Trump impeachment: White House responds to deadline and says it won't participate in hearing

Administration terms Democrats’ investigation an ‘abuse of power’ 

Alex Woodward
New York
Friday 06 December 2019 17:40 GMT
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Impeachment: Trump is first US president to solicit favours from foreign government inquiry hears

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Louise Thomas

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Donald Trump will not participate in his impeachment hearings as Congress begins to draft articles of impeachment against the president.

In a letter to Congress, the White House called the investigation “baseless” and demanded Congress “end this inquiry now and not waste even more time with additional hearings.”

Mr Trump indicated he’ll wait until the impeachment process reaches the Senate before he participates.

The White House was given a 5pm EST deadline to announce whether the president and an attorney will participate in the defence of Mr Trump after members of the House Judiciary Committee heard testimony from constitutional law experts arguing that the president committed multiple impeachable offences in his dealings with Ukraine.

In his letter to House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler, the president’s counsel Pat Cipollone, said “adopting articles of impeachment would be a reckless abuse of power by House Democrats and would constitute the most unjust, highly partisan and unconstitutional attempt at impeachment in our nation’s history”.

His impeachment follows a House investigation finding that the president pressured Ukraine to investigate Mr Trump’s political rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, who sat on the board of a Ukrainian energy company, in exchange for a White House visit and desperately needed military aid — as the country faced ongoing Russian attacks — that ultimately was withheld despite Congressional approval.

On Thursday, House speaker Nancy Pelosi directed committee chairs to begin drafting formal articles of impeachment, which begin the process of removing the president from office. Those articles could go before a full House vote by the end of the year.

The 300-page report from the House Intelligence Committee, released earlier this week, details “overwhelming and uncontested evidence that President Trump abused the powers of his office to solicit foreign influence in our election for his own personal, political gain,” said Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff. “No one is above the law.”

On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee opened the first day of impeachment hearings with testimony from four legal scholars to discuss whether Mr Trump’s actions met grounds for impeachment as determined by the architects of the US Constitution.

“I just want to stress that if what we’re talking about is not impeachable, then nothing is impeachable,” said Michael Gerhardt, a law professor at the University of North Carolina. “If Congress fails to impeach here, then the impeachment process has lost all meaning.”

Mr Nadler gave the White House a Friday deadline to answer whether the president intends to participate in the hearings, which could include calling witnesses and introducing evidence.

House Republicans received a similar deadline for calling their own witnesses.

Mr Trump has effectively blocked members of his administration from testifying, and White House spokespeople have repeatedly denounced the investigation and the House Democrats at the lead.

The Judiciary Committee’s next impeachment hearing begins at 9am on Monday.

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