20:18 GMT25 January 2020
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    On Friday, the White House told federal lawmakers it would refuse to participate in impeachment hearings against US President Donald Trump, scorning a 5 p.m. deadline by House Democrats.

    White House counsel Pat Cipollone said in a Friday letter to Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), who chairs the House Judiciary Committee that is heading up the present round of impeachment inquiry proceedings, that the inquiry was "completely baseless." He blasted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's decision to proceed with articles of impeachment against Trump "before your committee has heard a single shred of evidence."

    "House Democrats have wasted enough of America's time with this charade," the lawyer wrote. "You should end this inquiry now and not waste even more time with additional hearings. Adopting articles of impeachment would be a reckless abuse of power by House Democrats, and would constitute the most unjust, highly partisan and unconstitutional attempt at impeachment in our nation's history."

    "Whatever course you choose, as the president has recently stated, 'if you are going to impeach me, do it now, fast, so we can have a fair trial in the Senate, and so that our country can get back to business,'" Cipollone wrote.

    "We don’t see any reason to participate because the process is unfair," a senior administration official told Reuters. "We haven’t been given any fair opportunity to participate. The speaker has already announced the predetermined result and they will not give us the ability to call any witnesses."

    Pelosi (D-CA) said earlier Friday that White House participation in the hearings would give Trump "a chance to show his innocence."

    "Anything they have that is exculpatory, this is their moment,” Pelosi told reporters at the Capitol. “But they have a consciousness of guilt, and that’s why they may not show up. We’ll see. Maybe they will."

    The House Intelligence Committee passed the wheel to the Judiciary Committee earlier this week when it issued a report of more than 300 pages summing up several weeks of investigation in which it interviewed dozens of diplomatic staff and reviewed documents submitted by various subpoenaed agencies. The White House and other Executive Branch institutions have so far declined to cooperate, following an earlier directive by Trump not to do so.

    The inquiry is investigating Trump's talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy earlier this year and whether or not Trump pressed him to open an investigation of former US Vice President Joe Biden by threatening to withhold military aid.

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