The White House on Friday blasted the House’s impeachment inquiry as “completely baseless” and a “reckless abuse of power” ahead of a deadline set by House Democrats for the White House to say whether it would participate in the impeachment proceedings.
White House counsel Pat Cipollone sent a letter to House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler attacking the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, though the message did not explicitly say that President Donald Trump’s counsel would not take part.
“As you know, your impeachment inquiry is completely baseless and has violated basic principles of due process and fundamental fairness,” Cipollone wrote in a two paragraph letter. “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.”
While the letter doesn’t specifically state the White House won’t participate, that’s what it means, according to a senior administration official.
“The letter communicates that we will not participate in this process,” the official said.
The White House’s Friday letter was not a big surprise, given that the President’s lawyers already declined to participate in the Judiciary Committee’s first hearing. Cipollone concluded the brief letter by quoting Trump’s tweet from earlier this week: “Whatever course you choose, as the President has recently stated: ‘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.’”
Cipollone sent the letter after Nadler last week gave the White House a Friday deadline to tell the committee whether Trump’s lawyers would participate in the House impeachment proceedings beyond the first hearing.
The House-passed rules for the impeachment proceedings gave the President’s counsel the ability to participate in the Judiciary Committee hearings. The rules state that the President and his counsel were invited to attend committee presentations of the evidence — which are happening on Monday — as well as ask questions, raise objections, request witnesses or make a concluding presentation.
“The American people deserve transparency,” Nadler said after the White House said it would not participate in the first Judiciary Committee hearing. “If the President thinks the call was ‘perfect’ and there is nothing to hide then he would turn over the thousands of pages of documents requested by Congress, allow witnesses to testify instead of blocking testimony with baseless privilege claims, and provide any exculpatory information that refutes the overwhelming evidence of his abuse of power.”
Republicans have accused Democrats of offering the White House any due process only at the very end of the proceedings, after the bulk of the work was conducted in the House Intelligence Committee where the President’s lawyers could not participate.
And they argue the process still isn’t fair, given that Republicans have not gotten to call and equal number of witnesses as the Democrats or a requested hearing with Republican witnesses.