WASHINGTON — Late Sunday, in a letter, President Donald Trump’s legal counsel Pat Cipollone laid out detailed and substantive reasons why it will not participate in the first Judiciary Committee hearing.
Meanwhile, the House impeachment report on Trump will be unveiled Monday behind closed doors for key lawmakers as Democrats push ahead with their inquiry.
The Democratic majority on the House Intelligence Committee claim the report, compiled after weeks of testimony, will speak for itself in laying out what Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., called the evidence of “wrongdoing and misconduct” by the Republican president over his actions toward Ukraine.
Challenging the process, Cipollone wrote that the invitation "provided no information whatsoever as to the dates these hearings will occur, what witnesses will be called, what the schedule will be, what the procedures will be, or what rights, if any, the Committee intends to afford the President."
The initial hearing has been scheduled while the President will be at a NATO conference outside London. Cipollone also noted that the hearing will include no fact witnesses at all.
The report was being made available for committee members to review ahead of a vote Tuesday to send it to the Judiciary Committee for Wednesday’s hearing.
Cipollone said the proceeding “violates all past historical precedent, basic due process rights, and fundamental fairness.”
As of yet, all Committee testimony has not been released even to other House members.
Democrats are focused on claims Trump abused his office by withholding military aid approved by Congress and a White House meeting when he asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to pursue possible wrongdoing during the 2016 elections. Many Democrats and media say the purpose was to find dirt on Trump’s political rivals rather than clean up possible corruption.
Trump maintains he did nothing wrong, and as the House presses forward toward an impeachment vote, the President and Republican allies are aligned against the process.
Cipollone’s letter applied only to the Wednesday hearing, and he demanded more information from Democrats on how they intended to conduct further hearings before Trump would decide whether to participate in them. The new House rules provide 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.
Republicans, meanwhile, wanted Schiff, the chairman who led the inquiry report, to testify before the Judiciary Committee, though they have no power to compel him to do so, as they cast the Democratic-led inquiry as skewed against the Republican president.
"It’s easy to hide behind a report," said Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee. "But it’s going to be another thing to actually get up and have to answer questions.”
Schiff has said “there’s nothing for me to testify about,” that he isn’t a “fact” witness and that Republicans are only trying to “mollify the president, and that's not a good reason to try to call a member of Congress as a witness.” However, Schiff or his staff may have met with the as-yet-unidentified so-called whistleblower before accusations were filed.
Democrats were aiming for a final House vote by Christmas, which would set the stage for a likely Senate trial in January.