The House impeachment report on U.S. President Donald Trump will be unveiled Monday behind closed doors for key lawmakers as Democrats push ahead with the inquiry despite the White House’s declaration it will not participate in the first judiciary committee hearing.
The Democratic majority on the House intelligence committee says the report, compiled after weeks of testimony, will speak for itself in laying out what Democratic Chairman Adam Schiff called the evidence of “wrongdoing and misconduct” by the Republican president over his actions toward Ukraine.
The report is being made available for committee members to review ahead of a vote Tuesday to send it to the judiciary committee for Wednesday’s landmark hearing.
On Monday, Trump criticized the timing of the impeachment inquiry hearing, which will occur while he is out of the country at a NATO summit in the U.K.
Speaking to reporters at the White House before departing Monday, Trump says the NATO trip is “one of the most important journeys we make as president” and the summit date was established a year ago.
He said Republicans are united in opposing impeachment and the inquiry is backfiring on Democrats, adding, “I think it is going to be a tremendous boost for the Republicans.”
Heading to Europe to represent our Country and fight hard for the American People while the Do Nothing Democrats purposely scheduled an Impeachment Hoax hearing on the same date as NATO. Not nice! <a href=”https://t.co/LCXYhoOWF6″>pic.twitter.com/LCXYhoOWF6</a>
Late Sunday, White House counsel Pat Cipollone denounced the “baseless and highly partisan inquiry.” In a letter to judiciary committee chairman Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat from New York, Cipollone also declined the invitation for the president’s counsel to appear before the panel on Wednesday.
In continuing the West Wing’s attack on the House process, Cipollone said the proceeding “violates all past historical precedent, basic due process rights, and fundamental fairness.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday it’s “very unfortunate” the judiciary committee is holding its hearing at the same time that Trump is representing the U.S. at the NATO summit.
“I regret that they’ve chosen to hold these hearings at the same time that the president and our entire national security team will be traveling to Europe, to London, to work on these important matters,” Pompeo said.
As the impeachment inquiry intensifies, Wednesday’s hearing will be a milestone. It is expected to convene legal experts whose testimony, alongside the report from the intelligence committee, could lay the groundwork for possible articles of impeachment, which the panel is expected to soon draw up.
Democrats are focused on whether Trump abused his office by withholding military aid approved by Congress and a White House meeting as he pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch investigations into Trump’s political rivals. The report also is expected to include evidence of possible obstruction of Congress by Trump’s instructions that officials in his administration defy subpoenas for documents or testimony.
Trump maintains he did nothing wrong, and as the House presses forward on an ambitious schedule toward an impeachment vote, the president and his 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. 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 joined the White House effort to try to 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.”
Democrats were aiming for a final House vote by Christmas, which would set the stage for a likely Senate trial in January.
“I do believe that all evidence certainly will be included in that report so the judiciary committee can make the necessary decisions that they need to,” said Rep. Val Demings, a Democrat from Florida and a member of both the intelligence and judiciary committees.
Trump has previously suggested that he might be willing to offer written testimony under certain conditions, though aides suggested they did not anticipate Democrats would ever agree to them.
Democrats had pressed Trump to decide by Friday whether he would take advantage of due process protections afforded to him under House rules adopted in October for follow-up hearings, including the right to request witness testimony and to cross-examine the witnesses called by the House.
“If you are serious about conducting a fair process going forward, and in order to protect the rights and privileges of the President, we may consider participating in future Judiciary Committee proceedings if you afford the Administration the ability to do so meaningfully,” Cipollone said in the Sunday letter.
Collins called Wednesday’s hearing “a complete American waste of time.” He wanted the witness list expanded to include those suggested by Republicans. “This is why this is a problematic exercise and simply a made-for-TV event coming on Wednesday.”
Still, Rep. Tom McClintock, a Republican judiciary committee member from California, said he believes Trump would benefit if he presents his own defence. McClintock said he doesn’t believe Trump did anything wrong in the July 25 call with Zelensky that is at the heart of the investigation.
“He didn’t use the delicate language of diplomacy in that conversation, that’s true. He also doesn’t use the smarmy talk of politicians,” McClintock said.
To McClintock, Trump was using “the blunt talk of a Manhattan businessman” and “was entirely within his constitutional authority” in his dealings with Ukraine’s leader.
Collins appeared on “Fox News Sunday” and Demings and McClintock were on ABC’s “This Week.”