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House set to unveil Trump probe report

China Daily | Updated: 2019-12-03 07:46

White House says it won't participate in milestone Judiciary Committee hearing

WASHINGTON - The House of Representatives impeachment report on US President Donald Trump was expected to be unveiled for key lawmakers on Monday, as Democrats push ahead with the inquiry despite the White House's declaration it will not participate in the first hearing of the Judiciary Committee.

The Democratic majority on the House Intelligence Committee compiled the report after hearing weeks of testimony. Chairman Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, said the report presented evidence of "wrongdoing and misconduct" by the president over his actions concerning aid to Ukraine. The report was made available for committee members to review ahead of a vote on Tuesday to send it to the Judiciary Committee for Wednesday's landmark hearing.

Late on Sunday, White House counsel Pat Cipollone denounced the "baseless and highly partisan inquiry". In a letter to Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, also a Democrat.

Cipollone declined the invitation for the president's counsel to appear before his panel on Wednesday.

Cipollone said the process by the House of Representatives "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.

In his letter, Cipollone accused Nadler of purposely scheduling the hearing so that it will run concurrently with Trump's trip to London.

As the impeachment inquiry intensifies, 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 to Ukraine approved by Congress and pressing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch investigations into Trump's political rivals in return for the aid. The report is also expected to include evidence of possible obstruction of Congress due to Trump's instructions that officials in his administration defy House subpoenas for documents or testimony.

Ambitious schedule

Trump maintains he did nothing wrong, and as the House advances 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, however. He demanded more information from Democrats on how they intend 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, want Schiff, the intelligence panel chairman who led the inquiry report, to testify before the Judiciary Committee. They have no power to compel him to do so and have 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 Representative Doug Collins, 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 are 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 Representative Val Demings, a Democratic member of both the intelligence and judiciary committees.

Trump has previously suggested that he might be willing to offer written testimony under certain conditions, though aides suggested they did not anticipate Democrats would ever agree to them.

Agencies - Xinhua

(China Daily 12/03/2019 page12)

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