The House Judiciary Committee will hold its second public impeachment hearing Monday, following its first last week, which addressed what constitutes an impeachable offense.
In this second hearing, lawmakers will review evidence gathered by the House Intelligence Committee during the first phase of the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. And Democratic lawmakers will also work to build a case that the presidential behavior cataloged in that evidence matches the definitions of impeachable conduct established last week.
The hearing will serve as a prelude to the introduction of articles of impeachment; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi charged top Democrats with drafting those articles last week, and the Judiciary Committee could vote on them as early as Thursday.
Democrats reportedly began working on those articles Saturday, but the final wording and scope is far from set — and that, House Judiciary Committee chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler told CNN, is where Monday’s hearing comes in.
“There are possible drafts that various people are writing,” Nadler said Sunday. “But the fact is we’re not going to make any decision as to how broad the articles should be — as to what they contain, what the wording is — until after the hearing tomorrow.”
Once that wording is set, the articles will be put to a vote in the Judiciary Committee — where they are expected to pass on party lines — and they will then be put before the full House of Representatives.
If last week’s hearing marked the end of the impeachment inquiry and the beginning of the impeachment process itself, Monday’s hearing is the first step of bringing that process to its conclusion.
What to expect from the second House Judiciary Committee impeachment hearing
The House Intelligence Committee completed its investigation into President Donald Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine into investigating his political rivals in November, and summarized its findings in a report released in early December.
To review this information, the House Judiciary Committee has called three witnesses — each legal counsel to either the Democratic or Republican members of the House Judiciary or Intelligence Committees. They are:
- Barry Berke, the counsel for the Judiciary Committee’s Democrats
- Stephen Castor, the counsel for the Judiciary and Intelligence Committee’s Republicans
- Daniel Goldman, the counsel for the Intelligence Committee’s Democrats
All three men are familiar faces — Goldman and Castor questioned witnesses in the House Intelligence Committee’s public hearings in November; Berke questioned former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski on behalf of House Judiciary Committee Democrats during a September public hearing on the Mueller report.
Counsel for the Republicans and Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee will each receive one hour to give opening statements; from there, Republican and Democratic counsel from the House Intelligence Committee will each receive an hour and a half to present evidence. After this, counsel from the House Intelligence Committee will take questions from lawmakers.
President Donald Trump and his legal team were invited to take part in this questioning, but declined that invitation.
Ahead of Monday’s proceedings, House Judiciary Committee Democrats released a report summarizing their findings from last week’s hearing in a report that outlines what constitutes impeachable offenses.
Expect Democrats to work to link the president’s behavior to those offenses — particularly bribery and high crimes and misdemeanors (which the report defines in part as including abuse of power). Democrats have pushed these points in past hearings and public statements; for instance, House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Adam Schiff told NPR recently: “I don’t think there’s any question that the uncontested facts show this president solicited a bribe.”
Republicans, on the other hand, will likely continue their spirited defenses of the president, arguing that Trump withheld military aid from Ukraine out of corruption concerns, and perhaps even advancing the conspiracy theory that it was Ukraine — not Russia — that meddled in the 2016 election. As last week’s hearing showed, the president has a number of theatrical allies on the House Judiciary Committee like Reps. Matt Gaetz and Jim Jordan; they are likely to again present passionate presidential defenses.
Nadler has said this hearing will provide the raw material for articles of impeachment. It is not yet clear what those articles will be, but early reporting suggests they will be limited to between two to four points.
All reports suggest at least one article will focus on abuse of power with respect to Trump’s interactions with Ukraine, and that that article, or a related one, could include a charge of bribery as well. Another will likely center on obstruction of Congress, addressing the White House’s efforts to block witnesses from testifying and its withholding of requested evidence.
At issue is whether the articles will include any mention of obstruction of justice related to Trump’s efforts to impede the investigation of special counsel Robert Mueller into the 2016 presidential election.
Democratic House Judiciary Committee member Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell told reporters Friday, “That’s something that we’ll decide this weekend.”
It is not clear what lawmakers have decided, but Sunday members of the Intelligence and Judiciary Committees seemed to signal the articles would not include any Mueller-related grievances.
“As a former prosecutor it’s always been my strategy in a charging decision — and an impeachment in the house is essentially a charging decision — to charge those that there is the strongest and most overwhelming evidence and not try to charge everything even though you could charge other things,” Schiff told CBS’ Margaret Brennan Sunday.
And the Judiciary Committee’s Rep. Zoe Lofgren told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, “The Mueller report is a report. We don’t have direct witness testimony for most of that, so I think we’d be on firmest ground to move forward where we have direct evidence.”
What will be in the articles of impeachment will become clear very soon, however. Nadler said Sunday he expects his committee to review them before Friday. And the full House could vote on them before December 20 — the last legislative workday currently on the calendar — meaning President Trump could be impeached in the next two weeks.