White House won't participate in next impeachment hearing

JILL COLVIN and DARLENE SUPERVILLE
President Donald Trump listens during a small business roundtable in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Friday, Dec. 6, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House will not participate in the House Judiciary Committee's next impeachment hearing, a senior Trump administration official said Friday in another sign the president has accepted that he is likely to be impeached by the House.

The decision came in a letter from White House counsel Pat Cipollone ahead of a Friday evening deadline set by the Democratic chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York.

The two-paragraph letter did not expressly state the White House's refusal to participate. But a senior administration official told The Associated Press after the two-paragraph letter was released that that was the point it was intended to communicate.

In the letter, Cipollone accuses House Democrats leading the inquiry of wasting America's time “with this charade” and charges that adopting articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump would amount to a “reckless abuse of power.”

“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 wrote, citing a tweet from Trump this week.

The decision comes one day after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced she had instructed the committee chairmen leading the inquiry into Trump's dealings with Ukraine to move forward with drafting articles of impeachment . Trump is accused of abusing his power and compromising national security by pushing the president of Ukraine to investigate his Democratic political rivals as his administration was withholding crucial security aid to the country.

Nadler said the House was disappointed by Trump's decision, given the complaints by the president and his allies that the process has been unfair.

“If the president has no good response to the allegations, then he would not want to appear before the committee," Nadler said in a written statement. “Having declined this opportunity, he cannot claim that the process is unfair. The president’s failure will not prevent us from carrying out our solemn constitutional duty.”

Pelosi said earlier Friday, when questioned about the possibility that the White House would decline to participate, that this was the opportunity for the president to "show innocence.

“But they have a consciousness of guilt, and that's why they may not show up,” she told reporters.

The White House had faced a Friday evening deadline to inform the House Judiciary Committee whether it intended to have legal representation at a hearing scheduled for Monday that will focus on the recently released House Intelligence Committee report outlining its findings against Trump.

The White House also declined to attend the Judiciary Committee's first hearing, held Wednesday, that featured legal experts outlining the history of impeachment and its constitutional role.

Trump and his aides have made clear that they now see his impeachment in the House as inevitable and have shifted their focus to the Senate, where Trump allies remain confident Democrats will not have the votes to convict and remove him from office.

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Associated Press writer Zeke Miller contributed to this report.