House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler had written to Donald Trump on Friday, asking if the President “intends to participate” in impeachment inquiry hearings due to begin next week.
“I look forward to your prompt response,”.
Trump was said not have immediately commented or tweeted but Trump has said he would like to testify in the impeachment inquiry, as senior aides from the acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, to former national security adviser John Bolton have not.
Such refusals have stoked a standoff between the Democrats who control the House of Representatives and the White House over the proper exercise of constitutional powers and authorities.
A judge had this week ruled that “Presidents are not kings”, meaning Don McGahn, the former White House counsel, must testify in the impeachment hearings despite claims that he had “absolute immunity” as a top presidential adviser.
Nadler greeted that ruling as showing the White House stance had “no basis in law”. Nonetheless, the justice department immediately moved to appeal.
Nadler wrote to Trump earlier this week, offering him the chance to participate.
“At base,” he wrote, “the president has a choice to make: he can take this opportunity to be represented in the impeachment hearings, or he can stop complaining about the process.”
The impeachment inquiry concerns efforts by Trump to have Ukraine investigate Joe Biden, a political rival and former vice-president, and a baseless conspiracy theory about supposed Ukrainian interference in the 2016 US election, rather than Russian.
Trump and Republicans deny the president abused his power but Mulvaney has admitted nearly $400m of military aid was held up in an effort to force Ukraine to comply and a succession of witnesses at hearings held by the House intelligence committee painted a damning picture of attempts to make Trump’s wishes reality.
Public opinion remains split on the issue, with about 50% of respondents in recent polls saying they favour Trump’s impeachment and removal. Trump has claimed, falsely, that support for the process is plummeting.
Nadler wrote earlier this week,
“I hope that he chooses to participate in the inquiry,” Nadler wrote earlier this week,“directly or through counsel, as other presidents have done before him.”
In his letter on Friday, Nadler quoted Adam Schiff, the chair of the House intelligence committee who has said his panel’s report will be submitted to Congress “soon after the Thanksgiving recess”.
“That report, will describe, among other things, ‘a months-long effort in which President Trump again sought foreign interference in our elections for his personal and political benefit at the expense of our national interest’ and ‘an unprecedented campaign of obstruction in an effort to prevent the committee from obtaining documentary evidence and testimony’.”
Nadler also underlined his own committee’s investigation of alleged obstruction by Trump detailed in the special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian election interference and links between Trump and Moscow.
The judiciary committee will decide if a formal impeachment vote will be held and, if so, what articles of impeachment will be presented.
If such a vote passes, as would be expected as the Democrats hold the House, Trump would be sent to the Senate for trial, probably in January. As Republicans hold that chamber and no significant cracks have appeared in GOP support, Trump would expect to avoid conviction and removal.
Nadler asked Trump for notice of “whether your counsel intends to participate … no later than 5pm on [Friday] 6 December 2019”. The first judiciary committee hearing is scheduled for Wednesday 4 December.