Democrats Unveil Proposed Rules to Govern Impeachment Proceedings
WASHINGTON — House Democrats unveiled new rules on Tuesday for going public with their impeachment inquiry, directing the Intelligence Committee to convene open hearings and produce a written report to share the findings of its investigation into President Trump’s pressure campaign on Ukraine.
Under the proposed rules, which the House plans to bring up for a vote on Thursday, the report, along with transcripts of witness interviews being conducted behind closed doors and additional evidence collected by the Intelligence Committee, would promptly be shared with the Judiciary Committee, which would weigh the evidence and produce articles of impeachment to send to the full House.
The draft resolution allows for new due process rights for President Trump and maps out exactly how Democrats plan to take public the confidential fact-finding process they began late last month.
“The evidence we have already collected paints the picture of a president who abused his power by using multiple levers of government to press a foreign country to interfere in the 2020 election,” four House committee leaders involved in the inquiry wrote in a statement. “Following in the footsteps of previous impeachment inquiries, the next phase will move from closed depositions to open hearings where the American people will learn firsthand about the president’s misconduct.”
The statement was signed by Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee; Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee; Representative Eliot L. Engel of New York, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee; and Representative Carolyn B. Maloney of New York, the acting chairwoman of the Oversight and Reform Committee.
In many respects, the procedures appear to mimic those adopted by Republicans when they initiated impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton in 1998. But there is a key difference: In that case, the process followed an independent counsel report and was limited to the Judiciary Committee. This time, the House itself is carrying out the investigation, and it will be Mr. Schiff’s panel that is responsible for issuing a document summing up the findings.
The resolution, if adopted, would grant Republicans many of the rights and provisos they have angrily demanded from Democrats in recent weeks, as the investigation remained behind closed doors. It specifically empowers the top Republicans on the Intelligence and Judiciary panels to issue subpoenas for witness testimony or evidence if Democratic committee leaders sign off. And if they do not, the Democrats must schedule a vote to allow the full committee to have its say on the proposal.
Democrats also plan to lay out due process rights for Mr. Trump and his lawyers once the process moves to the Judiciary panel. Those will also closely resemble the rules for the impeachment proceedings against Mr. Clinton, as well as Richard M. Nixon. They would allow lawyers for Mr. Trump to request additional testimony or evidence, attend all Judiciary Committee hearings, object to testimony given and cross-examine witnesses called by the committee.
The measure is designed to pave the way for more compelling and substantive hearings than the typical, often tedious sessions that are the norm in congressional committees, in which each lawmaker has a brief turn to question witnesses, and often uses the time to speechify or try to create a viral moment. Instead, under the proposed rules, the Intelligence Committee could convene public hearings in which the top Democrat and Republican — as well as staff aides — can question witnesses for extended, equal blocks of time, up to 45 minutes per side.
Representative Jim McGovern, Democrat of Massachusetts and the chairman of the Rules Committee, released the resolution Tuesday afternoon. Lawmakers in both parties were eagerly awaiting a chance to review it, though for the most part, partisan lines appear to have already been drawn.
Democratic leaders expressed confidence that they would have enough votes to pass the resolution this week, even if a handful of moderate Democrats vote no. Republican leaders were urging their members to vote against it, arguing that to do otherwise would be a validation of Democrats’ impeachment inquiry.
“This thing has been poisoned from the very beginning,” said Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the Rules Committee. “Now, we are going to have rules presented to us at the last minute that we had nothing to do with. No negotiation. No input. Not even, ‘Hey, what would you like to see in this thing?’”
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