The White House said on Friday it would refuse to take part in hearings in the United States House of Representatives set for next week that will consider what articles of impeachment to bring against President Donald Trump.
In a letter to Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, White House counsel Pat Cipollone called the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry “completely baseless” and said that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had ordered Democrats to proceed with articles of impeachment “before your committee has heard a single shred of evidence”.
“We don’t see any reason to participate because the process is unfair,” said a senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“We haven’t been given any fair opportunity to participate. The speaker has already announced the predetermined result and they will not give us the ability to call any witnesses,” the official said.
Pelosi on Thursday asked the Judiciary Committee to draw up articles of impeachment – formal charges – against the Republican president. The committee could draft and recommend the articles by next Thursday and the full Democratic-led House could vote on them by Christmas.
“The facts are uncontested,” Pelosi said. “The president abused his power for his own personal political benefit at the expense of our national security by withholding military aid and (a) critical Oval Office meeting in exchange for an announcement of an investigation into his political rival.”
The House Judiciary Committee has scheduled a hearing for Monday to examine the evidence in the impeachment inquiry. According to Nadler, counsels representing both Democrats and Republicans will make presentations before the committee.
Pelosi in September launched the impeachment inquiry into Trump’s request that Ukraine investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading contender for the Democratic nomination to face the president in the 2020 US election.
The inquiry is centred on a July phone call in which Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to launch an investigation into Biden and his son Hunter, who served on a board of a Ukrainian gas company. Trump also wanted an investigation into a debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 elections.
At the time of the call, the Trump administration was withholding nearly $400m in military aid from Ukraine.
Trump has denied any wrongdoing, calling the impeachment inquiry a hoax.
“House Democrats have wasted enough of America’s time with this charade,” Cipollone’s letter said. “You should end this inquiry now and not waste even more time with additional hearings.”
He quoted Trump as saying “if you are going to impeach me, do it now, fast, so we can have a fair trial in the Senate, and so that our country can get back to business.”