Democrats release impeachment resolution that calls for open hearings

WASHINGTON — House Democrats have released a resolution that calls for “open and investigative proceedings” in the impeachment inquiry against President Trump for his alleged political interference in foreign aid to Ukraine.

Republicans have criticized the impeachment proceedings thus far as overly reliant on secrecy. The resolution published today by the House Rules Committee, which customarily gives legislation the final imprimatur before it heads to a floor vote, is intended to address those charges.

A vote on the impeachment resolution will take place on Thursday, and is expected to pass, since the House is controlled by Democrats.

“[T]he next phase will move from closed depositions to open hearings where the American people will learn firsthand about the President’s misconduct,” several leading Democrats said in a statement.

The resolution maintains the position of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., as the leader of the impeachment effort, even as it recognizes “ongoing investigations” by other House committees.

Impeachment proceedings customarily have run through the House Judiciary Committee. Pelosi aides insist that Schiff’s leadership of the impeachment inquiry stems from the fact that national security — the subject of Trump’s dealings with Ukraine — is squarely within his jurisdiction.

Moreover, the resolution does say that House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., will “conduct proceedings to the impeachment inquiry.”

Judiciary will also handle whatever articles of impeachment the House settles on, and will be the venue in which Trump’s lawyers will have the ability to “Present their case and respond to evidence; Submit written requests for additional testimony or other evidence; Attend hearings, including those held in executive session; Raise an objection to testimony given; and Cross-examine witnesses,” according to a fact sheet sent out by Democrats.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff. (Photo: Patrick Semansky/AP)

The resolution mandates that Schiff conduct “an open hearing or hearings,” a key provision that will seemingly address Republican complaints about the closed-door testimony that has marked the impeachment process to this point. Questioning of witnesses, to be led by staff attorneys, will be confined to 45 minutes per side.

Republicans will have the opportunity to request witnesses of their own, although they will have to provide “detailed written justification of the relevance of the testimony of each requested witness to the investigation.” Democrats on the committee will have the power to approve or block witnesses requested by Republicans.

The president’s attorneys will also have the chance to participate in the impeachment proceedings, though only in the House Judiciary Committee, not in the House Intelligence Committee. As on Intelligence, Democrats on Judiciary will have to approve witnesses requested by Trump’s attorneys.

Democrats indicated that their willingness to approve requests by Trump’s attorneys to call witnesses will be dictated in part by whether the White House cooperates more fully than it has to date with the House impeachment inquiry, in the text of a copy of the procedural rules for the Judiciary Committee process obtained exclusively by Yahoo News. The Trump administration has thumbed its nose at Democrats and their investigation, blocking witnesses from testifying, refusing to hand over documents, and sending a letter to Pelosi dismissing the entire process.

“Should the President unlawfully refuse to make witnesses available for testimony to, or to produce documents requested by, the investigative committees ... the chair [of the Judiciary Committee] shall have the discretion to impose appropriate remedies, including by denying specific requests by the President or his counsel under these procedures to call or question witnesses,” the rules document obtained by Yahoo News says.

The document also authorizes “a concluding presentation from the President’s counsel and Committee counsel for the majority and minority.”

Subpoena power will also be available to Republicans, if Democrats agree to call their requested witnesses.

The resolution mandates that the House Intelligence Committee will release transcripts of witness depositions and, after the inquiry is completed, publish a report on its findings.

The White House lashed out publicly against the latest impeachment developments Tuesday afternoon in a statement from the press secretary, calling the House plans a “scam” that will allow Schiff, a frequent target of Trump’s attacks, to hold hearings without due process.“The White House is barred from participating at all, until after Chairman Schiff conducts two rounds of one-sided hearings to generate a biased report for the Judiciary Committee. Even then, the White House’s rights remain undefined, unclear, and uncertain — because those rules still haven’t been written,” the statement says. “This resolution does nothing to change the fundamental fact that House Democrats refuse to provide basic due process rights to the Administration.”


Cover thumbnail photo: President Trump and the House Resolution. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: AP, J. Scott Applewhite/AP)


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