Washington: The White House has announced its refusal to participate in the first impeachment inquiry hearing before the House Judiciary Committee against President Donald Trump.
Judiciary Committee Chairman and Democrat Jerrold Nadler had invited Trump’s lawyers to participate in the first public hearing scheduled for Wednesday, reports Efe news.
Counsel to President Pat Cipollone sent a letter to Nadler on Sunday, saying: “Under the current circumstances, we do not intend to participate in your Wednesday hearing.
“This baseless and highly partisan inquiry violates all past historical precedent, basic due process rights, and fundamental fairness.”
Cipollone wrote that it “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,” he added.
Legal experts were expected to appear at Wednesday’s hearing to discuss the historical and constitutional precedents of impeachment, and in his letter, Cipollone hinted that the White House considers it a minor session, underlining the hearing “will include no fact witnesses at all”.
However, he did not rule out that the White House would attend future hearings and said they would give an answer on the matter before the Friday deadline.
On Monday, House Intelligence Committee members are expected to begin reviewing a draft report on Trump’s efforts to enlist Ukraine to investigate a political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, while aid to that country was being withheld.
The panel will vote on the report on Tuesday, sending it to the Judiciary Committee to weigh articles of impeachment.
The Judiciary Committee’s hearing Wednesday is its first on the matter, and it will hear from a panel of experts on what constitutes an impeachable offence.
The committee plans to announce those witnesses on Monday, an aide said.
Trump and his Republican allies have questioned the impeachment process, characterizing some witness testimony as second- or third-hand and complaining that they haven’t been able to call witnesses.
But the White House has blocked from testifying current and former Trump administration officials who were part of the direct discussions on Ukraine policy.