House impeachment report on President Trump to be unveiled this week
WASHINGTON — The House impeachment report on President Donald Trump will be unveiled Monday behind closed doors for key lawmakers as Democrats push ahead with the inquiry despite the White House’s declaration it will not participate in the first Judiciary Committee hearing.
The Democratic majority on the House Intelligence Committee says the report, compiled after weeks of testimony, will speak for itself in laying out what Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., called the evidence of “wrongdoing and misconduct” by the president over his actions toward Ukraine. It was being made available for committee members to review ahead of a vote Tuesday to send it to the Judiciary Committee for Wednesday’s landmark hearing.
Late Sunday, White House counsel Pat Cipollone denounced the “baseless and highly partisan inquiry.” In a letter to Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., he also declined the invitation for the president’s counsel to appear before his panel Wednesday.
Cipollone, in continuing the West Wing’s attack on the House process, said the proceeding “violates all past historical precedent, basic due process rights, and fundamental fairness.” Trump himself was scheduled to attend a summit with NATO allies outside London on Wednesday.
As the impeachment inquiry intensified, Wednesday’s hearing will be a milestone. It is expected to convene legal experts whose testimony, alongside the report from the Intelligence Committee, could lay the groundwork for possible articles of impeachment, which the panel is expected to soon draw up.
Democrats are focused on whether Trump abused his office by withholding military aid approved by Congress and a White House meeting as he pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to launch investigations into Trump’s political rivals. The report is also expected to include evidence of possible obstruction of Congress by Trump’s instructions that officials in his administration defy subpoenas for documents or testimony.
Trump maintains he did nothing wrong, and as the House presses forward on an ambitious schedule toward an impeachment vote, the president and his Republican allies are aligned against the process.
Cipollone’s letter applied only to the Wednesday hearing, and he demanded more information from Democrats on how they intended to conduct further hearings before Trump would decide whether to participate in them. House rules provide the president and his attorneys the right to cross-examine witnesses and review evidence before the committee, but little ability to bring forward witnesses of their own.
Republicans, meanwhile, wanted Schiff, the chairman who led the inquiry report, to testify before the Judiciary Committee, though they have no power to compel him to do so, as they joined the White House effort to try to cast the Democratic-led inquiry as skewed against the Republican president.
“It’s easy to hide behind a report,” said Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee. “But it’s going to be another thing to actually get up and have to answer questions.”
Schiff has said “there’s nothing for me to testify about,” that he isn’t a “fact” witness and that Republicans are only trying to “mollify the president, and that’s not a good reason to try to call a member of Congress as a witness.”
Democrats were aiming for a final House vote by Christmas, which would set the stage for a likely Senate trial in January.
“I do believe that all evidence certainly will be included in that report so the Judiciary Committee can make the necessary decisions that they need to,” said Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., a member of both the Intelligence and Judiciary committees.