The House Judiciary Committee has announced that it will hold its first impeachment hearing on December 4th and President Trump is invited. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, sent a letter to President Donald Trump on Tuesday notifying him of public impeachment hearings next week and saying the president could either attend or “stop complaining about the process.”
“I hope that he chooses to participate in the inquiry, directly or through counsel, as other Presidents have done before him,” Nadler wrote.
Nadler said Trump would be able to question witnesses if he comes, but the president will be unable to participate because he will be overseas.
The House Intelligence Committee completed two weeks of public hearings last week, which followed several weeks of closed-door witness interviews—or “auditions” as Republicans called them.
The Democrats’ impeachment inquisition centers on a July phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in which the president requested that the Ukraine government investigate 2016 election meddling and corruption that involved former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.
Democrats are trying to establish that Trump used the threat of withholding US military aid to pressure Ukraine into investigating the Bidens, even though the Ukrainians didn’t even know there was a hold on the military aid at the time of the phone call.
The president requested a hold on the money over the summer to allow the Office of Management and Budget to conduct a policy process that included an examination of “burden-sharing” of European nations, and an assurance that the Ukraine government was no longer corrupt. It is no secret that the president is not a fan of foreign aid—especially when the counties being helped are not necessarily pro-American. But after holding the money up for 55 days, Trump buckled to bipartisan congressional pressure on September 11.
Byron York explained what happened at the Washington Examiner:
In the end, the release of the aid is not dramatic proof of anything in the Trump-Ukraine matter. The facts do not support the Democratic notion that the president “got caught,” knew he was guilty, and gave in. It is not a smoking gun. It is a story of a president and Congress bumping up against each other on spending, and, as often happens, Congress won.
As the Democrats have failed to prove that there was a quid pro quo regarding the aid, they have been able to establish that many career bureaucrats and diplomats were not happy with the president’s policies, which is unfortunate for them, but not even close to an impeachable offense.
The initial Dec. 4 Judiciary hearing will reportedly feature “legal experts” Democrats have chosen to examine the constitutional grounds for impeachment. Nadler said Tuesday that his hearing will “explore the framework put in place to respond to serious allegations of impeachable misconduct.” Then the committee will decide whether to write articles of impeachment against Trump.
“I can not imagine how a constitutional hearing next week about the constitutionality of impeachment—how that’s going to be any better for them than the last two weeks when they had dud after dud after dud of witnesses,” said Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) on Fox News Tuesday night. He told host Laura Ingraham that at least Nadler has “been found because evidently he’s been missing since the summertime.” The congressman guessed that Democrats would hold just the one hearing next week “and then they’ll just vote the following week.”
According to the AP, the president will be unable to attend the hearing because he will be overseas on Dec. 4 for a summit with NATO allies outside London.
If Democrats stay on schedule, the committee will introduce articles of impeachment, debate them and then hold a vote, a process that could take several days. If charges are approved by the end of the second week of December, the House could hold a formal impeachment vote the third week of the month just before leaving for the holidays.
The charges are expected to mostly focus on Ukraine. Democrats are considering an overall “abuse of power” article against Trump, which could be broken into categories such as bribery or extortion. That article would center on the Democrats’ assertion, based on witness testimony, that Trump used his office to pressure Ukraine into politically motivated investigations.
Democrats are also expected to include an article on obstruction of Congress that outlines Trump’s instructions to officials in his administration to defy subpoenas for documents or testimony.
Though several government officials called by Democrats cooperated with the committee, several key witnesses — including acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and former National Security Adviser John Bolton — refused, following Trump’s orders.
Lastly, Democrats could potentially include an obstruction of justice article based on special counsel Robert Mueller’s report released earlier this year. Mueller said he could not exonerate Trump on that point, essentially leaving the matter up to Congress.
When and if the House approves articles of impeachment, the Republican-controlled Senate would be expected to hold a trial in early 2020. Unless political dynamics change drastically, Trump would have the backing of majority Republicans in that chamber and be acquitted.
Indeed, the president is actually delighted at the prospect of an impeachment trial in the Senate because of the possibility that the so-called “whistleblower,” Hunter Biden and Adam Schiff would be called to testify.
“There’s only one person I want more than ‘Where’s Hunter?’ and that is Adam Schiff,” Trump said.
“I want the whistleblower, who put in a false report, to testify,” Trump told Fox News last Friday, adding that he believed the individual [widely believed to be anti-Trump, pro-Obama CIA analyst Eric Ciaramella] “is a political operative.”
Also complicating matters for Democrats are recent polls that show impeachment losing support among voters.
An NPR/PBS/Marist poll conducted Nov. 11-15 showed that 50 percent of independents did not support impeaching and removing Trump from office, with just 42 percent backing such a move.
And a Gallup poll conducted the first two weeks of November also indicated declining interest in impeachment with 45 percent of independent voters supporting removing the president and 53 percent opposing the move.
A recent Marquette University poll of registered voters in Wisconsin showed that only 40 percent agreed with House Democrats’ impeachment efforts against Trump, while 53 percent did not.
On his radio program on Tuesday, conservative talker Rush Limbaugh posited that Democrats are setting Nadler up to be the fall guy should he botch the hearing next week. “If Nadler somehow fails to make the case, then he can become the fall guy for Pelosi,” Limbaugh said. Because according to El Rushbo, “Pelosi is looking for a way out of this.”