After weeks of bad-faith complaints from the right about the impeachment inquiry’s lack of “due process,” the House Judiciary Committee offered President Trump the opportunity to have lawyers present when it holds its first hearing on Wednesday. President Trump isn’t interested. On Sunday night, the White House legal team informed Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) that Trump’s attorneys will not participate, citing concerns that the process will not be fair.
“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 to Nadler. “More importantly, an invitation to an academic discussion with law professors does not begin to provide the President with an semblance of a fair process. Accordingly, under the current circumstances, we do not intend to participate in your Wednesday hearing.”
WH to Judiciary Committee: “Accordingly, under the current circumstances, we do not intend to participate in your Wednesday hearing.”
WH does not rule out future participation, though pic.twitter.com/Oc7GkPk5uZ
— Nicholas Fandos (@npfandos) December 2, 2019
Cipollone leaves open the possibility that the White House will participate in future Judiciary Committee hearings, but this is unlikely considering the degree to which Trump and his allies have made clear that their strategy is to obstruct the inquiry rather than to engage with it. The White House has prevented key witnesses from testifying (who would ostensibly go a long way in exonerating Trump if he is indeed as innocent as he claims), and House Republicans used an inordinate chunk of their time during the Intelligence Committee’s hearings to hurl process complaints at Democrats.
It will be more difficult for them to do so now that the inquiry has moved to the Judiciary Committee, which will decide in the coming weeks whether to draft articles of impeachment against the president. Nadler has promised that, over the course of his committee’s hearings, the White House will be allowed to have lawyers present who will be able to call witnesses and mount a defense of the president — exactly the type of representation Trump and his allies have been griping he hasn’t been afforded.
On Friday, Nadler gave the White House a deadline of Friday, December 5th at 5:00 p.m. to inform the committee if it plans to participate in any of its hearings, which he wrote will cover the potential obstruction of justice detailed in the Mueller report as well as his attempts to extort Ukraine into interfering in the 2020 election, which were the focus of the Intelligence Committee’s hearings that wrapped up late last month. But the White House railing about “fair process” in its letter on Sunday doesn’t bode well for its future participation, nor does Trump’s tweet Monday morning about how Democrats are conducting the “impeachment hoax.”
The Do Nothing Democrats get 3 Constitutional lawyers for their Impeachment hoax (they will need them!), the Republicans get one. Oh, that sounds fair!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 2, 2019
House Democrats have already uncovered a wealth of damning testimony from an array of credible witnesses indicating the president orchestrated a scheme to extort Ukraine into interfering in the 2020 election. The White House knows that if it were to actually engage with the inquiry and attempt to prove Trump’s innocence, it would effectively legitimize everything Democrats have already uncovered. In other words, the stonewalling isn’t ending anytime soon, regardless of whatever concessions Nadler may make going forward.