Intel Committee finalizing Trump impeachment report for vote
WASHINGTON (CN) – The report that Democrats will use as the basis to impeach President Donald Trump comes up for review and a vote this week, inching the White House ever closer toward a historic and assuredly contentious trial in the Senate.
At its core, the report – written by the House Intelligence Committee – is expected to argue that Trump abused his power and violated his oath of office by withholding roughly $400 million in congressionally approved military aid earmarked for Ukraine while simultaneously pressuring Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch investigations into Trump’s likely 2020 election opponent Joe Biden, Biden’s son Hunter and Hunter’s role on the board of Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian natural gas conglomerate.
Since the White House has openly and repeatedly directed key officials across various federal agencies to ignore or defy congressional subpoenas or requests for records, the final report is also likely to contain allegations that Trump obstructed Congress, another impeachable offense.
Members of the House Intelligence Committee have all of Monday to review the report before finally voting Tuesday to approve and submit the findings to the House Judiciary Committee.
Tuesday’s vote is expected to succeed, though break sharply along party lines. With the report approved, the House Judiciary Committee can then draft articles of impeachment for submission to the Senate.
The rat-a-tat of the inquiry continues Wednesday when the House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to meet for a public hearing on the historical and constitutional bases of impeachment, according to a notice issued by committee chairman Jerry Nadler last week.
The hearing will explore the framers’ intent for impeachment as well as the meaning behind terms such as “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Precisely who will testify at the hearing was unclear as of Monday morning. A representative for the House Judiciary Committee did not immediately respond to request for comment.
Trump has an open invitation to participate in Wednesday’s hearing as well as all future hearings hosted by the House Judiciary Committee. The president can also send a White House attorney in his stead.
By attending, the White House would have an opportunity to question witnesses directly as well as challenge the allegations in an orderly setting.
On Sunday night, however, White House attorney Pat Cipollone told Nadler not to hold his breath.
“Under the current circumstances, we do not intend to participate in your Wednesday hearing,” Cipollone said in a letter.
The attorney also wrote that the invitation to an “academic discussion with law professors” was not indicative of a fair process.
Nadler has separately given Trump until Dec. 6 to decide whether he will participate in additional hearings the Judiciary Committee may schedule in the future.
The White House will tell the committee by Friday whether Trump plans to participate in any future hearings, Cipollone noted.
Trump’s refusal to participate at this stage follows weeks of decrying the private and public aspects of the impeachment inquiry as “unfair” and proof of “presidential harassment.” The president has also regularly chalked the probe up to what he has described as a long-running Democrat-run conspiracy to overthrow him.
Though oft parroted by the president’s most staunch supporters — both in and out of Congress — the allegations of a deep-state coup in the works since Trump’s 2016 election have been debunked by the U.S. intelligence community.
Nonetheless, the president has rarely missed an opportunity to use Twitter or scrums with reporters on the White House lawn to lambaste proceedings. Trump even called the hosts of the “Fox and Friends” news show on Nov. 22 claiming there was a broad conspiracy to overthrow him and that his campaign was being spied on.
A representative for the White House did not immediately respond to request for comment before business hours Monday.
Once in the House Judiciary Committee’s purview, Nadler has the authority to call additional witnesses for testimony. Should other witnesses appear, they will likely be interviewed in the weeks leading up to Christmas recess.
The ranking Republican on the committee, Representative Doug Collins of Georgia, has at least one witness in mind: House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff.
Collins said Sunday on Fox News that Schiff should testify because he is the leading author of the impeachment report. A representative from Collins did not immediately respond to request for comment.
“It’s easy to hide behind a report,” Collins told Fox. “It’s easy to hide behind a gavel in the Intelligence Committee behind closed door hearings. But it’s going to be another thing to actually get up and have to answer questions about what his staff knew, how he knew and what he knew about the whistleblower report.”
In a Nov. 29 letter to Collins, Chairman Nadler gave the ranking member until Dec. 6 to provide the committee with a list of witnesses “deemed necessary to the investigation.” The letter also indicated that Nadler is prepared to schedule a meeting on Dec. 9 to consider those referrals.
A full vote in the House for articles of impeachment is expected just before Christmas.
The inquiry has moved at a breakneck pace since it began in late September following the release of a memo documenting a July phone call between Trump and Zelensky. During the call, the U.S. president asked the foreign ally to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.
It is unclear whether the final report will go beyond the Ukraine extortion plot and reach into other issues like the multiple instances of obstruction into the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election led by former special counsel Robert Mueller.