Donald Trump began his week avidly tweeting along to Fox News before jetting out for a Nato summit in London, as the House impeachmentreport into his dealings with Ukraine are set to be unveiled to members of Congress in advance of the Judiciary Committee staging its first hearing of the inquiry on Wednesday.
The White House yesterday declined to be part of the midweek session, with lawyer Pat Cipollone branding the process a “baseless and highly partisan” attack on the president in a letter to Judiciary chairman Jerrold Nadler.
Republicans continued to defend Mr Trump on the Sunday talk shows, with the ranking GOP representative on the committee Doug Collins calling on inquiry figurehead Adam Schiff to testify and accusing him of “hiding behind the report”.
As he departed the White House for London, Mr Trump called the trip “one of the most important journeys that we make as president” and said Democrats had long known about it.
His trip to the UK comes amid ongoing quarrels over defence spending by NATO allies and widespread anxiety over the president’s commitment to the alliance.
The president said his trip would be focused on “fighting for the American people”. But in the more than two months that the impeachment inquiry has been underway, he has constantly drifted back to what he frames as the Democrats’ unfair effort to overturn the results of his 2016 election.
The House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing Wednesday on the constitutional grounds for impeachment before Mr Trump wraps up at the NATO summit.
Mr Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Mr Cipollone and presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway all complained about the timing, with Mr Pompeo saying the hearings would “distract America’s president from his important mission overseas.”
Mr Trump insists he’s solely focused on scoring domestic and foreign policy wins, including revamping NATO so that allies spend more on defense. But he’s often appeared consumed by the day-to-day battle against impeachment.
In recent days he’s repeatedly lashed out about the “impeachment hoax” and the “scam” inquiry, even delving into impeachment at a ceremony to celebrate NCAA athletes and at last week’s annual Turkey pardon.
White House aides say the summit offers Mr Trump an opportunity to counter the impeachment narrative in Washington and demonstrate to voters that he’s keeping a business-as-usual approach while Democrats concentrate on the probe.
But soon after Air Force One departed, Mr Trump took to Twitter to slam “Do Nothing Democrats” for scheduling the hearing during the NATO meeting as “Not nice!””
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in Madrid for a UN conference on climate change, declined to comment about the impeachment inquiry, saying, “When we travel abroad, we don’t talk about the president in a negative way. We save that for home.”