The White House says it will not be participating in impeachment hearings against US President Donald Trump next week as there’s “no evidence”.
With a 5pm deadline looming as to whether the White House would participate, counsel Pat Cipollone wrote a strongly worded letter to the US Congress saying it would refuse to participate in the Democrats’ “completely baseless” impeachment inquiry.
On Friday local time (Saturday 9am AEDT), Mr Cipllon informed Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler that it will refuse to participate in the hearings against Mr Trump in the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee next week.
Mr Trump reacted to the news on Twitter on Saturday (AEDT) saying Mr Nadler had not had a single “fact witness” testify.
Nadler hasn’t had a single fact witness testify! Zero substance—Country wants #USMCA and Growth, not Impeachment. Polls have tanked on the Do Nothing Democrats!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 7, 2019
Mr Cipollone wrote:
“House Democrats have wasted enough of America’s time with this charade. You should end this inquiry now and not waste even more time with additional hearings.
“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.
He quoted Mr 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.”
JUST IN: The White House tells Congress to just get the impeachment over with — doesn’t directly indicate its plans for participating in the House impeachment hearings. pic.twitter.com/nB5rvAwnZ4
— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) December 6, 2019
The letter also 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.
“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.”
Impeachment threatens 2020 Trump’s re-election campaign
The committee could draft and recommend the articles by next Thursday and the full Democratic-led House could vote on them by Christmas, imperilling Mr Trump’s presidency as his 2020 re-election campaign looms.
In September, Ms Pelosi launched the impeachment inquiry into Mr Trump’s request Ukraine investigate former vice president Joe Biden, a leading contender for the Democratic nomination in the 2020 US election.
Mr Trump has made clear his lawyers will present a defence in the Republican-controlled Senate, where he believes he will receive fair treatment.
Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee, who had also faced a Friday deadline to identify witnesses they want to call before the panel, submitted a list of eight.
They include Biden’s son Hunter, the anonymous whistleblower whose complaint sparked the impeachment inquiry and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff who led the Ukraine probe.
House Republicans had already sought testimony before the Intelligence Committee from three people on the list – the whistleblower, Hunter Biden and Biden’s former business associate Devon Archer.
But they were turned down by Mr Schiff and will likely receive the same response from Mr Nadler.
Trump, who denied any wrongdoing, thus far has refused to co-operate with the inquiry and ordered current and former administration officials not to testify or provide documents.