US President Donald Trump has denounced the impeachment inquiry by House Democrats against him as "a hoax".
"The Democrats, the radical left Democrats, the do-nothing Democrats decided when Iím going to NATO - this was set up a year ago - that when Iím going to NATO, that was the exact time," Trump told reporters outside the White House on Monday.
Trump made the remarks before departing for London where he will meet with leaders of the Western military allianceís member nations.
"This is one of the most important journeys that we make as president, and for them to be doing this and saying this and putting an impeachment on the table, which is a hoax to start off with," he added.
The House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold its first impeachment hearing on Wednesday following the conclusion of the probeís public testimony before the House Intelligence Committee last month. Trump will participate in this yearís NATO summit on Wednesday.
The White House informed the Judiciary panel on Sunday that Trump and his lawyers will not participate in the impeachment hearing this week due to a lack of "fundamental fairness."
"We cannot fairly be expected to participate in a hearing while the witnesses are yet to be named and while it remains unclear whether the Judiciary Committee will afford the President a fair process through additional hearings," White House counsel Pat Cipollone wrote to Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat from New Yorkís 10th congressional district and Chairman of the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee.
Cipollone did not rule out participation in further proceedings, but he signaled that Democrats would first have to make major procedural concessions.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also blasted the timetable as "very unfortunate" during an interview with Fox News on Monday.
Pompeo asserted there exists a "long tradition that we support presidents when they travel overseas to do their work," and criticized Democratic lawmakersí decision "to hold hearings back here in Washington to distract Americaís president from his important mission" in the United Kingdom.
"I mean, these are some of our most important allies and partners in keeping the American people safe and secure," Pompeo said. "I regret that theyíve chosen to hold these hearings at the same time that the president and our entire national security team will be traveling to Europe, to London, to work on these important matters."
The Democratic-led House Judiciary Committee, tasked with considering charges known as articles of impeachment, had given Trump until Sunday night to say whether he would dispatch a lawyer to take part in the judiciary panelís proceedings on Wednesday.
Trumpís aides have responded defiantly to the first of two crucial deadlines he faces in Congress.
Nadler has given the White House a Friday deadline to say whether Trump will mount a defense in broader impeachment proceedings. Nadler also set a second deadline of 5 p.m. (2200 GMT) on Friday for Trump to say whether he or his legal counsel would participate in further proceedings expected next week to examine evidence against him.
House Democrats launched an impeachment inquiry against Trump in September after a whistleblower alleged the Republican president pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, who had served as a director for Ukrainian energy company Burisma.
The impeachment probe shifted to a public phase on November 13 after weeks of closed-door interviews in the House.
An overwhelming 70 percent of US adults think Trumpís action towards Ukraine was wrong, and a slim majority of Americans, 51 percent, believe Trumpís actions were both wrong and he should be removed from office, according to an ABC News/Ipsos poll released on November 19.
Three investigating panels, led by the House Intelligence Committee, are due to release a formal report this week when lawmakers return on Tuesday from a Thanksgiving recess. The report will outline evidence gathered by the Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees.
Members of the intelligence panel will review the report in a classified setting on Monday evening, and the full committee will consider and vote on it on Tuesday before forwarding it to the Judiciary Committee, according to an Intelligence Committee official and a person familiar with the matter.
Trump has denied any wrongdoing, calling the impeachment inquiry a "witch hunt."
SOURCE: PRESS TV