A resolution outlining the next steps in the House impeachment inquiry passed in a largely party line 232-196 floor vote Thursday.
The resolution paves the way for open hearings in the inquiry, as Democrats prepare to present to the public what their investigation into President Trump’s Ukraine pressure campaign has yielded. It also comes as Republicans have focused their defense of the President on the inquiry’s process, which so far has taken place by behind closed doors.
“This resolution sets the stage for the next phase in our investigation, one in which the American people will have the opportunity to hear from the witnesses firsthand,” said House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA).
Despite provisions in the resolution requiring an open hearing and a public report on the inquiry’s findings, as well as various due process rights for the President, no Republicans ultimately voted for the resolution. Two Democrats also voted against it.
“Trying to put a ribbon on a sham process doesn’t make it less of a sham,” Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), the top Oversight Committee Republican, said before the vote.
GOP leadership, along with the President, worked aggressively to whip the few Republicans who have appeared open to the inquiry against the measure.
The impeachment inquiry is looking at a shadow foreign policy operation President Trump and his personal allies launched in Ukraine seeking investigations into Trump’s political rivals. Trump withheld a meeting with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, and it appears, congressionally authorized military aid, according to some of the witnesses who have testified privately.
The scandal was bubbling within the White House for months, but was blown open with an anonymous whistleblower complaint outlining the allegations. The bulk of the complaint has been corroborated by witnesses in the inquiry, and the chief claim — that Trump requested investigations into the DNC and Joe Biden on a July 25 phone call with Zelensky — was confirmed when the White House released its rough transcript of the call.
“What is at stake in all of this is nothing less than our democracy,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said in a floor speech before the vote.
Trump claims the call was “perfect” and his White House has ordered the administration not to cooperate with the probe, alleging the Democrats’ inquiry was illegitimate.
In a statement after the vote, White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said House Democrats “have done nothing more than enshrine unacceptable violations of due process into House rules.”
“The Democrats want to render a verdict without giving the Administration a chance to mount a defense. That is unfair, unconstitutional, and fundamentally un-American,” she said.
The resolution approved Thursday lays out the protocols for public hearings in the House Intelligence Committee, which so far has been leading the probe, and the Judiciary Committee, which will ultimately put together articles of impeachment. It gives House Republicans, and the President, opportunities to request witnesses and offer other evidence — though those requests will have to be approved by either the committee chair or with a vote by the committee. It also gives the President’s lawyer the opportunity to raise objections and cross-examine witnesses in the Judiciary Committee hearings.
While Democrats have promised to move “expeditiously” with the proceedings, it’s unclear whether they’ll finish by the end of the year, as some had hoped — let alone Thanksgiving, the deadline floated early on in the probe.
Congress has seen several administration witnesses defy the White House’s directive and appear for testimony. Some of those witness have also expressed openness to testifying publicly when that stage arrives.
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