House Democrats unveiled a resolution on Tuesday that outlines protocols for the next step of the impeachment inquiry, with Democratic leaders planning to bring it to a full House vote on Thursday.
The 8-page document was supposed to address Republicans’ concerns over hearings in the Democratic-dominated House being conducted out of the public eye, while the administration has utterly distanced itself from the inquiry.
So, does the newly laid out document cater to both parties’ interests and demands?
- In the wake of complaints from Republicans that Democrats have not released transcripts of the closed-door depositions that have so far taken place, the resolution authorises the Intelligence Committee, one of three in charge of the proceedings, to make those transcripts public, albeit with redactions it deems appropriate.
- Separately, the measure would allow the president or his counsel to participate in impeachment proceedings held by the House Judiciary Committee, which is entitled to advance articles of impeachment against the president. However, the resolution explicitly states that the Judiciary panel will decide whether articles should be reported to the full House, implying the articles of impeachment will not necessarily be available to the Republicans.
- On top of this, should Trump “refuse to cooperate” with congressional requests, as stipulated by the resolution, "...the Chair shall have the discretion to impose appropriate remedies, including by denying specific requests by the President or his counsel". The latter means that any refusal on POTUS’s part will be viewed as grounds for dismissing him from the inquiry altogether.
- Another crucial aspect of the resolution is its orientation regarding the upcoming stages of inquiry, rather than reworking the previous ones, which Republicans have found unsatisfactory.
"The Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the Committees on Financial Services, Foreign Affairs, the Judiciary, Oversight and Reform, and Ways and Means, are directed to continue their ongoing investigations as part of the existing House of Representatives inquiry into whether sufficient grounds exist" to impeach Trump, the document contends.
- Republicans and POTUS Trump have several times called on House Democrats to hold a vote formalising the ongoing impeachment inquiry, but Pelosi has so far said that it is redundant and not necessary. Republicans have called for such a vote in order to obtain the right to launch subpoenas. The said resolution doesn't given them such powers, but further clarifies that they can weigh in on Democrats’ subpoenas.
Criticism by the top Republicans on the three committees handling impeachment issues arrived without delay, as they sent a letter to the House Rules Committee chairman blasting the resolution even ahead of its release.
In the letter, obtained by NBC News, Reps. Devin Nunes of California, Jim Jordan of Ohio and Michael McCaul of Texas claimed that Democrats are trying to "retroactively legitimise their illegitimate impeachment inquiry".
The White House likewise ripped the resolution to pieces:
“The resolution put forward by Speaker Pelosi confirms that House Democrats’ impeachment has been an illegitimate sham from the start as it lacked any proper authorisation by a House vote", White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement.
"It continues this scam by allowing Chairman Schiff, who repeatedly lies to the American people, to hold a new round of hearings, still without any due process for the president".
In the ongoing probe that kicked off on 24 September, House Democrats have set dates for appearances by two figures that are arguably central to the Ukraine phone call and impeachment inquiry: former national security aide John Bolton, set to appear before the committees on 7 November, and top White House lawyer John Eisenberg, according to a source familiar with the investigation. Eisenberg, a deputy assistant to the president and National Security Council legal adviser, who reportedly ordered a summary of the president's 25 July call with counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky moved to a more secure server, is expected to appear in front of the House on 4 November.
On 24 September, House Democrats launched an impeachment inquiry over a whistleblower complaint claiming Trump’s talk with Zelensky in July might constitute an abuse of power as he called the Ukrainian president to investigate potential corruption by former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
Trump promptly released the transcript of the call, and characterised the impeachment inquiry as another another round of “witch hunt garbage” aimed at discrediting him just head of the 2020 vote. Zelensky, for his part, also chimed in on the impasse, cheekily noting that the only person who could pressure him is his little son.