After running a sort of unofficial impeachment probe of President Donald Trump, the Democratic-led House Judiciary Committee, a source tells Reuters, is poised to vote next week on a resolution to formalize the investigation.
The panel has rebranded what was originally an oversight probe of Trump's presidency as an "impeachment" investigation, with the aim of deciding by the end of the year on whether to recommend articles of impeachment to the full House.
The committee's current impeachment approach has been criticized by Republicans for avoiding a precedent set during impeachment inquiries against former President Richard Nixon and former President Bill Clinton.
In those cases, inquiries were formally authorized by the full House. This time, Democrats have steered clear of a House vote that could prove risky for Democratic freshmen from swing districts where impeachment is unpopular with voters.
Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in July explained why the House voted to table, for now, an impeachment resolution.
SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH) SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI, SAYING:
"We have six committees working on followings the facts in terms of any abuse of power, obstruction of justice and the rest, that the president may have engaged in."
Now a committee vote to define the probe, according to the source, could come as early as Wednesday.
Currently, 134 House Democrats support an impeachment inquiry, according to a Reuters head count. While a majority of the party caucus, the number remains well below the 218 votes needed for the House to approve an impeachment resolution.
While the inquiry initially focused on the findings of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election meddling in the 2016 presidential election and evidence that Trump sought to impede the probe, now House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler has broadened the investigation. Under the microscope: allegations that Trump has improperly mixed his business interests with his role as president, dangled pardons to encourage official misconduct and paid money during the 2016 campaign to silence women claiming to have had affairs with him.
A more formal investigation could strengthen separate committee lawsuits seeking federal court orders to access Mueller grand jury material and compel testimony from witnesses like former White House Counsel Don McGahn.