House Judiciary Committee To Begin Impeachment Hearings
The House Judiciary Committee is ready to begin its phase of impeachment hearings after Thanksgiving.
With limited time available if Congress really is going to vote on impeachment before Christmas, the House Judiciary Committee is set to begin hearings next week:
The House Judiciary Committee will hold its first hearing next week on the impeachment of President Donald Trump, as Democrats move quickly to the next stage of a process that is likely to lead to the third-ever presidential impeachment before the end of the year.
The hearing, scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 4, will feature a panel of constitutional experts and focus on the definition of an impeachable offense and the “procedural application of the impeachment process,” according to committee aides.
Republicans held a similar hearing at the outset of proceedings against President Bill Clinton in 1998, and Democrats say the move is a necessary prerequisite to drafting articles of impeachment.
“The impeachment inquiry is entering into a new phase,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) said in a statement. “Our first task is to explore the framework put in place to respond to serious allegations of impeachable misconduct like those against President Trump.”
Most notably, the hearing will give Trump and his legal team the option to participate. The president and his allies have blasted Democrats over their impeachment inquiry, saying it has failed to include meaningful due process for the president.
Nadler sent a letter to Trump on Tuesday notifying him of his lawyers’ opportunity to attend and giving the president a deadline of Dec. 1 to inform him of whether his attorneys plan to participate.
Nadler also wrote that the committee plans to use the hearing to “analyze” the evidence gathered by the House Intelligence Committee, which wrapped up a series of public hearings last week that focused on allegations Trump pressured Ukraine’s government to investigate his political rivals.
“At base, the president has a choice to make: he can take this opportunity to be represented in the impeachment hearings, or he can stop complaining about the process,” Nadler added. “I hope that he chooses to participate in the inquiry, directly or through counsel, as other presidents have done before him.”
The hearing will be titled, “The Impeachment Inquiry into President Donald J. Trump: Constitutional Grounds for Presidential Impeachment.” The witnesses, who have yet to be announced, will face questions from lawmakers about technical aspects of the impeachment process, including what constitutes a high crime or misdemeanor as defined in the Constitution.
It’s not entirely clear what process the Judiciary Committee will follow or whether it will hear from fact witnesses beyond those that testified before the House Intelligence Committee. Based on reporting, it seems that the first hearings will basically consist of Constitutional Law experts and historians discussing the historical basis for the Impeachment Clause in Article One of the Constitution, This will be a prelude to the process whereby the committee will review the report expected from House Intelligence Committee shortly after Thanksgiving
It’s also unclear whether the committee will consider issues beyond the scope of the Intelligence Committee report as potential grounds for impeachment. Potential subject matters in this regard include the evidence of obstruction related to Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, the issues raised by the President’s apparent conspiracy with his former attorney Michael Cohen to pay off women he had affairs with in advance of the 2016 election, the issues raised by the Foreign and Domestic Emoluments Clauses, and the fact that that the Administration continues to obstruct valid Congressional inquiries by refusing to provide access to documents and witnesses. The argument in favor of following this strategy, of course, is that if the President is going to be impeached then the articles should include everything rather than just focusing on the Ukraine scandal.
One of the more notable things about the process that Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler has laid out is the fact that he is inviting the President, through his attorneys, to participate in the process in some manner. This could include giving them the right to cross-examine any witnesses that may be called and even to call their own witnesses with the approval of a majority of the Committee and/or the Chairman. I don’t recall either President Nixon or President Clinton being given the same opportunity during the inquiry phase of their respective impeachment proceedings. This belies the argument that Republicans have made that the Democrats are making the process unfair to the President, of course, but it’s likely that they’ll continue making that argument.
The first formal Judiciary Committee hearing is set for December 4th, and the committee will likely have to move quickly considering the fact that there are a limited number of working days prior to the Christmas recess. If things get slowed down for any reason, the issue could get pushed into the New Year.
Here’s the Committee’s letter to the White House: