The House Judiciary Committee announced on Tuesday that the first public impeachment hearings held by that subset of Congress will begin on Wednesday, December 4–and Judiciary Committee Chair Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) personally invited President Donald Trump and his attorneys to attend and mount a defense.
“Under House Resolution 660, the House of Representatives has approved certain privileges for you in the House Judiciary Committee while the Committee considers whether to recommend articles of impeachment to the full House,” Nadler notes in the letter before dispensing with some technical details. “These procedures, and the privileges afforded to you therein, are consistent with those used by the Committee in the Nixon and Clinton impeachments.”
Nadler’s 2-page letter contains a copy of the resolution authorizing impeachment passed by the House on a 232-196 vote on October 31–as well as specific rules and procedures adopted by the Judiciary Committee under the overarching impeachment resolution.
The next stage of impeachment proceedings was officially announced via the Judiciary Committee’s website Tuesday afternoon.
“I have also written to President Trump to remind him that the Committee’s impeachment inquiry rules allow for the President to attend the hearing and for his counsel to question the witness panel,” Nadler said in a statement. “At base, the President has a choice to make: he can take this opportunity to be represented in the impeachment hearings, or he can 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.”
Titled, “The Impeachment Inquiry into President Donald J. Trump: Constitutional Grounds for Presidential Impeachment,” Judiciary’s first bite at the impeachment apple will focus on legal experts and their opinions as to what constitutes “High Crimes and Misdemeanors” as delineated in the U.S. Constitution. Legal expertise may also be marshaled to explain the concept of “bribery”–a more specific crime which the Constitution also lists as an impeachable offense.
“Our first task is to explore the framework put in place to respond to serious allegations of impeachable misconduct like those against President Trump,” Nadler’s statement noted, previewing the legalistic and technical aspects in store for next week’s hearing.
Former acting U.S. Solicitor General Neal Katyal said the definitions phase would be key–and potentially rife with fireworks.
“Hardball begins now,” he tweeted. “Most [important] part of House Judiciary Comte [decision] to hold impeach hearing next [week] is this language. As I wrote in @nytimes, Watergate Senate threatened to jail witnesses who did not testify due to Nixon gag order. Nixon backed down.”
Trump and his allies in government and media have consistently maintained the alleged unfairness of the impeachment inquiry so far due to the House Permanent Select Committee’s own rules which foreclosed against Trump or his legal team taking part during the so-called “fact-finding” stage.
Nadler’s letter continuously needles Trump on this point.
“I write to ask if–pursuant to H. Res 660 and the relating Judiciary Committee Impeachment Inquiry procedures–you and your counsel plan to attend the hearing or make a request to question the witness panel,” the letter continues.
And Nadler’s jabs don’t let up there. He writes:
I remain committed to ensuring a fair and informative process. To that end, I remind you that participation by the President or his counsel has been described by the Committee in past inquiries as “not a right but a privilege or a courtesy which is being extended to the President’s counsel.” I am hopeful that you and your counsel will opt to participate in the Committee’s hearing, consistent with rules of decorum and with the solemn nature of the work before us.
The letter also extends a warning about continued White House obstruction. The 45th president and his attorneys have sought to bar several key players in the Ukraine phone call and quid pro quo controversy from testifying before Congress.
“The Committee looks forward to your participation in the impeachment inquiry as the Committee fulfills its constitutional duties,” Nadler’s letter concludes. “While we invite you to this hearing, we remind you that if you continue to refuse to make witnesses and document available to the committees of jurisdiction, under H. Res. 660, ‘the chair shall have the discretion to impose appropriate remedies.’”
[image via Mark Wilson/Getty Images]