The White House faces a Friday deadline to decide whether to participate in future hearings, which are likely tackle potential articles of impeachment stemming from the investigation into Trump’s attempts to pressure Ukraine into investigating former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.
Democrats say Trump conditioned a much-desired White House meeting for Ukraine’s leader, as well as millions in military aid, on Kyiv launching a Biden probe. Trump and his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani counter that the probe was part of a broader effort to eradicate corruption — they allege Joe Biden, as vice president, helped protect his son’s business interest in the country. No public evidence has emerged that Biden intervened on his son’s behalf in Ukraine.
Cipollone said he needs more information about future impeachment hearings to decide whether to show up, but it’s unlikely he’ll get what he wants. The House waited until Monday to announce who would testify at its hearing Wednesday.
Even if the House does give the White House earlier notice about its hearing plans, numerous Trump advisers say the president’s team shouldn’t — and likely won’t — participate.
The White House didn’t send anyone to fill the seats the House Intelligence Committee reserved for Trump officials during the two weeks of impeachment hearings that concluded late last month. Instead, informal Trump allies peppered the audience, including former 2016 deputy campaign manager David Bossie and a few House GOP members, including Gaetz and Meadows, who are not on the Intelligence Committee.
“This is an unconstitutional, illegitimate process,” White House counselor Kellyanne Conway told reporters at the White House this week.
Still, the president has, at times, been tempted to tell his side of the story at the hearings. But his advisers convinced him the better strategy was to sit it out.
“He wants to fight,” said a former Trump aide who speaks to the president. “He always wants to fight.”
Instead, Trump has resorted to tweeting and talking to the media incessantly about impeachment. In London Tuesday for a meeting of NATO leaders, he spoke to reporters for 121 minutes — much of it about impeachment.
“You know what a fix is?” he asked reporters. “This is a fix.”
His advisers have followed suit.
Since Thanksgiving, Giuliani has blasted out more than a dozen tweets challenging Democrats’ impeachment probe, likening it to “the McCarthy era” and urging the Senate to change who argues first at a trial. Giuliani’s suggestions: let Trump’s defense team jump ahead of the House prosecutors “to prove innocence” and call several witnesses who would turn the spotlight onto Biden.
Giuliani, a former New York mayor, has been sidelined from handling Ukraine matters on behalf of the president’s impeachment defense since mid-October after media reports said federal investigators were scrutinizing his efforts to orchestrate the pressure campaign against Ukraine.
Republicans and Democrats agree that the White House’s participation is unlikely to sway any lawmakers. Members are expected to vote, largely along party lines, in favor of impeaching Trump, sending the process to the Senate for a trial over whether to convict Trump and remove him from office. There, the Republican majority will likely prevent Democrats from obtaining the two-thirds majority vote needed to oust the president.
Polls showed an uptick in support for impeachment soon after the Ukraine scandal surfaced, but the momentum has slowed, hovering around an even split both for and against impeachment.
Republicans say those figures are in their favor.
“Republicans have been dealing with the process with both hands tied behind our backs and yet very clearly the polling show when the Democrats can pick the witnesses, pick the order of the witnesses, pick the timing of the witnesses, pick what witnesses will be able to answer what questions, they’re still losing,” Ratcliffe said.