The Capitol is seen at dawn, Friday, March, 17, 2017, in Washington. 
J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo

Will Trump lawyers boycott next phase of impeachment process?

About a month ago, when the U.S. House approved a resolution that formally established the impeachment process against Donald Trump, lawmakers created a roadmap for lawmakers to follow. Closed-door hearings would lead to public hearings with the House Intelligence Committee. Soon after, the panel would prepare a report for the House Judiciary Committee, which would consider drafting and voting on articles of impeachment.

With this in mind, it raised a few eyebrows yesterday when the Judiciary Committee made an unexpected announcement:

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.

The announcement signaled an important procedural step – it suggests, among other things, that the Intelligence Committee probably won’t hold additional hearings – but it was also the moment the White House claimed to be waiting for.

In fact, theoretically, Nadler’s announcement opens the door to a unique opportunity for the White House. Donald Trump recently complained that the impeachment process was “a farce,” in part because his lawyers haven’t been able to make their case. The argument never really made any sense, largely because it was made too early: the president’s defense team would be able to make their arguments once a report was prepared and presented to the Judiciary Committee.

And now that the process has reached that stage, the Judiciary Committee has invited Trump’s lawyers to participate, make their case, and present a defense.

Except they may not want to.

As hard as this may be to believe, Politico reported this morning, Team Trump may effectively boycott the proceedings.

As of right now, people close to President Donald Trump on the White House staff and on Capitol Hill do not believe he will send a lawyer to participate in next week’s Judiciary impeachment hearings, as is his right.

This comes after weeks of complaining that the process was rigged against him because he didn’t have representation…. There will undoubtedly be hand-wringing about this in the five days between now and when the committee needs to know whether they should expect White House counsel.

The report makes clear that Team Trump’s position may yet change. Indeed, it may change more than once and there’s no reason to assume there’s any kind of coherent plan or strategy inside the White House.

But if the president and his lawyers ignore the Judiciary Committee, after weeks of whining about not being able to participate, that would be truly amazing, even by Team Trump standards.