White House Rejects Invitation To Participate In Impeachment Hearings
After arguing for a month about an "unfair" impeachment process, the WHite House is saying 'no thanks' to an invitation to participate in the next round of impeachment hearings.
After being invited by the House Judiciary Committee to send representatives to, and participate in, the committee’s first round of impeachment hearings set to begin, President Trump’s White House Counsel has told Congressman Jerrold Nadler, the Chairman of the Committee, that they would not be participating:
As the impeachment inquiry moves into a critical week, President Trump and his Republican allies are debating the degree to which the president should participate in a process they have spent more than two months attacking.
On Sunday evening, White House counsel Pat A. Cipollone told the House Judiciary Committee in a five-page letter that Trump would not participate in its first impeachment hearing, scheduled for Wednesday. The invitation from Chairman Jerrold Nadler “does not begin to provide the President with any semblance of a fair process,” Cipollone wrote.
Four constitutional scholars — three chosen by Democrats, one by Republicans — are expected to testify on the standards for impeachment. Nadler (D-N.Y.) told Trump he had until 6 p.m. Sunday to notify the committee that he or his attorneys would attend; he has given Trump until Friday to decide whether to participate more broadly in the impeachment process.
On Sunday, Democrats called on the White House to cooperate, suggesting an innocent person would have no problem testifying.
“We’re certainly hoping that the president, his counsel, will take advantage of that opportunity if he has not done anything wrong,” Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.) said on ABC News’s “This Week.” “We’re certainly anxious to hear his explanation of that.”
But there is a conflict inside the GOP over the extent to which Trump and his congressional defenders ought to engage, even as Republicans signaled they will continue their aggressive campaign to delegitimize the process as corrupt and unfair.
Speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” Rep. Douglas A. Collins (Ga.), the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, said he understood why the White House might want to skip the Wednesday hearing, calling it “just another rerun” covering ground already surveyed in previous Judiciary Committee hearings.
“This is a complete American waste of time right here,” he said.
But he added that Republicans would be more keen to participate in future hearings — particularly one examining the findings of the House Intelligence Committee as prepared by its chairman, Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.).
Other Republican lawmakers said Trump could benefit from availing himself of the due-process protections that Nadler has offered, including the right to present evidence, suggest witnesses and cross-examine those called by Democrats to testify.
Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), a Judiciary Committee member, said on “This Week” that he thought it “would be to the president’s advantage” to have counsel participate in the upcoming hearings. “But I can also understand how he is upset at the illegitimate process that we saw unfold in the Intelligence Committee,” he said.
The president did not address the issue himself Sunday. He sent two tweets about World AIDS Day in the early afternoon and spent a second day in a row at his golf course in West Palm Beach, Fla., after returning early Friday from a Thanksgiving visit to U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
In the past, however, Trump has suggested that he would like to participate. Last month, he said he would “love” for several senior administration officials to testify in the impeachment inquiry, but he contended the White House was preventing them from doing so to protect the institution of the presidency.
“The D.C. Wolves and Fake News Media are reading far too much into people being forced by Courts to testify before Congress,” Trump said in a tweet on Nov. 26. “I am fighting for future Presidents and the Office of the President. Other than that, I would actually like people to testify.”
As I noted when the Judiciary Committee first announced these hearings last week, the amount of participation they were offering the White House was historically unique and certainly quite different from the manner in which Judiciary Committee impeachment hearings were conducted in the past. Neither the Nixon impeachment hearings in 1974 nor the Clinton impeachment hearings in 1998 were open to the White House in this manner. Had they been, I am sure that both Presidents would have jumped at the opportunity to use the hearings to push back against the prevailing narrative of the proceedings. Passing up the offer that was made here seems unwise to me, but then there’s a lot that comes out of this White House that seems unwise.
The irony of all of this, of course, is that the rejection of this offer to participate comes in the wake of a month in which the White House and its defenders on Capitol Hill spent a considerable amount of time attacking the process that the House Intelligence Committee was engaging in. As I have noted in the past, though, those claims of procedural unfairness are by and large a load of nonsense.
Contrary to the claims of the White House, many GOP members of Congress, and the conservative media, an impeachment inquiry is not a criminal proceeding or even a criminal investigation. Additionally, this talk of “due process” is utter nonsense and completely misplaced. If anything the current process is analogous to a Grand Jury proceeding, which is generally closed to the public and to the subject of the investigation. With the exception of some states where the application of the subject of an investigation to testify before the Grand Jury is permitted by court rules, neither the subject of an investigation nor their attorney are permitted to participate in the Grand Jury’s deliberations.
Even that analogy is inexact though since, unlike a Grand Jury, the hearings in this matter, with the exception of the deposition of witnesses, which the Intelligence Committee eventually made public, are taking place in public and being broadcast live on television.. In any case, there is no requirement for giving the White House access to the proceedings as some have demanded, and the Judiciary Committee was being especially generous in giving the White House the opportunity to participate. This is especially true given the fact that Republican Members of Congress are in the room for these hearings and able to ask their own questions. The manner in which hearings are taking place in this impeachment inquiry are following standard Congressional procedure. The process is proceeding in the same manner they did during Watergate, during the Iran-Contra investigation, and during the endless hearings that House Republicans held on the Benghazi “investigation.” This entire concentration on the phony issue of “due process” is an effort to distract from the fact that, particularly after the public hearings held by the Intelligence Committee, the facts are looking very bad for this President and that, like it or not, impeachment is basically inevitable.
There’s an old lawyer’s adage that when the facts are against you, you argue the law and when the law is against you, you argue the facts. We’re now at the point where both the facts and the law are against the Republicans and against the President. In response, they are simply arguing and seeking to distract pubic attention from what matters with phony arguments about “due process” and personal attacks against the leaders of the investigation. This merely demonstrates that they have nothing left to argue.
Here’s the letter from the White House Counsel to the Judiciary Committee: