WASHINGTON - The White House on Friday appeared to reject the latest entreaties from the House to participate in the rapidly-accelerating impeachment inquiry, decrying the proceedings as "completely baseless" as Democrats continued undeterred with their push to impeach the president by the end of the month.

Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel, indicated to the House Judiciary Committee on Friday that President Donald Trump would not be sending attorneys to its hearing on Monday, when the main panel charged with drafting articles of impeachment will hear evidence from Intelligence Committee lawyers on its investigation into the president's conduct toward Ukraine.

The scathing, two-paragraph letter reiterated the White House's protests that the Democrats' impeachment investigation violated Trump's due process rights. Cipollone did not explicitly say the White House would not participate, but he clearly inferred it.

"House Democrats have wasted enough of America's time with this charade," Cipollone wrote on Friday to the Judiciary chairman, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y. "You should end this inquiry now and not waste even more time with additional hearings.

Cipollone added: "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."

The response came as little surprise; throughout the impeachment proceedings, the White House has blocked witnesses from testifying, declined to provide documents demanded by Democrats and did not send lawyers to the Judiciary Committee's first impeachment hearing on Wednesday.

Instead, the White House has largely looked to the Republican-controlled Senate to wage a full defense of Trump, who is accused of abusing the powers of the presidency when he pressured Ukraine to investigate former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, as well as an unfounded theory that Kyiv conspired with Democrats to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has directed key committees to begin writing the articles, which could include an array of impeachable offenses such as bribery and obstruction of Congress. Members of the Judiciary Committee are slated to meet this weekend to discuss what those articles would entail - as Democrats remain locked in an internal debate over expanding them to cover Trump's behavior outlined by former special counsel Robert S. Mueller's Russia investigation.

Though she has yet to sketch out a firm timeline, Pelosi left little doubt that her chamber was headed toward an impeachment vote in as little as two weeks. That would most likely pin the start of a Senate trial in January, and few expect the chamber, where two-thirds of its members would have to vote in favor of convicting the president, will throw Trump out of office once the proceedings begin there.


A White House spokesman said Friday that Trump "welcomes" a Senate trial and reiterated that the president wants "serious witnesses," including the anonymous whistleblower who sparked the impeachment inquiry, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and the Bidens. What witnesses ultimately come forward in the Senate will depend largely on the senators themselves, since those 100 members will determine how, procedurally, an impeachment trial is structured.

"If it goes there, he wants a trial," the spokesman, Hogan Gidley, said on Fox News. "If they're going to do this, if the Democrats want this fight, it's something the president is willing to have."

Cipollone echoed that sentiment to Nadler, quoting a recent Trump tweet as he wrote: "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.'"

Though Trump's removal from office is almost assured not to happen, others on Friday continued to make the public case for it.

More than 500 legal scholars signed on to an open letter released Friday asserting that Trump committed "impeachable conduct" and that lawmakers would be acting well within their rights if they ultimately voted to remove him from office.

The group noted in particular that Trump's conduct seemed to be directed at affecting the results of the 2020 election, and so it was not a matter that could be left to voters at the polls.

"There is overwhelming evidence that President Trump betrayed his oath of office by seeking to use presidential power to pressure a foreign government to help him distort an American election, for his personal and political benefit, at the direct expense of national security interests as determined by Congress," the group of professors wrote in the letter, published online Friday by the nonprofit advocacy group Protect Democracy.

The White House's latest decision to decline came as questions began to surface about the activities of Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, who returned to Ukraine this week to meet with people accused of spreading discredited conspiracy theories about corruption and Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election.

He met a pro-Russian lawmaker Andriy Derkach, who claimed to have information about misspent American funds and who called for a joint U.S.-Ukraine investigation into his corruption allegations. Derkach recently aired unfounded corruption claims against Hunter Biden.

Giuliani was accompanied by a crew from a right-wing news network, One American News, that boasted it had debunked the impeachment allegations against Trump in its reporting of the trip. In a tweet, Giuliani claimed Democrats would be shocked to learn that the president would be asking that the claims of the Ukrainians he met to be investigated.

Even Republicans who have staunchly stood by Trump and his conduct largely declined to defend Giuliani's latest journey to the eastern European nation that has become the major focal point in the impeachment proceedings against Trump.

"I don't know everything he's doing, who he's meeting with, what the conversations are," said Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y. "I would like to have more information to give you a better response."

Gidley, the White House spokesman, also declined to say whether Trump knew what exactly Giuliani was doing abroad, nor whether the president was comfortable with his lawyer's latest activities.

"I haven't spoken with him about that directly," Gidley told reporters at the White House. "But obviously Rudy Giuliani can speak for himself, he's the president's personal attorney."

But Giuliani's trip also came as Republican allies of Trump in the Senate continued to deepen its focus on Ukraine, particularly on unfounded efforts to undermine the president during his 2016 campaign.

Three Senate committee chairmen announced Friday that they are seeking records and transcribed interviews from two people who, they claim, could bolster a notion advanced by Trump that "elements of the Ukrainian government were actively working to undermine" his prospects against Democrat Hillary Clinton.

"Contrary to the popular narrative in the 'main stream media' that Ukrainian involvement in the 2016 election has been debunked, or 'no evidence exists,' there are many unanswered questions that have festered for years," Homeland Security Chairman Ron Johnson, R-Wis., said in a statement.

Also involved in the push to obtain the documents are Finance Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., fired back at the Republicans, warning that their efforts only risked damaging national security.

"When Vladimir Putin says stoop, Senate Republicans are asking: how low?" Schumer said Friday. "Putin and his intelligence services disinformation campaign team in Moscow couldn't have cooked up a more useful tool for spreading conjured and baseless conspiracy theories than the one Chairmen Graham, Grassley and Johnson announced today.

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The Washington Post's Robyn Dixon, Matt Zapotosky, Rachael Bade and Mike DeBonis contributed to this report.

This article was written by John Wagner and Seung Min Kim, reporters for The Washington Post.