(Bloomberg) -- Democrats on Sunday began making their final arguments for the speedy impeachment of President Donald Trump with a simple refrain: Nothing less than the integrity of the upcoming 2020 presidential election -- and future elections in general -- is at stake.
On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Representative Jerrold Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said it was a “matter of urgency” to deal with the president’s pattern of behavior ahead of the next election. On CNN’s State of the Union, Nadler said Trump may try to “rig” the 2020 vote.
His counterpart on the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Adam Schiff, said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that “we simply can’t wait for an election that the president is seeking to prejudice with foreign intervention.”
Those arguments appear to be designed to address Republican complaints that the impeachment of the president is based on a slip-shod case being rushed out before Christmas for political reasons. Appearing on CNN, Representative Mark Meadows, a North Carolina Republican, said the House hearings so far amounted to a highly partisan process based mainly on “hearsay.”
No Wasting Time
Asked on CNN if Democrats shouldn’t wait for the courts to compel key witnesses to testify, Nadler’s response amounted to, “there is no time to waste.”
Trump “sought foreign interference in our elections -- several times; he sought to cover it up -- several times,” the New York Democrat said. It appears, based on the president’s past behavior, that “he will do anything to rig the next election.”
Judiciary Committee Democrats are working this weekend, and by Thursday could begin to draft the articles of impeachment that will shape debate in a Senate trial. On Monday, Nadler’s committee will hear a presentation of evidence compiled by the House Intelligence Committee, and only after that will the committee decide how broad to make any articles of impeachment, he said on CNN.
Some Democrats have hinted for weeks that the articles may include evidence the president obstructed the Russia investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Nadler said on Sunday that the committee will make that decision based on multiple factors, including “the level of support in our caucus” for broadening the articles.
Nadler said on NBC that Speaker Nancy Pelosi will have a role in that determination.
Regardless, it’s now likely that an impeachment will happen without hearing from key witnesses, including acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer. Those participants and other important witnesses have refused to testify in the House inquiry, citing White House orders not to.
Even some Republicans have expressed concerns with the White House’s approach. “It would inure to the president’s advantage to have people testify who can exculpate him,” Matt Gaetz, a Florida Republican, said on the ABC program, “This Week.”
Those and other comments Sunday suggest there’s still plenty of drama to come as the impeachment process enters its final stage in the House. Democrats from moderate districts have called for sticking to the most direct evidence, and leaving the question about the president’s actions during the Mueller investigation for another day -- probably after Trump has left office.
“We should proceed only on those items where we have direct evidence,” Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, a Democrat from California, said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” “And there’s a lot of direct evidence relative to the abuse of power and Ukraine and the Russians, relative to the Biden investigation.”
“We’d be on firmest ground to move forward where we have direct evidence,” Lofgren said.
On Saturday, Nadler said that the current inquiry has raised “several issues of constitutional law” not considered during the cases of Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton, respectively.
“The framers worst nightmare is what we are facing in this very moment,” Nadler said in a statement attached to the 55-page majority staff report that reviewed the historical record on impeachment as envisaged by the U.S. Founders.
(Updates with Schiff, Gaetz, Meadows quotes from third paragraph.)
--With assistance from Billy House and Steve Geimann.
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