House Judiciary approves procedures for impeachment query

Nadler says hearings will start next week with former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski

Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-New York, left, and ranking member Rep. Doug Collins, R-Georgia, are seen during a House Judiciary Committee hearing titled "Lessons from the Mueller Report, Part II: Bipartisan Perspectives," in Rayburn Building in June. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The House Judiciary Committee on Thursday agreed to a resolution for procedures related to an investigation into the possible impeachment of President Donald Trump, as Democrats and Republicans deeply were split over whether it meant anything at all.

Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-New York, allowed that “there has been a good amount of confusion” about how the committee should talk about the ever-broadening investigation into allegations that Trump committed crimes and abused the power of his office.

But Nadler brushed that aside and called the four committee procedures in the resolution “the necessary next step in our investigation of corruption, obstruction and abuse of power.”

“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,” Nadler said.

[Hoyer contradicts Judiciary Committee on impeachment inquiry]

“We have a constitutional, historical and moral obligation to fully investigate these matters,” Nadler said. Democrats have said the procedures would organize and focus the investigation.

Nadler said after the markup that the committee will begin next week with an aggressive schedule of a series of hearings, starting Sept. 17 with former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.

But Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, the committee’s top Republican, said the resolution doesn’t give the committee any more authority than it already had, and the full House has to vote before there are impeachment investigations.

[Democrats still not working off same playbook on impeachment]

Collins described the Democrats’ strategy as “Fantasy Island,” going down a yellow brick road like in “The Wizard of Oz,” and like “a giant Instagram filter: To make it appear that something is happening when it’s not.”

“We’re not in an impeachment inquiry,” Collins said at one point, as he banged the dais in front of him with the side of his hand.

“Yes, we are,” some Democratic members responded off-mic in a sing-song manner.  

The panel voted 24-17 along party lines to agree to the resolution, which authorizes four procedures at the committee level.

Under it, Nadler could designate full-committee or subcommittee hearings as part of the investigation. Committee counsel could question witnesses for an additional hour beyond the members. Trump’s counsel can respond in writing to evidence and testimony at those hearings. Evidence could be received in closed session.

The resolution is significant because it is the first vote on text that focuses on the Judiciary Committee deciding whether to impeach Trump. The committee previously has made that argument in court filings weeks ago.

The committee in May advanced a contempt-of-Congress resolution against Attorney General William Barr that states the purpose of the committee investigation includes whether to approve articles of impeachment.

But Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, who has hit the brakes on starting impeachment proceedings against Trump, has avoided calling the committee’s probe an impeachment investigation.

Democrats rejected an amendment from Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colorado, that would require the hearings to be before the full committee, not some before subcommittees.

Nadler, who has stated that he’d like the panel to decide whether to recommend articles of impeachment by the end of the year, responded that there is so much Trump misconduct that subcommittees must be used.

“There would not be enough days otherwise for the task,” Nadler said.

Collins took aim at the provision that would allow Trump counsel to respond in writing after a hearing, pointing out that anybody with a pen and paper or an email address can do that.

“As if this president has a hard time expressing himself?” Collins said. “This shows you how silly we’ve got today.”

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