if Trump acted improperly when he pressured the leader of Ukraine to investigate his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, and his son, Hunter.
The officials testified that Trump waged an explicit campaign for a quid pro quo, demanding Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky open the probes into the Bidens in exchange for the release of nearly $400 million in military aid and a prestigious visit to the White House.
The president has denied that he did anything improper, referring to the call as “perfect” and accusing Democrats of attempting to overthrow the 2016 election. His Republican allies have stoutly defended him.
Politico notes the White House’s refusal to take part this week may indicate Trump has listened to allies who worried any participation could validate the impeachment process that they have sought to undermine. The president’s allies in Congress who sit on the Judiciary Committee will likely use this week’s hearings to further defend Trump.
Read the full letter below.