House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler said publicly for the first time on Thursday that his panel is conducting an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, adding that the committee will decide by the end of the year whether to refer articles of impeachment to the House floor.
The committee has said as much in recent court filings as it seeks former special counsel Robert Mueller’s grand jury materials and testimony from his investigation’s star witnesses. But it was a rare rhetorical escalation from the New York Democrat, who has privately pushed Speaker Nancy Pelosi to support a formal inquiry of whether to remove the president from office.
“This is formal impeachment proceedings,” Nadler said in a CNN interview. “We are investigating all the evidence, gathering the evidence. And we will [at the] conclusion of this — hopefully by the end of the year — vote to vote articles of impeachment to the House floor. Or we won’t. That’s a decision that we’ll have to make. But that’s exactly the process we’re in right now.”
That timeline would put an impeachment battle in the middle of the Democratic presidential primary contests, which begin in early 2020 — a concern for Democrats who believe that the window to act on impeachment is quickly closing.
Pelosi has said impeachment is too divisive for the country and has relied on her six investigative committees to uncover new information about Trump’s alleged misconduct, focusing on his finances and his conduct as president. But Nadler said Pelosi “has been very cooperative” in his panel’s efforts, and she personally signed off on recent court filings that effectively put to rest the semantic debate over whether to call the Judiciary Committee’s investigation an impeachment inquiry.
“The fact is, we are doing an investigation. We are investigating the facts, investigating the evidence,” Nadler said. “We are going into court to get witnesses all with a view toward deciding and recommending to the House whether to impeach the president.”
In a court filing last month, House Democrats put in writing for the first time that they are considering whether to impeach the president — effectively telling a federal court that they require Mueller’s grand-jury evidence in order to determine whether to vote on articles of impeachment.
And on Wednesday, the Judiciary Committee went even further in a lawsuit against former White House counsel Don McGahn, who has defied the panel’s subpoena for testimony about allegations that Trump obstructed justice when he sought to constrain or otherwise end the Mueller investigation.
“The Judiciary Committee is now determining whether to recommend articles of impeachment against the president based on the obstructive conduct described by the special counsel,” Wednesday’s filing states, adding that McGahn is the committee’s “most important fact witness in its consideration of whether to recommend articles of impeachment.”
Articles of impeachment have separately been referred to the Judiciary Committee, but Nadler said on Thursday that the panel could draw up its own impeachment articles that “more closely fit the evidence.”
More than half of the House Democratic caucus supports a formal impeachment inquiry, a milestone that was reached last week. But some pro-impeachment lawmakers say the issue is effectively moot now that the House has told federal courts that it is investigating whether to impeach the president.