There’s no shortage of questions surrounding the possible impeachment of Donald Trump, including concerns over Democratic divisions on the issue, public support, and possible political consequences.
And while those questions may not yet have clear answers, the House Judiciary Committee voted today – along party lines – to establish the rules for an impeachment process. As NBC News reported:
Under the resolution, which does not need to be approved by the full House, Nadler can designate hearings run by the full committee and its subcommittees as part of the impeachment investigation. The committee’s lawyers are also able to question witnesses for an additional hour beyond the five minutes that are allotted to each member of Congress on the panel.
Additionally, the president’s lawyers will be able to respond in writing to evidence and testimony presented to the committee, and evidence can be received in closed session.
Though the practical implications of the step are limited, Roll Call noted that this was the “first vote on text that focuses on the Judiciary Committee deciding whether to impeach Trump.”
Today’s move does not necessarily mean the president will be impeached or even that articles of impeachment will be drawn, but the House panel has now set the rules of the road so that the process can move forward fairly and judiciously.
Obviously, it signals that the impeachment threat is real and that lawmakers are taking the possibility seriously. This formal step of establishing procedural rules was also taken during Richard Nixon’s and Bill Clinton’s presidencies.
As for what to call this, Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) said in his opening statement this morning, “Some call this process an impeachment inquiry. Some call it an impeachment investigation. There is no legal difference between these terms, and I no longer care to argue about the nomenclature.”
Nadler added after the hearing that the panel will move forward expeditiously, with a Tuesday hearing featuring testimony from former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski – who, incidentally, is also eyeing a U.S. Senate campaign in New Hampshire.
The Washington Post, meanwhile, also reported this morning that a group of Judiciary Committee Democrats “has begun privately mapping a list of possible charges against President Trump, sketching out the contours of potential articles of impeachment.”
The article added that the informal discussions are over a range of allegations, including “abuse of power and defiance of subpoenas, as well as violation of campaign finance law and allegations of self-enrichment,” in addition to the obstruction-of-justice allegations raised in the Muller report.
Anyone saying they know for sure what’s going to happen is probably wrong, but impeachment proponents can probably take some solace in the fact that Democrats took one modest step in their direction this morning.
Postscript: Before the House Judiciary Committee formally moved forward with the Nixon and Clinton impeachment proceedings, there was a vote from the full chamber. That said, as Ed Kilgore did a good job of explaining this week, that’s not a legally required step.