As the congressional impeachment inquiry shifts this week to the House Judiciary Committee, this appears to be the moment Donald Trump and his team have been waiting for. With the House Intelligence Committee having completed hearings as part of a lengthy fact-finding process, the Judiciary panel offers the president and his lawyers an opportunity to begin presenting a defense.
With this in mind, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) formally extended an invitation to the White House last week, urging the president to "stop complaining about the process" and begin participating in the impeachment proceedings. Nadler gave the White House a deadline of Dec. 6 to make its intentions known.
Last night, as NBC News reported, he received a response.
The White House said Sunday it will not participate in the House Judiciary Committee's first impeachment hearing on Wednesday but left open the possibility that it may take part in future proceedings.In a letter to committee chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., White House Counsel Pat Cipollone called the hearing, which will explore the "historical and constitutional basis of impeachment," unfair.
Politico's report added, "The decision indicates that President Donald Trump has listened to his allies and some congressional Republicans who argued that a White House presence at the hearing would validate a process they have harangued as illegitimate and partisan."
Of course, Republicans have harangued that the process has been illegitimate and partisan because, in its preliminary stages, Team Trump wasn't able to testify or present a defense. Now that the president and his attorneys have been invited to participate directly in the process, they've effectively decided to boycott?
The one thing Team Trump said it wanted most -- a chance to participate and present a defense -- now appears to be the thing Team Trump won't accept.
The Republican complaints about process continue to collapse, in large part because the party seems reluctant to take "yes" for an answer. Initially, GOP officials said the impeachment process was unfair because the House didn't hold a floor vote on the inquiry. After the floor vote, Republicans said the process was unfair because there were no public hearings.
After the public hearings, Republicans said the process was unfair because Team Trump hadn't been invited to present a defense. After the president and his attorneys received such an invitation, the GOP has been reduced to arguing that the process is unfair because, well, just because.
It's important to emphasize that the White House hasn't ruled out the possibility of participating at some point going forward, but it won't send a representative on Wednesday. Watch this space.