President Donald Trump will not be attending the House Judiciary Committee's first impeachment hearing on Wednesday, his lawyers say, because they think the whole process isn't fair.
Trump was always unlikely to participate in a process he has described as a “witch hunt,” but his lawyers responded defiantly to the judiciary committee in a letter late Sunday evening, citing a “complete lack of due process and fundamental fairness afforded the president” — though they did not rule out possible future participation in the process.
Trump was invited to attend by committee chairman Jerrold Nadler, who said the president should show up or "stop complaining about the process.” Trump and his lawyers would have been allowed to cross-examine witnesses and review evidence during the hearing, which will sketch out the legal contours of the impeachment process based on the Intelligence committee's determination of the charges against the president.
“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,” White House counsel Pat Cipollone wrote in a letter to Nadler.
Cipollone also accused Nadler of "no doubt purposely" scheduling the hearing on a date he knew Trump will be at a NATO meeting in London.
The lawyers said they would respond separately to Nadler’s Friday deadline about Trump’s future participation in the process.
Wednesday’s "Constitutional Grounds for Presidential Impeachment" hearing is set to kick off a frantic month of House activity that could culminate with Trump becoming just the third sitting U.S. president to face impeachment.
The judiciary panel is expected to hold multiple public hearings and then consider articles of impeachment. Approving them could set up a possible vote on the House floor before Christmas.
Trump’s refusal to appear came just hours before the House Intelligence Committee is set to show its landmark impeachment report to key lawmakers behind closed doors. The report is being shown ahead of a vote by the Intelligence Committee on Tuesday on whether to send it to the Judiciary Committee for Wednesday’s historic hearing. The vote is likely to break along party lines and allow the Democratic-led committee to approve the report.
The report will lay out the “wrongdoing and misconduct” by the president in relation to Ukraine, according to Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
Democrats in the House are attempting to show that Trump abused his position withholding military aid to Ukraine in an attempt to force Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to launch investigations into Trump’s political rivals, specifically Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
Cipollone has demanded more information from Democrats about future hearings before he and the president make a call about participating in the process. House rules allow the president and his attorneys the right to cross-examine witnesses and review evidence before the committee, but little ability to bring forward witnesses of their own.
Cover: President Donald Trump speaks during a rally on Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2019, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)