The House Judiciary Committee approved the parameters for its impeachment investigation into Donald Trump on Thursday — the most significant step Democrats have yet taken as they weigh the divisive move.
The party-line vote comes as House Democrats have struggled to articulate a unified message on impeachment, with senior party leaders avoiding the term even while the Judiciary Committee embraces it in court filings.
The move is largely symbolic, but it represents Democrats’ first legislative action on one of Congress’ weightiest responsibilities — even if they can’t agree on what to call it.
“Some call this process an impeachment inquiry. Some call it an impeachment investigation,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) said, arguing that a House vote is not necessary. “There is no legal difference between these terms, and I no longer care to argue about the nomenclature.”
The resolution, which Nadler billed as a “necessary next step” in its months-long investigation, allows Trump and his lawyers to formally respond to evidence and testimony presented in the committee’s hearings.
The measure also preemptively triggers a House rule that allows staffers to question witnesses for an hour at the end of every hearing deemed part of the impeachment investigation. It describes the panel’s ability to accept evidence in secret “executive sessions,” and it authorizes the subcommittees to hold hearings and question witnesses in order to expedite the process.
Republicans ripped the measure as a meaningless gesture that simply points to procedures already available in the House and committee’s rules. Nadler has said the resolution is an important step to acknowledge the panel’s investigation and to deploy the procedural mechanisms in advance of impeachment-related hearings.
Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, the top Republican on the committee, said Democrats were trying to make it appear that they were toughening their stance on impeachment.
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