House Will Vote To Formalize Impeachment Procedures In Ongoing Inquiry
Updated at 6:30 p.m. ET
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced in a letter to Democrats on Monday that the House will vote to formalize the procedures in the ongoing impeachment inquiry of President Trump.
The resolution will outline the terms for public hearings, the disclosure of deposition transcripts, procedures to transfer evidence to the House Judiciary Committee and due process rights for Trump.
Senior Democratic aides said the resolution will be released on Wednesday, with a House vote on Thursday.
"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," Pelosi wrote.
House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff confirmed that the resolution will establish a format for open hearings.
"The American people will hear firsthand about the President's misconduct," Schiff said in a statement.
So far the White House has refused to comply with the inquiry because the House has not voted. It is unclear if passage of the resolution will change the White House's strategy as the investigation intensifies.
White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham responded briefly in a statement Monday, saying "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."
The White House and congressional Republicans have criticized Democrats for not conducting a full House vote at the onset to authorize the impeachment inquiry, as Congress did for Bill Clinton's impeachment. Neither the Constitution nor House rules require that, but it has given Republicans a unifying talking point to attack the inquiry so far.
Republicans were quick to move the goal posts following Pelosi's announcement. "We will not legitimize the Schiff/Pelosi sham impeachment," tweeted Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff is leading the impeachment investigation.
Judiciary Committee Chair Lindsey Graham said he believes Democrats were "forced to change course" because Senate Republicans and the American people demanded a vote. Still, he said the vote now is like "un-ringing a bell as House Democrats have selectively leaked information in order to damage President Trump for weeks."
"I look forward to reviewing their proposal," Graham said, "and ensuring it provides President Trump with the rights and privileges Republicans afforded former President Clinton during the 1998 impeachment process."
Congressional Republicans have largely focused their lines of defense on the process and not on the substance of the allegations against Trump that he abused his office to pressure Ukraine to advance investigations that would help him politically. House GOP strategy will also have to evolve as the investigation takes a more public turn.
So far the inquiry has taken place behind closed doors. Schiff has promised public hearings, and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., has said he would like the House to wrap up its work on impeachment by the end of the year. The House is currently scheduled to be in session just 19 more days this year, putting Democrats under an ever-increasing time crunch.
If the House approves any articles of impeachment against Trump, it will trigger a near immediate trial in the Senate to decide whether to remove him from office. The most recent impeachment trial, of Clinton in 1999, lasted five weeks. Many lawmakers say they would like to conclude the impeachment process before ballots start being cast in the 2020 presidential primary season, which kicks off Feb. 3 with the Iowa caucuses.