Trump refuses to take part in this week's impeachment hearing
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Washington - The White House informed House Democrats on Sunday
that US President Donald Trump would not participate in a Wednesday
hearing as part of the impeachment inquiry.
In a five-page letter to Democrat Jerry Nadler, chairman of the House
Judiciary Committee, which is holding the hearing, counsel to the
president Pat Cipollone called the probe "baseless" and "highly
Cipollone wrote that Trump's lawyers "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."
The counsel also said Trump would be in London for the NATO leaders
meeting on Wednesday.
The hearing is the Judiciary Committee's first. It is due to look at
the legal basis for the investigation of the president and will
feature legal scholars.
"An invitation to an academic discussion with law professors does not
begin to provide the president with any semblance of a fair process,"
Cipollone said in the letter.
The letter was in response to a request by Nadler for Trump to
indicate by Sunday whether the president himself or his attorneys
would attend Wednesday's hearing.
Cipollone wrote that the White House would respond separately
regarding participation in future hearings by Friday, a further
deadline set by Nadler.
The inquiry enters a crucial week as the House Intelligence Committee
plans to vote on a report making the case for Trump's removal from
office on Tuesday. Their findings would go to the Judiciary Committee
to consider actual charges.
The impeachment inquiry began in September, as Democrats alleged the
Republican president abused the power of his office by pushing
Ukraine to investigate his rival, Joe Biden.
The saga also hinges on whether Trump withheld military aid to
Ukraine as part of the pressure campaign.
Public hearings began in November.
The Trump administration has been stonewalling the impeachment
inquiry as much as possible. The president maintains he has done