House Democrats are expected to vote on a resolution laying out their next steps for open hearings in the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote in a letter to her colleagues Monday afternoon.
“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 in her letter. “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.”
The floor vote – the first on the inquiry since Democrats formally launched one last month – is expected to take place on Thursday, according to two Congressional aides. It will be marked up in the Rules Committee on Wednesday.
Pelosi came under fierce criticism from Republicans for failing to hold a formal vote authorizing the inquiry, even though nothing in the Constitution mandates that one take place. While the idea was debated in a closed door meeting two weeks ago, opposition was fierce and Democratic leadership ultimately decided not to proceed. That decision was recently affirmed by the Judiciary; in a ruling on Friday, Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell wrote that arguments basing the legitimacy of an impeachment inquiry on an authorizing vote are “fatally flawed.”
As Pelosi outlined in her letter, this resolution is not a vote to authorize the inquiry, but to outline the procedural steps going forward. The text of the resolution had not been released as of Monday evening. But House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, who has largely been helming the inquiry in conjunction with the committees on Foreign Affairs and Oversight and Government Reform, said in a subsequent statement that the resolution will lay out how his committee will conduct the open hearings, and how they transmit any evidence to the Judiciary Committee.
“The American people will hear firsthand about the President’s misconduct,” Schiff said in his statement. It was a clear rebuke to Republicans who have been railing about the secrecy of the process, despite the fact that Congressional investigations are often conducted behind closed doors.
The announcement of preparation for public hearings, however, did nothing to placate some of the most vocal Republicans. “House Democrats now suddenly saying they’ll vote on an impeachment resolution to ‘ensure transparency’ is rich—considering they’ve spent weeks conducting interviews in secret, leaking their own talking points while locking down any and all information that benefits the President,” Rep. Mark Meadows tweeted Monday afternoon.
White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said she could not fully comment until the full text was released, but continued to assert – without evidence – that the inquiry was “illegitimate” and “unauthorized.”
Since Democrats launched their impeachment inquiry into whether Trump abused the power of his office to prevail in the upcoming presidential election, multiple current and former administration officials have come to Capitol Hill to testify. But the President’s most inner circle has declined to cooperate. Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and Energy Secretary Rick Perry have all failed to comply with requests for documents, even when they were issued under subpoena.
Pelosi’s announcement to hold this vote came the same day that Charles Kupperman, a top deputy to former National Security Adviser John Bolton, declined to show up for his testimony. In a lawsuit filed October 25th, Kupperman argued that he was facing competing demands from the legislative and executive branches and needed an answer from the courts. “Given the issue of separation of powers in this matter, it would be reasonable and appropriate to expect that all parties would want judicial clarity,” Kupperman said in a statement Monday.