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Monday, December 2, 2019

Trump’s Lawyers Won’t Participate in Impeachment Hearing on Wednesday

WASHINGTON — Lawyers for President Trump said on Sunday that they would not participate in the House Judiciary Committee’s first public impeachment hearing on Wednesday, airing a long list of complaints that they said prevented “any semblance of a fair process.”
Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York and the chairman of the committee, had given the White House a Sunday deadline for the president or his lawyers to take up the opportunity to appear at the hearing, where a panel of legal experts will offer an assessment of whether Mr. Trump committed impeachable offenses.
“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,” Pat A. Cipollone, the White House counsel, wrote in a letter to Mr. Nadler, arguing that “an invitation to an academic discussion” would not “provide the president with any semblance of a fair process.”
“Under the current circumstances,” he continued, “we do not intend to participate in your Wednesday hearing.”
He did not rule out participation in future hearings, though many of his complaints about the process would apply to those proceedings as well. Mr. Nadler had informed the administration on Friday that the president and his lawyers had a week to tell the committee whether they would call witnesses or present evidence as part of their defense against possible impeachment articles stemming from allegations that Mr. Trump pressured Ukraine to help him in his re-election campaign, and Mr. Cipollone said he would respond to that request separately.

The refusal to send lawyers Wednesday continues a pattern of stonewalling by Mr. Trump, who has sought to block witnesses and documents, as he and his allies call the proceedings “deranged” and a “witch hunt.” People familiar with the president’s legal strategy have said privately that his lawyers are deeply suspicious of taking part in a process they view as unfair to Mr. Trump.
In the letter, Mr. Cipollone echoed a complaint that the president has voiced about the timing of the first hearing: It will overlap with Mr. Trump’s appearance at the NATO summit in London. (Mr. Cipollone said the timing was “no doubt purposely” arranged to coincide with the international trip.)

Representative Doug Collins of Georgia, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, questioned why the White House would want to participate in “just another rerun.”
“We’ve already had constitutional scholars in the committee talking about — from the Mueller report and others, is there an impeachable offense?” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”

That was one of many points Mr. Cipollone cited as he assailed the committee for a failure to establish what he deemed to be a fair process — an argument that has quickly gained resonance among Mr. Trump’s allies as a way to undermine the inquiry.

The committee, he wrote, has “given no information regarding your plans, set arbitrary deadlines and then demanded a response, all to create the false appearance of providing the resident some rudimentary process.”
It is unclear whether the Democratic majority would be willing to acquiesce to any conditions set by the White House. Democrats have stood by their process, saying that Mr. Trump is being given ample opportunities to defend himself and that the White House would not have blocked Mr. Trump’s inner circle from testifying if officials had exculpatory information.
“We’re certainly hoping that the president, his counsel, will take advantage of that opportunity if he has not done anything wrong,” said Representative Val Demings, Democrat of Florida and a member of both the Intelligence and Judiciary Committees. Speaking on ABC’s “This Week” before the White House issued the letter, she added, “If he has not done anything wrong, we’re certainly anxious to hear his explanation of that.”
During his Thanksgiving vacation at Mar-a-Lago, his Palm Beach estate, Mr. Trump remained relatively quiet about the inquiry, except for a few Twitter posts sharing articles late Saturday night that asserted Mr. Trump’s innocence.
Without White House representation, Mr. Trump’s defense will most likely materialize among some of the committee’s most fiery Republicans — including Representatives Jim Jordan of Ohio and John Ratcliffe of Texas, both of whom engaged in impassioned defenses during witness testimony, and Matt Gaetz of Florida, who joined Mr. Trump for a rally last week.

A number of Mr. Trump’s allies appeared on television shows Sunday morning before the letter was released to aggressively condemn the process outlined by the House.

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