“It allows staff to question witnesses at those hearings for an hour after members conclude, gives the President’s lawyers the ability to respond in writing to public testimony and allows the committee to collect information in a closed setting.”
The House Judiciary Committee Democrats voted this morning on “the ground rules for a formal committee inquiry” to impeach President Donald Trump.
While it does not mean an inquiry has officially started, it means the Democrats have finally defined the inquiry.
Chairman Jerry Nadler has not given up on this subject despite pushback from Democrats in the House from moderate districts.
Thursday’s vote, which does not need to be approved by the full House, gives Nadler the ability to deem committee hearings as impeachment hearings. It allows staff to question witnesses at those hearings for an hour after members conclude, gives the President’s lawyers the ability to respond in writing to public testimony and allows the committee to collect information in a closed setting.
Nadler sought to clarify the committee’s intentions in his opening statement at Thursday’s committee meeting, acknowledging there was confusion but arguing that the language used to describe the investigation wasn’t the important point.
“This Committee is engaged in an investigation that will allow us to determine whether to recommend articles of impeachment with respect to President Trump. Some call this process an impeachment inquiry. Some call it an impeachment investigation. There is no legal difference between these terms, and I no longer care to argue about the nomenclature,” the New York Democrat said. “But let me clear up any remaining doubt: The conduct under investigation poses a threat to our democracy. We have an obligation to respond to this threat. And we are doing so.”
Nadler faces hesitation from some Democrats, especially those who flipped their districts in 2018. These representatives helped the Democrats seize the House last November.
Rep. Donna Shalala (D-FL) said the impeachment is “sucking the air out of all the good stuff that we’re doing.” She reiterated that not many of those she represents have brought up impeachment during the August recess.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi remains one of Nadler’s biggest obstacle. She has stayed away from using the word impeachment when asked about the investigation. She described the strategy as “legislate, investigate and litigate.” Behind closed doors, Pelosi “has urged caution and told the caucus that the public isn’t there yet on impeachment.”
Pelosi faced “unhappy protesters at a dinner in San Francisco” last month due to the House not concentrating on issues they deem necessary. These include climate change, the economy, and healthcare.
Unlike Shalala, Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA) dealt with angry constituents during the August recess over his opposition to impeachment. Unable to control his temper, he told the audience that their push for impeachment would help Trump win in 2020.
Rep. Conor Lamb (D-PA) and Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ) also had frustrated constituents at town halls. They want to know why the House has shuffled its feet when it comes to impeachment:
“If we don’t make a strong enough case to the American people — and right now, I don’t think we can do that without more — the president will be acquitted, and we will now have two branches of our government who have said that his behavior is acceptable,” Sherrill said as the room quieted, adding that she would support impeachment if Trump defies a court order.
Yet this moved some members of the audience to accuse her of playing politics.
“It’s a fight worth fighting. If you lose, you lose, but at least you made the fight,” one man said as Sherrill turned to other questions. Another woman chimed in with a warning: “Don’t be last to speak up. You’ll be challenged.”
Other Democrats do not want to touch impeachment because they know it will not get past the Senate. But would it even get past the House? Only 135 Democrats have voiced support for an impeachment inquiry.
While the Democrats think semantics are not important, those words will mean something if the investigation lands in front of a judge.
Who knows what will happen. I do not mind the Democrats concentrating on impeachment. It means that they are not legislating, which means fewer bad laws.DONATE
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