Trump rails against impeachment: ‘They shouldn’t be having public hearings’
President Trump on Friday said there should be no public hearings in the impeachment inquiry as he railed against the process unfolding in the House.
“They shouldn’t be having public hearings. This is a hoax,” Trump said as he left the White House for events in Georgia.
The comments mark a sharp break from Trump’s allies, who have spent recent weeks complaining about the lack of transparency in the ongoing impeachment inquiry. The first public hearings in the process are set to take place next week.
House Democrats are investigating allegations that Trump abused his office by urging foreign governments to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, his domestic political rival, as well as Biden’s son.
The committees leading the impeachment inquiry this week released transcripts of their closed-door hearings with several current and former officials.
Each of the testimonies indicated that there was widespread concern about the role of Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, in the administration’s Ukraine policy and described a campaign by Giuliani to oust a U.S. ambassador.
A few witnesses testified that a White House meeting with the Ukrainian president was contingent on his publicly announcing investigations that Trump wanted.
Trump on Friday blasted the impeachment proceedings in his most extensive public comments since the first transcripts were released on Monday. He attacked Democratic lawmakers leading the impeachment process and suggested an attorney for the whistleblower who raised concerns about his call with the Ukrainian president should be sued “and maybe for treason.”
Trump downplayed the potentially damaging effects of the transcripts that have been released thus far, claiming he was unfamiliar with many of the witnesses and that none of them had first-hand information.
“I’m not concerned about anything,” Trump said. “The testimony has all been fine. I mean for the most part, I’ve never even heard of these people. There are some very fine people. You have some Never Trumpers. It seems that nobody has any first-hand knowledge.”
The president asserted that the only thing that counts is the partial transcript from his July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. While Trump has insisted that document shows the call was “perfect,” it depicts the president urging his Ukrainian counterpart to “look into” the Bidens after Zelensky brought up the need for military assistance.
Trump added that he’s open to releasing a similar memo detailing an earlier call with Zelensky if Democrats demand a copy.
The House Intelligence Committee will hold public hearings next week with three witnesses who have testified privately in recent weeks, presenting new challenges for Trump’s efforts to discredit members of his own administration.
Diplomat William Taylor and State Department official George Kent will testify on Wednesday, and former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch will testify Friday.
The White House has refused to cooperate with the process thus far, directing officials not to testify. Acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney did not comply with a subpoena to testify on Friday.
Trump told reporters at the White House he would have no problem with Mulvaney speaking with lawmakers, but he did not want to “give credibility to a corrupt witch hunt.”
His complaints about the process come as the White House is preparing to bolster its staffing to combat impeachment. Former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and former Treasury Department spokesman Tony Sayegh are expected to join the White House communications team in the coming days.
—Updated at 12:08 p.m.