by Scott Wong · December 4, 2019
House Democrats are keeping their foot on the gas pedal of their fast-moving impeachment effort against President Trump.
The House Intelligence Committee’s scathing 300-page report accusing Trump of abusing his power and obstructing the panel’s eight-week probe injected fresh urgency and momentum into the impeachment push, just as the process shifts to the House Judiciary Committee.
Some Democrats want to go even faster, expressing doubt about whether Judiciary hearings — which kick off Wednesday morning with a panel of constitutional law scholars — are even needed.
“The Intelligence Committee report outlines in detail how this president has abused his office. The Judiciary Committee should simply accept the report’s findings and move to draft articles of impeachment,” Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), a progressive leader, said in a video he posted on Twitter.
“We don’t need more hearings; we need a vote,” he said. “It’s time to move with speed and have a vote on the House floor on impeachment.”
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has said she doesn’t know if the impeachment process will wrap up by the end of the year, but her front-liners — particularly those centrist Democrats who won Trump districts in the 2018 midterms — want leadership to plow ahead and hold a vote on articles of impeachment before Christmas.
Another pressure point for Democrats is the 2020 presidential primary: If impeachment gets dragged into the new year, it will suck up more oxygen and TV airtime, fire up Trump’s base and keep presidential contenders — Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) — off the campaign trail and in a Senate impeachment trial deeper into the primary calendar.
The first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses will be held on Feb. 3.
Senior Democrats on Capitol Hill argue there is no good reason to delay given the overwhelming evidence against Trump.
“You’ve got the crime, you’ve got Trump admitting the crime, you’ve got his chief of staff admitting the crime. You’ve got a rough transcript corroborating all of those things, and then you have fact witnesses who were there also substantiating it,” said a senior Democratic source. “What more do you need?”
If there is any nervousness in the party about moving forward, it centers on the fact that two weeks of public hearings led by Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) did little if anything to boost voters’ support for impeachment.
Americans are still evenly divided on the impeachment issue, just as they were before the hearings. And many Democrats believe the poll numbers will not improve for them — no matter how much they investigate Trump.
Yet the Intelligence Committee’s report seems likely to add momentum to Democrats’ push for an impeachment vote on the floor.
It offers a detailed narrative of Trump’s pressure campaign on Ukraine, outlining how the president and his associates tried to compel the new Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to announce investigations into Trump’s domestic political rivals by withholding a White House meeting and nearly $400 million in aid seen as critical as leaders in Kyiv fended off Russian aggression.
“This is about our democracy. This is about our national security. This is about whether the American people have the right to expect that the president of the United States is going to act in their interests with their security in mind and not for some illicit personal or political reason,” Schiff said at a news conference in the Capitol.
He said Americans “should care deeply about whether the president of the United States is betraying their trust in him, betraying that oath that he took to the Constitution to protect our country and defend its institutions.”
“We must care about this, and if we don’t care about this, we can darn well be assured that the president will be back at it doing this all over again because, indeed, he already has,” Schiff said.
The Intelligence chairman did not indicate whether he has already made up his mind that Trump should be impeached, saying that he wants to consult first with Democratic leadership, colleagues and constituents.
But the sweeping report, written by Schiff and his team over the Thanksgiving break, left no doubt that Democrats think they have a solid case, even as the president continues to insist he did nothing wrong and blasts the impeachment inquiry as a “sham,” “hoax” and “witch hunt.”
The transmitting of the report represents the formal handoff of the impeachment process from Schiff to Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.). Nadler and Judiciary Democrats spent all day Tuesday in a closed-door mock hearing, preparing for what they believe will be an onslaught of attacks from their GOP counterparts during their panel’s first impeachment hearing at 10 a.m. Wednesday.
No official impeachment schedule for the month has been revealed, but Democrats say their rapid pace suggests they are on track to complete their part of the impeachment process before Christmas.
Nadler could use the next two weeks to hold additional televised hearings, draft articles of impeachment against Trump and have his committee vote to send the articles to the House floor.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) informed colleagues that the House will now be in session and voting the week of Dec. 16. Hoyer, who controls the floor schedule, could bring the articles to a vote that week before the chamber adjourns for the holidays on Dec. 20.
That vote would formally send the articles of impeachment to the GOP-controlled Senate, which would then hold a trial and vote to decide whether to remove Trump from office.
Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), a freshman who represents a district that Trump carried in 2016, said that she’d like for the impeachment process to be completed in the House before Christmas.
“Congress can work quickly when it wants to and Congress can also work very slowly when it wants to. I am a new member of Congress, but this seems fast. And that’s good,” Slotkin said. “Everyone seems to be on the same page, that we should be moving ahead efficiently.”
Cristina Marcos contributed.
The Hill · by Scott Wong · December 4, 2019