WASHINGTON – The House of Representatives will vote this week to formalize impeachment inquiry procedures after weeks of resisting a full House vote and unrelenting attacks by Republicans.
The vote on the resolution by Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern, D-Mass., is expected Thursday. The text of the resolution was not immediately available, but it will lay out the next steps in the inquiry, including establishing procedures for public hearings, transferring the investigation to the Judiciary Committee for potential articles of impeachment and outlining rights of President Donald Trump and his attorneys.
It will mark the first time House members will be forced to vote on the inquiry and put several moderate Democrats and Republicans under close scrutiny as the 2020 election approaches.
“As committees continue to gather evidence and prepare to present their findings, I will be introducing a resolution, which the Rules Committee will mark up this week, to ensure transparency and provide a clear path forward,” McGovern said. “This is the right thing to do for the institution and the American people.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., sent a letter to members Monday outlining that the resolution sought to combat a key line of Republican attack: that the impeachment inquiry was illegitimate because there was no House vote on it.
“For weeks, the President, his Counsel in the White House, and his allies in Congress have made the baseless claim that the House of Representatives’ impeachment inquiry ‘lacks the necessary authorization for a valid impeachment proceeding.’ They argue that, because the House has not taken a vote, they may simply pretend the impeachment inquiry does not exist,” Pelosi wrote in the letter.
“This week, we will bring a resolution to the Floor that affirms the ongoing, existing investigation that is currently being conducted by our committees as part of this impeachment inquiry.”
Pelosi’s letter came the same day the Justice Department appealed a U.S. District Court ruling that ordered access to the House Judiciary Committee for the grand jury evidence redacted from special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. The ruling by Judge Beryl Howell said the committee deserved access to the redacted material because of the impeachment investigation.
Pelosi declared a formal impeachment inquiry Sept. 24 and said an umbrella of six committees would continue to investigate Trump and his administration for possible offenses such as abuse of power and obstruction of justice. Her declaration came amid reports about the president’s call July 25 to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, when Trump urged an investigation of his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.
But the White House and congressional Republicans have attacked the investigation as a partisan “witch hunt” that wasn’t authorized by a full House vote, as was the case with previous investigations of Presidents Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon. Trump has compared the investigation to a lynching.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., tweeted Monday that the House wouldn’t support her backtracking, which signaled that the inquiry “has been botched from the start.”
During a law enforcement speech Monday in Chicago, Trump said that “the impeachment of your president is a scam.” Trump also retweeted a message Monday from Republicans on the House Oversight and Reform Committee saying there was “no quid pro quo” and “no pressure,” a reference to his call to Zelensky.
Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel, notified Pelosi on Oct. 8 that the administration would no longer cooperate with the inquiry that he called illegitimate and unconstitutional without a floor vote.
“The Trump administration has made up this argument – apparently out of whole cloth – in order to justify its unprecedented cover-up, withhold key documents from multiple federal agencies, prevent critical witnesses from testifying and defy duly authorized subpoenas,” Pelosi wrote Monday.
Three committees – Foreign Affairs, Intelligence, and Oversight and Reform – have been holding closed-door depositions with State Department and national security officials to learn more about Trump’s demand while he withheld nearly $400 million in military aid.
But other committees have continued work on other aspects of the investigation. The oversight panel won an appeal for access to Trump’s financial documents from Mazars USA, his longtime accountants, but the president’s lawyers indicated they will appeal the decision to the Supreme Court. The Intelligence and Financial Services committees await the decision in an appeal for his financial documents from Deutsche Bank, the president’s longtime lender.
And in addition to the Judiciary Committee winning access to grand jury evidence, the panel continues to fight in court for the enforcement of a subpoena for former White House counsel Don McGahn. Mueller’s report described 10 episodes of possible obstruction of justice, with several involving Trump directing McGahn to have Mueller removed.