As the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump moves to the House Judiciary Committee, Republicans signaled Sunday that they will mount an aggressive campaign to delegitimise the process, accusing Democrats of rushing the proceedings as the White House debates whether to participate at all.
Speaking on "Fox News Sunday," Rep. Douglas Collins of Georgia, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, indicated that the GOP would continue its all-out effort to attack the Democratic-led impeachment process. But he declined to say whether Republicans would take advantage of the complete range of opportunities they will have to make their case against Trump's removal, reports The Washington Post.
The remarks from Collins and other Republicans on Sunday reflected a conflict inside the GOP over the extent to which Trump and his congressional defenders ought to participate in a process they have spent more than two months attacking as unfair and corrupt.
Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., a Judiciary Committee member, said on ABC News' "This Week" that he thought it "would be to the president's advantage" to have counsel participate in the upcoming hearings.
"But I can also understand how he is upset at the illegitimate process that we saw unfold in the Intelligence Committee," he added.
Collins attacked the speedy timeline that Democratic leaders are pursuing, one that appears aimed at concluding an impeachment vote in the House before Christmas rather, he argued, than providing appropriate due process for the president.
"They want to get this president right now before everybody completely sees through the process sham of the elections for next year," Collins said. "So we're rushing this."
Democrats on the Judiciary Committee said Sunday that Republicans were trying to distract from Trump's wrongdoing by raising objections to the impeachment process without challenging the facts that have been gathered.
The Judiciary Committee is set to hear Wednesday from four constitutional scholars who are expected to testify on the standards for impeachment - three chosen by Democrats, one by Republicans. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., the panel's chairman, has not yet named the witnesses, prompting protests from Collins, despite the matter being handled in accordance with House rules.
Some Republicans on Sunday predicted that the impeachment inquiry will take a turn for the combative once it reaches Nadler's commitee.
"It's a bunch of brawlers sometimes on the Judiciary Committee, so it should get pretty hot and under the collar as we go along," Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., who sits on the panel, said in an interview with Fox News Channel's Mike Emanuel on "Sunday Morning Futures."
"I don't think things have been done the way they've been done in the past, Mike, and so it causes some rancor and it should be pretty - much more feisty, I would say, than the Intel Committee was."
Collins said Sunday that he was not sure whether Trump would avail himself of the due-process protections that Nadler has offered, including the right to present evidence, suggest witnesses, and cross-examine those whom Democrats call to testify. In a Friday letter, Nadler set a Dec. 6 deadline for the White House to decide on the scope of its participation.
"We're certainly hoping that the president, his counsel, will take advantage of that opportunity if he has not done anything wrong," Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., said on "This Week." "We're certainly anxious to hear his explanation of that."
There were few indications of Trump's thinking Sunday morning. The president had sent two tweets about World AIDS Day as of early afternoon and was spending the second day in a row at his golf course in West Palm Beach, Florida, after returning early Friday from a Thanksgiving visit to U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
On Saturday night, the president had tweeted out links to opinion pieces from Trump-friendly media outlets defending his actions and criticising the impeachment process as "wasting time."
Collins said Sunday that he understood why the White House might skip participating in the Wednesday hearing, calling it "just another rerun" covering ground already surveyed in previous Judiciary Committee hearings.
"This is a complete American waste of time right here," he said.
But he added that Republicans would be more keen to participate in future hearings - particularly one examining the findings of the House Intelligence Committee as prepared by its chairman, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.
The panel is set to meet Tuesday to approve the release of its report on Trump's dealings with Ukraine.
Collins on Sunday renewed calls for Schiff personally to testify, indicating that he would face intense questioning from Republicans on the role his committee played in shepherding the whistleblower complaint that exposed Trump's irregular dealings with Ukraine, among other matters.
The Republican congressman noted that Schiff has compared the panel's fact-finding process to that of the independent prosecutors who examined matters that led to impeachment proceedings against presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton. In those cases, Collins noted, those prosecutors subjected themselves to congressional questioning.
"He's put himself into that position," Collins said. "It's easy to hide behind a report. It's easy to hide behind a gavel and the Intelligence Committee's behind-closed-door hearings. But it's going to be another thing to actually get up and have to answer questions."
Demings said Democrats were "not going to play any games" with Republicans and called on Trump to end his stonewall of Democrats' witness and document demands.
"They want to ... play a political game and tie the process up in the courts as long as they can and run the clock out," she said. "We're not willing to play that game."
Some Democrats on Sunday intensified their criticism of Trump's alleged efforts to pressure Ukraine.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., who is running for president, described the impeachment inquiry as a constitutional obligation and likened the president's actions to a "global Watergate."
"James Madison said that the reason we needed impeachment provisions is that he feared that a president would betray the trust of the people to a foreign power," Klobuchar said on NBC News' "Meet the Press." "That's why this is proceeding. I see it simply as a global Watergate."
Just as Nixon delegated people to get dirt on a political opponent, Klobuchar added, "that's basically what this president has done on a global basis."
Sen. John Neely Kennedy, R-La., meanwhile, argued that both Russia and Ukraine interfered in the 2016 presidential election, despite the intelligence community's assessment that only Russia did so.
The comments mark Kennedy's latest attempt to shift the focus away from the U.S. intelligence community's conclusion that Russia worked to help elect Trump, following a Fox News Channel interview last week from which he later backtracked.
"I think both Russia and Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election," Kennedy told host Chuck Todd on NBC News's "Meet the Press" on Sunday.
Todd pressed Kennedy on whether he was concerned that he had been "duped" by Russian propaganda, noting reports that U.S. intelligence officials recently briefed senators that "this is a Russian intelligence propaganda campaign in order to get people like you to say these things about Ukraine."
Kennedy responded that he had received no such warning.
"I wasn't briefed. Dr. Hill is entitled to her opinion," Kennedy said, referring to former National Security Council Russia adviser Fiona Hill, who testified in the impeachment inquiry last month.
In her public testimony, Hill had warned that several Trump allies had spread unfounded allegations that Ukraine, rather than Russia, had interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
"This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services," she said.