The Democrat-led House Intelligence Committee voted on Tuesday to adopt a report summarizing its findings from an ongoing impeachment inquiry against U.S. President Donald Trump, paving the way for the next stage of the fast-moving investigation.
Lawmakers voted 13 to 9 to allow the House panel chaired by Adam Schiff to hand over the report to the House Judiciary Committee, which is taking over the impeachment inquiry and is responsible for drafting any articles of impeachment against Trump.
The party-line vote came hours after House Democrats publicly released the report that called evidence of Trump’s alleged misconduct and obstruction of Congress “overwhelming.”
Republican Congressman Mark Meadows, a Trump ally, quickly tweeted his response to the vote, calling Democrats’ efforts “baseless and nakedly partisan.”
“Bottom line: Democrats can write what they want, but they can’t provide any serious evidence supporting this latest conspiracy theory. And they know it,” Meadows wrote.
Trump has denied any wrongdoing or a “quid pro quo.” The White House has refused to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry, accusing Democrats of an unfair process.
Steering the inquiry into a new phase, the House Judiciary Committee led by Democrat Jerry Nadler is scheduled to hear from four legal experts in the panel’s first hearing on Wednesday.
Nadler has said they “expect to discuss the constitutional framework through which the House may analyze the evidence gathered in the present inquiry” and whether Trump’s alleged actions “warrant the House’s exercising its authority to adopt articles of impeachment.”
However, neither Trump, who is in London for a NATO summit, nor his counsel Pat Cipollone will attend the hearing.
In a letter to Nadler on Sunday, Cipollone said the White House won’t participate in Wednesday’s hearing, citing concerns that the House Judiciary Committee won’t afford Trump “a fair process.”
House Democrats are conducting an impeachment inquiry into whether Trump abused his office by pressuring Ukraine into launching investigations that could benefit him politically. Investigators are also examining whether the Republican tied a White House meeting or aid to Ukraine to those investigations.
Wednesday’s report was a result of a months-long, Democrat-led investigation based on testimony from 17 current and former Trump administration officials who had offered their narratives of the White House’s handling of its Ukraine policy.
The impeachment inquiry, initiated by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in late September, has found that Trump, “personally and acting through agents within and outside of the U.S. government, solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, to benefit his reelection,” the report claimed.
“There remain unanswered questions, and our investigation must continue,” according to the 300-page report drafted by staff of the Democrat-led House Intelligence, Oversight and Reform, and Foreign Affairs Committees.
In a joint statement on Tuesday, Schiff and two other Democratic chairs alleged Trump’s actions “have damaged our national security, undermined the integrity of the next election, and violated his oath of office.”
“They have also challenged the very core of our Constitutional system of checks and balances, separation of powers, and rule of law,” the three Democrats said. “It will be up to the Congress to determine whether these acts rise to the level of an impeachable offense.”
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham accused the report of reflecting nothing more than “frustrations” of Democrats.
“At the end of a one-sided sham process, Chairman Schiff and the Democrats utterly failed to produce any evidence of wrongdoing by President Trump,” Grisham said in a statement on Tuesday. “Chairman Schiff’s report reads like the ramblings of a basement blogger straining to prove something when there is evidence of nothing.”
Delivery of the report to the House Judiciary Committee kicked off a busy yearend in the lower chamber, with Democrats on track to potentially vote on impeaching Trump by Christmas.
The president will be impeached if the House approves any of the articles of impeachment the House Judiciary Committee has recommended by a simple majority vote.
But conviction can only happen in the Senate and requires at least two-thirds of its members, or 67 senators, to vote in favor. Currently, the Senate has 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats and two independents.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters on Tuesday that he will first meet with Minority Leader Chuck Schumer for a deal to establish rules for an impeachment trial if the House impeaches Trump. But if that doesn’t work out, the Kentucky Republican has a potential back-up plan.
“The first thing Senator Schumer and I will do is see if there’s a possibility of agreement on a procedure,” McConnell said. “That failing, I would probably come back to my own members and say, ‘OK, can 51 of us agree how we’re going to handle this?'”
Schumer also tried to strike a bipartisan tone.
“The best way to do something that’s important and almost as hallowed a procedure as this, is in a bipartisan way, so I hope that Leader McConnell will make every effort to come up with a bipartisan solution working with me. I’m certainly willing to work with him,” the New York Democrat said.
Source: Xinhua – WASHINGTON