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House readies first vote on impeachment probe

Vote will be the first time members are forced to go on the record about the probe

House Rules Chairman Jim McGovern is expected to introduce the text of the impeachment resolution Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
House Rules Chairman Jim McGovern is expected to introduce the text of the impeachment resolution Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The House will vote Thursday on a resolution affirming the authority of its impeachment inquiry and establishing procedures governing the next phases of the probe.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi made the announcement in a “Dear Colleague” letter Monday afternoon, saying the resolution would affirm “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.”

A senior Democratic aide confirmed that the plan is for a floor vote on the resolution Thursday. House Rules Chairman Jim McGovern, who is sponsoring the resolution, announced that his panel will mark up the measure Wednesday. The Massachusetts Democrat is expected to introduce the text Tuesday.

Intelligence Chairman Adam B. Schiff said in a statement the resolution will establish the format for open hearings that will be conducted by his committee. “The American people will hear firsthand about the President’s misconduct,” the California Democrat said.

It was unclear from Schiff’s statement whether the Oversight and Foreign Affairs Committees, which have been working with the Intelligence panel to conduct closed-door witnesses depositions, will be able to participate or host their own public hearings.

The vote will force members to go on the record for the first time, to either support or oppose the impeachment inquiry, since Pelosi’s announcement last month that Democrats were conducting a formal probe into whether the House should recommend that the Senate remove President Donald Trump from office.

The vast majority of House Democrats have issued statements expressing their support for the inquiry, demonstrating there should be more than enough support to pass the resolution. Only six Democrats have not publicly backed the probe.

The vote could be uncomfortable for Republicans who’ve argued for transparency and due process in the inquiry but generally oppose it. It is unclear whether some Republicans who have remained open to impeachment, like retiring Florida Rep. Francis Rooney, would be inclined to vote for the resolution.

The resolution is also significant because it signals that Democrats are getting ready to begin the public portion of the inquiry after weeks of closed-door witness depositions. 

“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 said.

The California Democrat asserted in her letter that Democrats do not believe a House vote formalizing the impeachment inquiry is required by the Constitution, as a district court judge affirmed last week in a case granting the House Judiciary Committee access to grand jury materials from the special counsel’s investigation. But the speaker said the vote will affirm the House’s authority.

“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 said.

But White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement that the speaker “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 announcement came the same day that Charles Kupperman, a former deputy assistant to the president for national security affairs, declined to appear for his impeachment deposition Monday. 

Kupperman’s lawyers filed a lawsuit last week seeking a declaratory judgment on whether he should comply with the House impeachment investigators’ subpoena for his testimony.

McGovern said in a statement that the resolution is designed “to ensure transparency and provide a clear path forward” as the Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees continue to gather evidence and prepare to present their findings.

“This is the right thing to do for the institution and the American people,” the Massachusetts Democrat said.

John T. Bennett contributed to this report.

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