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What’s ahead for the impeachment inquiry?

The House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold its first hearing on impeachment this Wednesday, although the White House has announced President Trump will not participate in a process he insists is a “hoax.” Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made news Monday with his remarks about the delay in U.S. aid. Lisa Desjardins joins John Yang to discuss a busy December schedule.

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  • John Yang:

    President Trump headed abroad today, while, here at home, the House moves closer to a potential vote on impeachment.

    Mr. Trump will be participating in a NATO summit in London this week as the House Judiciary Committee holds its first impeachment hearing.

    Congressional correspondent Lisa Desjardins is here to tell us what's ahead.

    Lisa, the president has now landed the London, but while he was in the air, the impeachment news kept happening here at home. What happened while he was in the air?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    And here he is talking to important allies, but on his mind as well is the impeachment hearing going forward.

    I want to first of all play what the president had to say on his way to London as he left the White House today. He's going to remark on something that the Ukrainian president, Zelensky, said. We're going to come to that.

    But here's the president basically building his case even as he left the White House today.

  • President Donald Trump:

    Because the whole thing is a hoax. Everybody knows it.

    All you have to do is look at the words of the Ukrainian president that he just issued, and you know it's a hoax. It's an absolute disgrace, what they're doing to our country.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    We will continue to hear this from Republicans, the idea that this investigation and impeachment is a hoax or a sham.

    Let's talk about what President Zelensky said specifically that the president thinks exonerates him.

    Here are the words from the Ukrainian president in an interview that was published in the last day.

    He said: "Look, I never talked to the president from the position of a quid pro quo. That's not my thing. But you have to understand we're at war. If you're a strategic partner, then you can't go blocking anything for us. I think that's just about fairness."

    There's a lot in that quote, John, but, essentially, he's saying a quid pro quo is not his thing. I don't know if that's a clear exoneration of the president. But he went on farther, this as the president's job is at stake here.

    Zelensky thinks his country is at stake over there over U.S. policy, so an important development.

    Also something today that I think we need to keep our eye on for the next week, this man. His name is Lev Parnas. We are going to show a photo of him. He's a known associate of Rudy Giuliani who was working in Ukraine on behalf of Giuliani and is known to have been part of this idea of a parallel track of diplomacy.

    He's under indictment. And in court today, his lawyer said he would like to turn over a large amount of documents and electronic devices, 14 cell phones and laptops with information that he thinks House Democrats should get.

    That's working through the courts, but the judge indicates — the judge — that they may grant that request and get that evidence to Democrats.

  • John Yang:

    Sort of tantalizing. We don't know what's there.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    No. No.

  • John Yang:

    But he says it could be helpful or of interest.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Yes.

  • John Yang:

    Now, the White House said over the weekend that it won't participate in this week's House Judiciary Committee impeachment hearing.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That's right.

  • John Yang:

    How does that affect things?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Well, it's fascinating because this is the first opportunity to the White House has had to participate. They could not participate in the House Intelligence Committee hearing, something that they have raised a lot of criticism about.

    But we did get this letter from the White House counsel, Pat Cipollone. He's the one sort of heading up impeachment from a legal standpoint.

    He wrote in this letter to the House Judiciary chairman: "An invitation to an academic discussion with law professors," which is what the hearing is on Wednesday, "does not begin to provide the president with any semblance of a fair process. Accordingly, under the current circumstances, we do not intend to participate in your Wednesday hearing."

    And I will note, we have gotten that witness list. It is four law professors, one of whom was chosen by Republicans. But still the White House is saying that's not enough.

    Interestingly enough, John, they may participate later. In this same letter, the White House counsel says they're considering whether they will call other witnesses or participate at a different time.

    But there's a deadline for them to make that decision as well.

  • John Yang:

    Where does this go from here? I mean, what's going to happen this week, and then what's the process after that?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Let's go to the calendar. I love it.

    First, let's talk about this week. Again, this is the hearing on Wednesday, the 4th. That is the first House Judiciary Committee hearing with those law professors. Now, after that, on Friday, that is the deadline that Democrats have set for the White House to announce if they will participate at all, if they want to call any witnesses, cross-examine any witnesses in the future.

    One reason that deadline is so tight is because the following week is when Democrats seem to be moving toward at least a committee vote on actual articles of impeachment. If things move along quickly, that could also be a House floor vote.

    So if the White House is going to participate, they need to announce that soon. Now, after that, an important date, of course, the 25th, Christmas, this has sort of been the tool by which — or the measure for Democrats when they would like to have articles of impeachment through the House altogether.

    I want to point out a couple other dates in December that may affect everything. December 9, that's when the inspector general at the Department of Justice releases a report about the FBI's handling of the Russia investigation. That's something Republicans say will show bias against the president.

    There's some reporting it may not. That's a big date. Then, December 20, oh, just the deadline for government spending. That's when government spending will run out. So that's something else that members of Congress and the president have to agree on in the midst of all of this kind of upheaval and very serious constitutional debate.

  • John Yang:

    And, meanwhile, the House Republicans said today that they will have something to say about this. Right?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That's right.

    Just in the last hour or so, we received a report from House Republicans. They have written their own prebuttal to the impeachment hearings of the week. That is 110 pages. Essentially, they say the president never pressured the Ukrainian president.

    And this document really lays out, I think, how they will proceed. By tomorrow night, John, we should also get the Democrats' Intelligence report. We expect that to be lengthy and significant. It will first be presented behind closed doors, but we should get a look at it by tomorrow night, just in time for that Wednesday hearing.

    It's going to be busy.

  • John Yang:

    And so that goes to the Judiciary Committee as sort of the basis for their work.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That's right.

    The thinking is, the Intelligence Committee Democrats will recommend impeachment move forward to House Judiciary.

  • John Yang:

    Lisa Desjardins, busy days ahead.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Indeed.

  • John Yang:

    Thanks very much.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    You're welcome.

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