The chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, Jerrold Nadler, has called President Donald Trump's decision not to take part in hearings that could lead to his impeachment "unfortunate."
In a letter sent to the House Judiciary Committee on December 1, White House counsel Pat Cipollone said Trump and his lawyers won’t participate in impeachment hearings at the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives this week, accusing the panel of a "complete lack of due process and fundamental fairness" in the inquiry.
The committee, tasked with considering charges known as articles of impeachment, is scheduled to start public hearings on December 4.
"Late last night, the president and his counsel turned down our invitation to participate in Wednesday's hearing. His response is unfortunate because allowing the president to participate has been a priority for the House from the outset," Nadler, a Democrat, said.
The impeachment probe by three House committees centers on a July telephone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
The inquiry is looking at whether Trump abused his power to pressure Ukraine to launch an investigation into Joe Biden, a leading Democratic contender to face Trump in next year's presidential election, and his son Hunter Biden, who had previously worked for a Ukrainian energy company.
Trump denies any wrongdoing and calls the inquiry a "witch hunt."
Cipollone wrote in the letter that the invitation to attend the December 4 hearing at the House Judiciary Committee would fail to give the White House adequate time to prepare and did not give information about the witnesses.
The White House will respond separately to an invitation to the second hearing, which does not yet have a date set, by December 6, he said.
Committee chairman Jerrold Nadler wrote to Trump last week saying the president could either be represented in the impeachment hearings or “stop complaining about the process.”
It will be up to the three House panels to decide whether to eventually recommend a full House vote on impeachment. If the House approves impeachment, trial will be held in the Senate.
Trump’s conviction and removal from office remain extremely unlikely with a two-thirds majority vote required and the Senate controlled by Trump’s Republican Party.
Last week, the House Intelligence Committee wrapped up two weeks of public hearings that followed closed-door witness interviews.
Trump's Decision Not To Participate In Impeachment Hearing 'Unfortunate,' Says Committee Chairman