As the impeachment process shifts from inquiry to consideration of the actual drafting of articles of impeachment, the House Judiciary Committee, led by chair Rep. Jerry Nadler, offered President Donald Trump the chance to have legal representation present to question witnesses that may appear to give depositions.
The White House on Sunday declined to send someone to the upcoming Judiciary Committee hearings, set to begin this week, on Trump’s behalf.
Nadler’s letter to the White House outlining how the process would work from here on out said that Trump would be given “certain privileges,” including being able to “question any witness called before the Committee.”
But Trump’s White House counsel Pat Cipollone wrote back to Nadler, arguing that the process still wasn’t a fair one to the president:
“[W]e cannot fairly be expected to participate in a hearing while the witnesses are yet to be named and while it remains unclear whether the Judiciary Committee will afford the President a fair process through additional hearings,” Cipollone said. “More importantly, an invitation to an academic discussion with law professors does not begin to provide the President with any semblance of a fair process.”
WH tells Nadler it will not participate in Dec 4 hearing… pic.twitter.com/LLowiNs9Pj
— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) December 2, 2019
Complaints have stemmed from the White House for several weeks that the president hasn’t been given “due process” in the impeachment inquiry hearings, not being given the ability to call their own witnesses and not having the chance to cross-examine or question witnesses that did appear.
White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham, for example, voiced dissatisfaction with the process in late October, by stating that “Democrats refuse[d] to provide basic due process rights to the administration.” Trump himself complained in that the process “was just explained to” him, and called it a “Pelosi, Schiff, Scam against the Republican Party and me” in a tweet he wrote on November 7.
But legal experts describe the impeachment process as being similar to a grand jury investigation, where prosecutors bring forward witnesses to convince a grand jury to agree that a trial is needed. During such inquiries, witnesses arguing on the accused’s behalf are not called forward, nor are defendants given the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses brought forward by prosecutors.
Some experts believe Trump is getting more “due process” than a grand jury investigation would grant him, given that several Republican lawmakers have been able to cross-examine witnesses during the impeachment inquiry on his behalf already.