White House will not attend next phase of impeachment inquiry

Judiciary committee hearing fails to provide ‘semblance of a fair process’ and clashes with Nato trip

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy: questions  US decision to freeze military aid to Ukraine in Time interview. Photograph: Ints Kalnins

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy: questions US decision to freeze military aid to Ukraine in Time interview. Photograph: Ints Kalnins

 

The White House will not participate in a hearing scheduled by the House judiciary committee on Wednesday, a key stage in the impeachment inquiry into US president Donald Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.

In a letter sent to the committee, White House lawyer Pat Cipollone said the hearing “does not begin to provide the president with any semblance of a fair process”. He also criticised the committee for scheduling the hearing – “no doubt purposely” – during a time when the president is out of the country attending a Nato meeting in London.

Leaving for Britain on Monday, Mr Trump lambasted Democrats for the move. “The do-nothing Democrats decided when I’m going to Nato . . . that was the exact time. This is one of the most important journeys that we make as president. And for them to be doing this and saying this and putting an impeachment on the table . . . it’s a disgrace.”

Articles of impeachment

The impeachment inquiry, which began in September, enters a new phase when the judiciary committee holds its first public hearing. The committee, chaired by New York Democrat Jerry Nadler, is tasked with the authority to draw up articles of impeachment against the president.

It is expected that up to four experts in constitutional law will testify on Wednesday, outlining the history and legal justification for impeachment.

Democrats are investigating whether Mr Trump engaged in impeachable activity when he asked Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate former vice-president Joe Biden and his son Hunter during a phone call on July 25th.

In an interview published on Monday, Mr Zelenskiy said he did not discuss a “quid pro quo” with Mr Trump, though he questioned the US decision to freeze promised military aid to Ukraine, an ally in the country’s war against Russia.

Zelenskiy article

“I never talked to the president from the position of a quid pro quo. That’s not my thing,” Mr Zelenskiy said in an interview with Time and three other European publications. “I don’t want us to look like beggars. But you have to understand. We’re at war. If you’re our strategic partner, then you can’t go blocking anything for us. I think that’s just about fairness. It’s not about a quid pro quo. It just goes without saying.”

Meanwhile, the House intelligence committee, which held a series of private and public hearings last month, was expected to circulate a report to its members outlining the findings of its hearings on Monday evening.

It is expected that this report, which will be sent to the judiciary committee, could form the basis for articles of impeachment that may be drawn up against the president.