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White House rejects invite to participate in any House impeachment hearings

White House refuses to participate in House impeachment hearings
White House refuses to participate in House i... 12:18

The White House has opted not to participate in any Judiciary Committee impeachment hearings, despite President Trump's insistence that the Democrats' impeachment inquiry is a "one-sided sham." The decision means the White House is unlikely to have any presence in all of the House's impeachment proceedings. 

"As you know, your impeachment inquiry is completely baseless and has violated basic principles of due process and fundamental fairness," White House Counsel Pat Cipollone said in a letter to Nadler. "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. ... Whatever your course, you should choose, as the president has recently stated: 'If you are going to impeach me, do it now, fast, so we can have a fair trial in the Senate, and so that our country can get back to business.'" 

A senior administration official confirmed that the meaning of the letter is that the White House will not participate in the proceedings. 

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, who informed Mr. Trump of Friday's deadline over the Thanksgiving holiday, expressed disappointment but said "the president's failure [to appear] will not prevent us from carrying out our solemn constitutional duty."

"We gave President Trump a fair opportunity to question witnesses and present his own to address the overwhelming evidence before us. After listening to him complain about the impeachment process, we had hoped that he might accept our invitation," he said in a statement. "If the President has no good response to the allegations, then he would not want to appear before the Committee. Having declined this opportunity, he cannot claim that the process is unfair. "

The White House chose not to send any legal representation to the first Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday, where lawmakers heard eight hours of testimony from four constitutional law experts about the constitutional grounds for impeachment. Three of them said that the president committed impeachable offenses in his dealings with Ukraine. The fourth scholar, who was a witness called by Republicans, said the Democrats don't have enough evidence to impeach him.

On Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called on Democratic committee chairs to draft articles of impeachment against Mr. Trump.

"Sadly, but with confidence and humility, with allegiance to our founders, and a heart full of love for America, today I am asking our chairmen to proceed with articles of impeachment," Pelosi said.

Nancy Pelosi
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks about the impeachment inquiry of President Trump at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on December 5, 2019. Getty

Given that Democrats control the House, Mr. Trump is likely to be impeached. The vote is expected to occur along party lines since Republicans consider the impeachment inquiry an overreach by Democrats and an attempt to undo the 2016 election results. White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham seemed to suggest that she believes the president will be impeached.

"We look forward to a fair trial in the Senate," she said in a statement Thursday. 

The decision to remove the president from office is up to the Republican-led Senate. The chief justice of the Supreme Court, John Roberts, would preside.

Mr. Trump appears to have a different attitude about the Senate impeachment process. Earlier this week, he said that he would "love" for several of the highest-profile officials he blocked from appearing before the House inquiry to testify in the Senate. He said the impeachment inquiry "will be fair in the Senate."

The White House has expressed interest in calling witnesses in the Senate trial, but the rules for a potential trial have not yet been written.

Mr. Trump is accused of withholding U.S. military aid from Ukraine in an attempt to pressure its president to announce investigations that would benefit his 2020 reelection campaign and undermine U.S. national security.

Fin Gomez contributed to this report.

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