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Impeachment Probe Resumes After A Break For Thanksgiving


The impeachment inquiry will continue this week after lawmakers took a break for Thanksgiving. The House Judiciary Committee will hold a public hearing on impeachment. But President Trump will not be here in Washington. He'll be in London for a NATO meeting when that hearing takes place. NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson is with us. Good morning, Mara.


KING: So we're moving into a new phase here. What happens this week?

LIASSON: What happens is that the House Intelligence Committee that conducted the original hearings on Ukraine and the president's conduct will start circulating a draft of its report today. And then the action moves to the Judiciary Committee, and they're going to start looking at what, if any, articles of impeachment there should be. The Intelligence Committee - Democrats believe that they've established that the president did ask Ukraine to open an investigation into his political rival, Joe Biden, at the same time withholding military aid in an exchange for an announcement of that investigation. But the Judiciary Committee now has to decide if what the president did was an abuse of power and whether it was bad enough to warrant his removal from office. The very first hearings are Wednesday, and the first witnesses will be constitutional experts, legal scholars, to testify about what is the definition of an impeachable offense?

KING: And the White House was invited to the Wednesday hearing - right? - the president and his lawyers. But White House counsel Pat Cipollone said on Sunday the administration isn't going to go. Why not?

LIASSON: They say that the proceedings are baseless and partisan. The White House counsel says the president won't attend the hearings - of course, he'll be at the NATO meeting - and Cipollone, the counsel, won't either, at least on Wednesday.

KING: The White House - it sounds like you're saying the White House hasn't entirely ruled out participating in the future if this keeps going, correct?

LIASSON: Right. They have not necessarily ruled out participating in the future. The chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Jerrold Nadler, has asked the White House to let him know by the close of business this Friday if they will participate at all, if they want to present evidence or call witnesses. Remember, the president has been complaining that he hasn't had a chance to send his lawyers up to the Hill to represent him. But at the same time, the White House has been saying that the whole process is a sham, and they might not want to participate at all because that would legitimize the process.

KING: Does that mean that the White House is, like, giving up its right to question witnesses during the whole phase of this process? Or is that something that the White House might still want to do?

LIASSON: Well, we'll know by Friday if they're giving up their right for the whole process.

KING: OK. How are Republicans - how are the president's allies going to approach this week's hearing?

LIASSON: Well, there have been a lot of complaining about the process being unfair, even though there were Republicans in every Intelligence Committee hearing, and they did question witnesses. But one of the things that Republicans on the Judiciary Committee want is the opportunity to request witnesses. Of course, the chair of the committee has to sign off on whoever they want to call. They want to call in particular the ranking member of the - the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff. The argument is he led the investigation. He wrote the report. He's kind of like a special counsel, like Ken Starr, who investigated President Clinton and then testified before Congress when it was considering whether or not to impeach Clinton. Here is what Doug Collins, Judiciary Committee ranking member, said on "Fox News Sunday."


DOUG COLLINS: Adam Schiff is the author of this report. Adam Schiff has been the author of many things, a lot of them found to be false over the past couple years. But he's going to be the author of this report. He's compared himself in the past to a special counsel. This is what he said he was doing. Well - and if we go back to Clinton and even back to Nixon - but in Clinton, Ken Starr was the special counsel. He presented a report that we're going to get in Judiciary. He actually came and sat and testified under oath and took questions from all sides, including the White House.

KING: OK. The argument for calling Adam Schiff. Mara, in the 30 seconds we have left, do we have a sense of the timeline here?

LIASSON: No, we don't. A lot of Democrats wanted this whole thing to be finished by Christmas, but it's possible it could go longer.

KING: Possible it could go longer. NPR's Mara Liasson. Mara, thanks so much.

LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.