‘We Must Move Swiftly.’ Democrats Won’t Wait on Impeachment

December 5, 2019, 1:29 AM UTC

Coming off Thanksgiving recess, House Democrats signaled that their next phase of the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump would move fast, potentially with articles of impeachment sent to the Senate before the end of the year.

Democrats moved their inquiry to the Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Four law professors testified, three of whom said Trump committed impeachable offenses. 

Their testimony followed Tuesday’s release of a 300-page report from the House Intelligence Committee outlining Democrats’ case that Trump asked the Ukrainian government to intervene in U.S. domestic politics.

House Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said the committee would meet at least once more “in a few days” to “hear from the committees that worked to uncover the facts before us.”

“If it is true that President Trump has committed an impeachable offense—or impeachable offenses—then we must move swiftly to do our duty and charge him accordingly,” he added.

Following the Judiciary Committee’s additional work, the committee could draft articles of impeachment, including abuse of power, obstruction of Congress, and obstruction of justice.

Multiple Democrats said that material from the Mueller Report on Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election could potentially be included in articles of impeachment, in addition to the evidence that Democrats have amassed in public and private testimony on Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which the American president asked his counterpart to “do us a favor” and investigate the Bidens.

Democrats held an unusually secure closed-door caucus meeting Wednesday morning—staffers were not allowed in and members were directed not to carry their phones.

Multiple Democrats emerging from the meeting said that there was no timeline decided on impeachment and there had been no final decision about which articles would ultimately be passed out of the House and sent to the Republican-controlled Senate. However, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters that impeachment could be completed in the House before the end of the year.

“There’s time to do it before the end of the year, but I’m not saying we’re going to do it before the end of the year,” he said at a briefing. The House is scheduled to be in session until December 20, eight days longer than originally scheduled. 

In Wednesday’s hearing, Nadler linked Russian interference and the Ukraine call in his opening remarks.

“President Trump welcomed foreign interference in the 2016 election,” he said. “He demanded it for the 2020 election. In both cases, he got caught.”

“We have to explore the possibility that the Ukraine episode is not some kind of aberrational outburst, but rather reflective of a continuing force of misconduct,” Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a Judiciary Committee member, said, when asked if obstruction of justice material from the Mueller Report could be included in potential articles.

The lone Republican witness, Jonathan Turley, the only one who said that Trump had not committed impeachable offenses, said that Democrats were moving too fast and should let the courts decide whether subpoenaed witnesses should testify before Congress.

“If you rush this impeachment, you’re going to leave half the country behind,” said the George Washington University law professor. “You have to give the time to build a record. This isn’t an impulse buy item.”

Judiciary Committee Democrats did not buy Turley’s arguments that impeachment was moving too fast, and said a quick impeachment was necessary to ensure that Trump did not ask again for a foreign country to interfere in the 2020 U.S. elections.

“You know what’s fast approaching? An election, in fewer than 60 days,” Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) told reporters. “That is most urgent to make sure the integrity of the election is upheld. We don’t have the luxury of waiting out the president’s delay tactics.”

Democrats rejected Turley’s argument that Democrats should wait for courts to rule on subpoenas, charging the Trump administration had committed obstruction by refusing multiple congressional subpoenas for witnesses and documents.

Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) said it would be a “mistake to fall into the trap the president is trying to set that we should somehow wait and wait and wait for every court in the nation to determine whether or not his obstruction is legitimate.”

Republicans complained that Democrats were moving too fast on impeachment and threw up some procedural motions during Wednesday’s hearing, but had few tools to meaningfully slow down the process.

“This is just a simple railroad job,” Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) said during the hearing.

Democrats were clear that they were moving forward.

“What is the danger to the nation of keeping a president like that for too long?” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) asked. “We have to look at the body of evidence in front of us…and move forward on that.”

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