The U.S. House of Representatives is set to launch public impeachment hearings next week. These open hearings will feature top Ukraine diplomat William Taylor, State Department official George Kent and former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (CA-28) said that these witnesses will show that “the most important facts are largely not contested.”
Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Chair Karen Bass (CA-37) held a conference call last week with members of the National Newspaper Publishers Association to summarize some of the issues surrounding the ongoing impeachment process taking place in Washington, D.C.
On Oct. 31, the House of Representatives voted and passed a resolution (H.R. 660) that sets the ground rules and procedures for the next phase of the impeachment inquiry. Potential articles of impeachment would be drafted in the Judiciary Committee.
Majority vote for public depositions
“Our Republican colleagues wanted us to vote on an inquiry and we voted to continue the ongoing inquiry and depositions in public,” Bass said in her conference call with Black media publishers and editors. “So, many of the depositions that were taken in private … now will be made public soon.”
Bass added that President Donald Trump, his lawyers and staff will be afforded all rights and privileges, and will be allowed to participate in the hearings and cross- examine witnesses. These hearings will start the process and the final trial will take place in the Senate.
Rep. Maxine Waters (CA-43), made a statement before the House resolution vote, noting that the vote was not actually required by the constitution.
“Claiming otherwise is but a fabrication meant to distract from the mountain of growing evidence that demonstrates this president abused his power for personal benefit,” Waters said.
Impeachment essentially means an “indictment.” All evidence is being gathered, witnesses are being interviewed and a decision to impeach and proceed to a Senate trial is underway.
The impeachment inquiry is specifically looking into a whistleblower’s assertion that President Trump held a July 25 call with Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in which Trump asked for a “favor” —that Ukraine investigate Joe Biden, a Democratic rival for president, and his son Hunter, who was employed by a Ukranian company. That request was allegedly tied to the administration’s delaying important military aid for Ukraine.
Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the European Union, told House investigators in a statement on Nov. 4 that he had told Ukranian officials they likely would not receive nearly $400 million in aid unless they publicly committed to conducting investigations that the president requested.
Timothy Morrison, who resigned as the president’s top advisor on Russia and Europe in the National Security Council (NSC), testified last week to the House Intelligence Committee. He said that he was on that phone call and raised immediate concerns with NSC lawyers afterward, but did not think anything illegal was discussed.
What was in notorious phone call?
Another Ukraine expert, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, told the panel last week that he was so alarmed after the phone call that he complained to the NSC’s lead counsel.
As Chair of the Financial Services Committee, Waters further pledged that the committee will continue to conduct investigations into the conduct of the administration.
Acknowledging the frustration of the majority of the American public toward the long, drawn-out investigations of the nation’s leader, Bass pointed out that the Mueller investigation was not a part of this congressional process.
The Mueller Report, which documented the findings and conclusions of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 US presidential election, was submitted in March. It did not exonerate the president, but did not conclude that a crime was committed.
Although Mueller was unable to provide a “definitive statement” regarding whether Trump violated his oath of office, the report stated that Congress could decide whether Trump obstructed justice and take action accordingly.
‘People are frustrated and tired’
“The House of Representatives in Congress has only been investigating the President since March of this year,“ Bass said. “People are frustrated, people are tired of this administration and want this administration to go.”
Bass admitted that she personally thought that impeachment efforts were in peril, up to the time the whistleblower came forward.
“I thought impeachment would fail in the Senate,” she said. “This is a qualitatively different situation from one month ago.”
During an Oct. 23 interview with MSNBC, Bass made similar comments, stressing that the tide is turning in terms of public opinion.
“It seems as though the dam is breaking,” she said. “I mean it was a qualitative change when that whistleblower came forward and I believe the state department and the intrelligence community have frankly had enough of this administration and they are coming forward.”
At the end of last week’s conference call, Bass said that the press is playing a critical role by informing the public about the proceedings.
“I had a conversation with [House] Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who said that the President is impeaching himself,” Bass explained. “He is holding back hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign assistance, military assistance to one of our allies who are in the middle of a war.”
Ahead of the House vote, Pelosi’s comments were somber.
‘Pelosi says ‘no cause for glee, comfort’
“Sadly, this is not any cause for any glee or comfort,“ Pelosi said. “This is something that is very solemn, that is prayerful. I doubt anybody in this place, or anybody that you know, comes to Congress to take the oath of office…to impeach the President of the United States, unless his actions are jeopardizing our honoring our oath of office.”
“We take no joy in having to move down this road and proceed with the impeachment inquiry, but neither do we shrink from it,” Schiff said.
The vote was the first time the full House weighed in on the impeachment inquiry, after weeks of Republican objections that Democrats were proceeding without a floor vote on the merits of the probe. But then, all of the House Republicans voted against the resolution’s passage.
Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, an independent who left the GOP over Trump, was the only non-Democrat to vote for the impeachment resolution. He had a stern warning for his former Republican colleagues.
“This president will be in power for only a short time, but excusing his misbehavior will forever tarnish your name” Amash said on Twitter. “History will not look kindly on disingenuous, frivolous and false defenses of this man.”
Uncovering all of the facts
Reps. Colin Peterson of Minnesota and Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey were the only two democrats who voted no. In a statement, Peterson said he “will not make a decision on impeachment until all the facts have been presented.”
Van Drew said in a statement that he believes the inquiry “will further divide the country.”
“However, now that the vote had taken place and we are moving forward, I will be making a judgment call based on all the evidence presented by these investigations.”
Public testimony is expected to begin during the week of Nov. 11, but lawmakers did not share a timeline.
After Pelosi closed and gaveled the impeachment resolution vote, President Trump tweeted: “The Greatest Witch Hunt in American History!” And in the hours after the vote, his re-election campaign raised $3 million in online donations, according to a campaign spokesperson.
The White House has so far refused to cooperate with the investigation, but press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in an interview last Friday that they would not rule out future participation.
Overall, Bass is optimistic about the impeachment process.
“But we have to do it in the right way,” she said. “Because if we don’t do it in the right way, we will simply empower him and help him to be re-elected.”