House Democrats aim to keep momentum on impeachment
Washington – House Democrats are planning a rapid start to their push for impeachment of President Donald Trump, with hearings and depositions starting this coming week.
Democratic leaders have instructed committees to move quickly – and not to lose momentum – after revelations that Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate his potential 2020 Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, and his family. The action is beginning even though lawmakers left town Friday for a two-week recess.
The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said Friday that his committee is moving “expeditiously” on hearings and subpoenas. That committee, as well as the House Oversight and Reform Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee, have scheduled depositions starting this upcoming week for State Department officials linked to Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.
A look at next steps as Democrats march toward an impeachment vote:
A busy recess
Members of the House Intelligence Committee have been told to be prepared to return to Washington during the break. California Rep. Jackie Speier said she has already canceled some of her previous commitments.
“We’re expected to be here,” Speier said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has told the Democrats they need to “strike while the iron is hot” on impeachment, sending the committees into overdrive. Connecticut Rep. Jim Himes, a Democrat, said a plan is “being formed very rapidly.”
“What I know for sure is that momentum will not slow,” Himes said.
Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., said they will have to “work harder” and “sleep less.”
Long witness list, quick timeline
Schiff’s committee has been negotiating to interview the whistleblower who began the firestorm by reporting to the inspector general for the intelligence community that Trump had urged the investigations on a July phone call with Zelenskiy. The whistleblower also said that White House officials then moved to “lock down” the details by putting all the records of it on a separate computer system.
The complaint from the whistleblower, whose identity is not publicly known, was released Thursday after acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire withheld it from Congress for weeks.
The inspector general who handled that complaint, Michael Atkinson, is slated to testify to the Intelligence Committee in private on Oct. 4, according to a person familiar with the committee who was spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
Lawmakers on the committee said Friday that they also want to speak to White House aides who were present for the call and to Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, who urged the investigations.
Democrats say they hope to finish the investigation in a matter of weeks – perhaps even before Thanksgiving.
Articles of impeachment
Once the committees have finished their own investigations, the committees will submit their findings to the House Judiciary Committee, which oversees the impeachment process.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., who serves on the Judiciary Committee, said the Intelligence Committee will be the “star of the show” as it investigates Trump’s activities related to Ukraine. Articles of impeachment would be drafted by the Judiciary Committee and, if adopted, sent to the House floor.
The Judiciary Committee chairman, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., has said he wants resolution on impeachment by the end of the year. Jayapal said that deadline “absolutely” stands, and that the plan is to be done before January, or “perhaps sooner.”
Republicans have focused their ire about impeachment on the Democrats, criticizing the probes as a rerun of a two-year investigation into Russian election interference in the 2016 election.
California Rep. Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee, said Thursday that Democrats “don’t want answers, they want a public spectacle.”
“They have been trying to reverse the results of the 2016 election since President Trump took office,” said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.
If the House votes to approve charges against Trump, the Republican-led Senate would then hold a trial.
Some Senate Republicans have expressed concerns about Trump’s interactions with Ukraine, but there are few signs that there would be enough discontent to convict the president, who still has strong support in the GOP ranks. If Trump were impeached, it would take a two-thirds vote in the Senate to convict him and remove him from office.
The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., has said his committee will investigate the Ukraine matter but “don’t expect us to move at light speed – that will probably happen in the House.”
A nod to history
Trump would join a rare group if the House moves forward toward impeachment. Only two presidents have been impeached: Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998. Both won acquittal in the Senate.
President Richard Nixon, who faced impeachment proceedings, resigned from office in 1974.