The House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday announced it will hold its first public impeachment hearing next week, and invited President Donald Trump and his lawyers "to participate."
"I am hopeful that you and your counsel will opt to participate in the Committee's hearing, consistent with the rules of decorum and with the solemn nature before us," Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler said in a letter announcing the hearing.
Nadler said the hearing, which will focus on "Constitutional Grounds for Presidential Impeachment," will take place on Dec. 4. Trump is scheduled to be in London for a NATO leaders meeting on that date.
The hearing will "serve as an opportunity to discuss the historical and constitutional basis of impeachment, as well as the Framers' intent and understanding of terms like 'high crimes and misdemeanors,'" Nadler said.
Nadler said the hearing comes as the inquiry enters "a new phase."
"Our first task is to explore the framework put in place to respond to serious allegations of impeachable misconduct like those against President Trump," Nadler said, adding that Trump, who has complained that the House is not giving him due process, "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. I hope that he chooses to participate in the inquiry, directly or through counsel, as other Presidents have done before him."
Trump and many of his Republican supporters in Congress have seized on process complaints about the impeachment inquiry, first complaining that the inquiry was being held behind closed doors and then when they went public, griping that it was a circus. They also complained they weren't allowed to call or question witnesses, even though Republican members of committees had equal questioning time and three of the witnesses they requested were called during public hearings.
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said Wednesday that the White House "is currently reviewing Chairman Nadler’s letter, but what is obvious to every American is that this letter comes at the end of an illegitimate sham partisan process. The president has done nothing wrong and the Democrats know it."
Democrats have noted the White House has been doing its best to stonewall the probe, barring key witnesses like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton from testifying. The White House has also ignored subpoenas for relevant documents and ordered agencies like the Justice Department and State Department not to comply either. "The Executive Branch cannot be expected to, and will not participate in, this exercise of partisan political theater," White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in October.
In his letter, Nadler suggested continued stonewalling could have consequences — including losing the right to participate in the process. If "you continue to refuse to make witnesses and documents available to the committees of jurisdiction," Nadler wrote, "the chair shall have the discretion to impose appropriate remedies."
A Democratic aide working on the impeachment inquiry said that the witnesses for the first Judiciary hearing on impeachment will be "academics" like constitutional scholars and impeachment experts, not fact witnesses.
The House Intelligence Committee held public hearings over the past two weeks in the fact-finding portion of the inquiry. Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff is preparing a report on his panel's findings, which he will then send to Nadler's panel. Nadler's committee would handle the drafting of any articles of impeachment.