White House tells Democrats it will not participate in Trump impeachment
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[December 07, 2019]
By Steve Holland and David Morgan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House said
on Friday it would refuse to take part in hearings in the U.S. House of
Representatives set for next week that will consider what articles of
impeachment to bring against President Donald Trump.
In a letter to Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, White House
counsel Pat Cipollone called the Democrats' impeachment inquiry
"completely baseless" and said that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had
ordered Democrats to proceed with articles of impeachment "before your
committee has heard a single shred of evidence."
"We don't see any reason to participate because the process is unfair,"
said a senior administration official, speaking on condition of
anonymity. "We haven't been given any fair opportunity to participate.
The speaker has already announced the predetermined result and they will
not give us the ability to call any witnesses."
Nadler rejected that criticism and expressed disappointment, saying in a
statement: "The American people deserve answers from President Trump."
Pelosi on Thursday asked the Judiciary Committee to draw up articles of
impeachment - formal charges - against the Republican president. The
committee could draft and recommend the articles by next Thursday and
the full Democratic-led House could vote on them by Christmas,
imperiling Trump's presidency as his 2020 re-election campaign looms.
Pelosi in September launched the impeachment inquiry into Trump's
request that Ukraine investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a
leading contender for the Democratic nomination to face the president in
the 2020 U.S. election.
"House Democrats have wasted enough of America's time with this
charade," Cipollone's letter said. "You should end this inquiry now and
not waste even more time with additional hearings."
He quoted Trump as saying, "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."
Trump has made clear his lawyers will present a defense in the
Republican-controlled Senate, where he believes he will receive fair
Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee, who had also faced
a Friday deadline to identify witnesses they want to call before the
panel, submitted a list of eight, including Biden's son, Hunter, the
anonymous whistleblower whose complaint sparked the impeachment inquiry
and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, who led the
House Republicans had already sought testimony before the Intelligence
Committee from three people on the list - the whistleblower, Hunter
Biden and Biden's former business associate Devon Archer. But they were
turned down by Schiff and will likely receive the same response from
Nadler, a Democrat.
Though Nadler did not immediately respond to the Republican witness
requests, he said of Trump's refusal to participate: "Having declined
this opportunity, he cannot claim that the process is unfair. The
President’s failure will not prevent us from carrying out our solemn
[to top of second column]
President Donald Trump listens while participating in a "roundtable
on small business and red tape reduction accomplishments" in the
Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington, U.S. December 6,
2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
TRUMP MEETS FRIDAY DEADLINE
Nadler had given Trump until 5 p.m. on Friday to decide whether he
or his legal counsel would participate in upcoming committee
Trump, who denied any wrongdoing, thus far has refused to cooperate
with the inquiry and ordered current and former administration
officials not to testify or provide documents.
Nadler has scheduled a committee hearing for Monday. His committee
is responsible for drafting articles of impeachment and would have
to approve them before sending them to the full House for a vote.
Passage of formal charges would lead to a trial in the
Republican-led Senate on whether to remove Trump from office. Senate
Republicans have given little indication they would support Trump's
Pelosi accused Trump of abusing his power by asking a foreign
government to interfere in an American election for his own
political benefit at the expense of U.S. national security. The
articles of impeachment could include abuse of power, bribery,
obstruction of Congress and obstruction of justice.
Republicans accuse Democrats of conducting a politically motivated
witch hunt aimed at ousting Trump using an unfair impeachment
The probe is focusing on a July 25 telephone call in which Trump
asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to open an
investigation into Biden and his son Hunter, and into a discredited
theory promoted by Trump and his allies that Ukraine, not Russia,
meddled in the 2016 U.S. election.
Hunter Biden joined the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma
while his father was vice president. Trump has accused the Bidens of
corruption. They have denied wrongdoing and the allegations have not
Democrats also have accused Trump of abusing his power by
withholding $391 million in congressionally approved security aid to
Ukraine - a vulnerable U.S. ally facing Russian aggression - and
holding back a coveted White House meeting with Zelenskiy as
leverage to pressure Kiev into investigating the Bidens.
Trump is the fourth U.S. president to face impeachment proceedings.
None were removed from office, although Richard Nixon resigned as he
faced almost certain impeachment in 1974 over the Watergate scandal.
(Reporting by Steve Holland, Susan Cornwell and David Morgan,
Additional reporting by Doina Chicu and Patricia Zengerle; Writing
by Will Dunham, Steve Holland and Matt Spetalnick; Editing by
Jonathan Oatis, Bill Berkrot and Cynthia Osterman)
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