WASHINGTON – Setting the stage for the public phase of the inquiry, the House of Representatives adopted rules for the impeachment investigation into President Donald Trump along mostly partisan lines on Thursday.
The resolution sets rules for how the congressional committees leading the impeachment inquiry will hold public hearings and eventually funnel their findings to the House Judiciary Committee for the potential drafting of articles of impeachment.
Previously, the interviews with witnesses had been held behind closed doors, which Republicans had derided as a “Soviet-style investigation.” Both Republicans and Democrats have participated in those interviews.
Here’s what will happen next in the impeachment inquiry:
The House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees will hold public hearings, and previously confidential witness testimony will be released to the public.
Trump’s counsel will be allowed to participate in the Judiciary Committee’s phase of the process by receiving evidence and staff reports, questioning witnesses, submitting additional evidence, and being invited to offer a concluding presentation.
It is unclear, however, when the public hearings will begin, though they are sure to be high-profile.
When asked about a timeline in a press conference following the House’s passage of the impeachment inquiry resolution, House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., declined to comment.
“You should really ask Chairman Schiff and it depends on … the speed with which things go there, and I can’t answer that question,” he said, referring to Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif.
Democrats also declined to comment on potential witnesses for public testimony.
“We’re not going to speculate on that now,” said Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y. at the same press conference.
Some closed-door testimony
Next week, the House has scheduled closed-door depositions with other high-profile witnesses, including former national security adviser John Bolton and several National Security Council aides, but it unclear if they will appear.
Bolton’s attorney notified congressional committees that Bolton would not voluntarily appear but awaits a subpoena to force his testimony, something lawmakers have indicted an openness to doing.
Republicans oppose the inquiry
House Republicans, however, vehemently oppose the impeachment inquiry. No Republicans crossed the aisle to vote for the impeachment resolution on Thursday.
“Trying to put a ribbon on a sham process doesn’t make it any less of a sham,” Rep. Jim Jordan, the top Republican on the House Oversight Committee, during debate on the resolution.
They objected to the lack of access for all members to future closed-door depositions, and said they will not be able to view all of the transcripts.
“My goodness, you’re still continuing these closed-door hearings that are not open and transparent. And in – and in fact, you know, we’re just continuing the same thing where members can’t even get copies of the transcripts,” said Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Ariz., during a hearing on the resolution on Wednesday. “Members that are on the committee can even get copies of transcripts.”
Contributing: Bart Jansen, Christal Hayes