House Judiciary Committee Chair Sketches Out Trump Impeachment Timeline as Caucus Support Grows

August 5, 2019, 5:24 PM UTC

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) said on August 5 that his panel could impeach President Donald Trump by late fall, marking the latest indication that momentum toward an impeachment inquiry is picking up steam in the House Democratic caucus.

“If we decide to report articles of impeachment, we could get to that late in the fall, in the latter part of the year,” Nadler said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

Nadler brushed off concerns that the start of voting in the 2020 presidential election could influence the timeline for impeachment proceedings, and sketched out a timeline.

“The calendar is whatever it is,” Nadler said. “We can’t let the election calendar dictate. I think that we will probably get the court decisions by the end of October. We will have hearings in September and October, who are witnesses not dependent on the court proceedings and we will do it through the fall.”

It was not immediately clear which witnesses Nadler was speaking of, but the Trump administration has completely stonewalled Congress, refusing to comply with subpoenas for its current or former officials, who would likely be witnesses in an impeachment hearing.

The timeline seemed optimistic given that court battles for releasing grand jury materials from the Mueller report are likely to stretch well into the fall and Trump administration officials have refused to hand over information to the committee.

House Democrats on the Judiciary Committee filed suit on July 26 to release the materials, and are planning another suit to enforce their subpoena against former White House Counsel Don McGahn, who has refused to testify. The prospect of ongoing legal appeals and court fights could well conflict with House Democrats’ line that they want to have the strongest possible case against Trump before launching impeachment proceedings. 

Despite the legal and practical hurdles in a timeline, Nadler’s comments indicated that House Democrats have become increasingly open to speaking about an impeachment inquiry as more of their caucus has come around to backing one.

Democrats crossed an impeachment milestone on August 2 with more than half of the 235-member caucus supporting impeachment, which has grown significantly from about 90 before the congressional appearances of Special Counsel Robert Mueller on July 25. 

Still, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has continued to resist calls to open an inquiry, despite appearing to soften her language of late. She released a statement on August 2 reiterating her calls for litigation, investigation, and legislation—but not impeachment—following multiple news organizations reporting that the Democratic caucus had crossed the halfway point.

“In America, no one is above the law. The President will be held accountable,” Pelosi said. However, the halfway point was mostly symbolic.

Along with former Republican Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, less than a third of the full House publicly supports impeachment. Democrats would need half of the House, or 218 votes, to pass articles of impeachment to the Republican-held U.S. Senate, which would require a two-thirds majority to convict, which seems extremely unlikely.

Thirty-one Democratic members represent districts where Trump got a majority of the vote in 2016, and just one—Chris Pappas of New Hampshire—supports an impeachment inquiry. Passing articles of impeachment out of the House would require more of those representatives in districts to vote in favor of it.

Despite legal hurdles to an impeachment inquiry and that a majority of the House does not currently support one, support has picked up steam, as Democrats are openly talking about how it might proceed.

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