Politics

House Democrats set vote on impeachment procedure amid Republican criticism

Key Points
  • House Democrats are poised to hold a vote to move forward with the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi confirmed Monday. 
  • Pelosi had previously brushed off the calls from Republicans to hold a vote formally authorizing the impeachment probe. She accused them of attempting to avoid the allegations against the president by focusing on the impeachment process.
  • Republicans have complained that Democratic leaders — especially Pelosi and House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff — are conducting the investigation in the dark.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) talks to reporters during her weekly news conference at the U.S. Capitol October 17, 2019 in Washington, DC.
Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images

House Democrats will hold a vote to push forward with the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi confirmed Monday.

"This week, we will bring a resolution to the Floor that affirms the ongoing, existing investigation that is currently being conducted by our committees as part of this impeachment inquiry," Pelosi said in a dear colleague letter made public Monday.

"This resolution establishes the procedure for hearings that are open to the American people, authorizes the disclosure of deposition transcripts, outlines procedures to transfer evidence to the Judiciary Committee as it considers potential articles of impeachment, and sets forth due process rights for the President and his Counsel," Pelosi wrote.

Less than two weeks earlier, Pelosi had brushed off the calls from Republicans to hold a vote that formally authorized the impeachment probe. She has accused them of focusing on the process in the House in an effort to distract from the allegations against the president.

Republicans have complained that Democratic leaders — especially Pelosi and House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff — are conducting the investigation in the dark. Last week, a group of roughly 30 Republicans even attempted to enter the secure hearing room where witnesses in the probe were testifying.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., was quick to deride the Democrats' latest move as "backtracking."

Trump is a vocal critic of the inquiry, which was spurred in large part by his request for Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to "look into" former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Trump had also asked Zelensky to "do us a favor though" and look into Ukraine's alleged role in foreign interference in the 2016 presidential election.

A whistleblower's complaint about the July 25 phone call between Trump and Zelensky has raised questions about hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine. That aid had been withheld for months without a clear explanation, though it was eventually released in September.

VIDEO1:1001:10
House expected to vote on Trump impeachment inquiry

The Trump administration has vowed not to comply with the impeachment probe. It has pressured some current and former officials not to appear for depositions, claiming immunity from the congressional process even after lawmakers have issued subpoenas for testimony.

In her letter Monday, Pelosi notes that Democrats are "taking this step to eliminate any doubt as to whether the Trump Administration may withhold documents, prevent witness testimony, disregard duly authorized subpoenas, or continue obstructing the House of Representatives."

The vote is expected to come as soon as Thursday, a senior Democratic aide told CNBC. The House resolution will be put forward tomorrow by Rules Committee Chairman James McGovern, D-Mass., according to a spokesman for his office.

"There is mounting evidence that the president abused his power and betrayed our national security while compromising the integrity of America's elections," McGovern said in a statement. "As committees continue to gather evidence and prepare to present their findings, I will be introducing a resolution to ensure transparency and provide a clear path forward, which the Rules Committee will mark up this week."

In a response to Pelosi, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said that "We won't be able to comment fully until we see the actual text, but Speaker Pelosi is finally admitting what the rest of America already knew – that Democrats were conducting an unauthorized impeachment proceeding, refusing to give the President due process, and their secret, shady, closed-door depositions are completely and irreversibly illegitimate."

On Friday, a federal judge in Washington ruled that Democrats did not need to take a formal vote to initiate their impeachment inquiry. "Even in cases of presidential impeachment, a House resolution has never, in fact, been required to begin an impeachment inquiry," the judge wrote in her decision.

The Department of Justice said Monday that it would appeal that decision.

Read Pelosi's full letter below:

Dear Democratic Colleague,

For weeks, the President, his Counsel in the White House, and his allies in Congress have made the baseless claim that the House of Representatives' impeachment inquiry "lacks the necessary authorization for a valid impeachment proceeding." They argue that, because the House has not taken a vote, they may simply pretend the impeachment inquiry does not exist.

Of course, this argument has no merit. The Constitution provides that the House of Representatives "shall have the sole Power of Impeachment." Multiple past impeachments have gone forward without any authorizing resolutions. Just last week, a federal court confirmed that the House is not required to hold a vote and that imposing such a requirement would be "an impermissible intrusion on the House's constitutional authority." More than 300 legal scholars have also refuted this argument, concluding that "the Constitution does not mandate the process for impeachment and there is no constitutional requirement that the House of Representatives authorize an impeachment inquiry before one begins."

The Trump Administration has made up this argument – apparently out of whole cloth – in order to justify its unprecedented cover-up, withhold key documents from multiple federal agencies, prevent critical witnesses from cooperating, and defy duly authorized subpoenas.

This week, we will bring a resolution to the Floor that affirms the ongoing, existing investigation that is currently being conducted by our committees as part of this impeachment inquiry, including all requests for documents, subpoenas for records and testimony, and any other investigative steps previously taken or to be taken as part of this investigation.

This resolution establishes the procedure for hearings that are open to the American people, authorizes the disclosure of deposition transcripts, outlines procedures to transfer evidence to the Judiciary Committee as it considers potential articles of impeachment, and sets forth due process rights for the President and his Counsel.

We are taking this step to eliminate any doubt as to whether the Trump Administration may withhold documents, prevent witness testimony, disregard duly authorized subpoenas, or continue obstructing the House of Representatives.

Nobody is above the law.

Best regards,

Nancy