President Trump departed for London Monday to attend a NATO summit, as the House Judiciary Committee prepares to hold its first public impeachment inquiry hearing this week.
Speaking with reporters before he left the White House for the summit, Mr. Trump criticized House Democrats for scheduling the hearing while he is abroad, noting that his trip to the meeting of world leaders had been planned months ago and is "one of the most important journeys that we make as president."
The president called the impeachment inquiry a "hoax" and predicted it would be beneficial for Republicans who are on the ballot in November 2020.
"I think it's going to be a tremendous boon for the Republicans," he said. "Republicans have never ever been so committed as they are right now and so united. It's really a great thing in some ways, but in other ways, it's a disgrace to our country."
The White House said Sunday night that it would decline to participate in the committee's process, accusing committee Chairman Jerry Nadler of intentionally scheduling the hearing to interfere with Mr. Trump's NATO trip.
The president will be meeting with other leaders and marking the 70th anniversary of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance. He's expected to meet one-on-one with French President Emmanuel Macron and German President Angela Merkel, among other leaders. He is not currently scheduled to meet one-on-one with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is due for another election the week after hosting the NATO summit.
But the trip also comes amid other potentially awkward circumstances for Mr. Trump and other NATO members. The president is not expected to have a bilateral meeting with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whom he met with at the White House earlier this month. Mr. Trump has been heavily criticized for his warm approach to Erdogan, whose military invaded northern Syria and forced out Kurdish forces after Mr. Trump announced the withdrawal of many U.S. troops from the region.
The president's NATO trip also comes after his first visit to Afghanistan, a surprise trip he made on Thanksgiving. There, the president confirmed he would draw down the number of U.S. troops from 14,000 to 8,600 and claimed talks with the Taliban are resuming.