The First Round of Impeachment Hearings Are Over. Now What?
After a month of closed-door depositions, Democrats in the House of Representatives last Thursday wrapped up two furious weeks of public impeachment inquiry hearings, featuring 12 witnesses who delivered a wealth of revelations. Yes, there was a quid pro quo with Ukraine. Yes, President Trump was involved. Yes, it’s all damning as hell.
So what now? House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) on Monday provided a look at the Democrats’ schedule going forward, announcing that his committee’s report on what it gleaned over the past two months “will be transmitted to the Judiciary Committee soon after Congress returns from the Thanksgiving recess.”
Schiff says impeachment inquiry report “will be transmitted to the Judiciary Committee soon after Congress returns from the Thanksgiving recess.” pic.twitter.com/kjidN5hzMa
— Ryan J. Reilly (@ryanjreilly) November 25, 2019
Here’s what else to expect in the impeachment inquiry as 2019 comes to a close, and beyond:
Will there be more hearings?
As Schiff notes in his announcement, “[we] do not foreclose the possibility of further depositions or hearings.” The committee has sought to hear from several figures with first-hand knowledge of the Trump administration’s relationship with Ukraine — including Vice President Mike Pence, Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer — but has been stonewalled by the White House.
Another such figure is former National Security Adviser John Bolton, whose name was oft-mentioned in the hearings and who no longer seems to be on very good terms with the White House. On Sunday, Schiff explained to CNN’s Jake Tapper that he’s working to bring Bolton before the committee. “We’ve certainly been in touch with his lawyer, and what we’ve been informed by his lawyer — because we invited him and he did not choose to come in and testify — is if we subpoena him, they will sue us in court,” he said. “Now, he will have to explain one day if he maintains that position why he wanted to wait to put it in a book instead of telling the American people what he knew when it really mattered to the country.”
Earlier this month, Bolton signed a deal to write a book about his time in the White House.
There’s also a possibility Schiff will seek to hear from other figures with knowledge of the situation should new information should come to light. “We are in the process of getting more documents all the time,” he said on CNN. “So that investigative work is being done.”
What will the House Judiciary Committee do with the Intelligence Committee’s report?
After the Intelligence Committee — along with the Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees, who have also been conducting investigations relevant to the inquiry — submits its report, the Judiciary Committee will conduct its own investigation, hold its own hearings, and decide whether to draft and recommend articles of impeachment, the equivalent of filing charges against the president. Democrats are still deciding how to delineate potential articles of impeachment. Trump’s conduct regarding Ukraine would be their basis, but Democrats could choose to expand them to include the president’s efforts to obstruct justice detailed in the Mueller report.
Democrats hope the Judiciary Committee will complete its work in the first few weeks of December, and that a House-wide vote will be held before the year’s end.
If the committee votes in favor of articles of impeachment, the articles would then be voted on by the entire House of Representatives. Earlier this month, all but two Democrats voted in favor of the resolution outlining the rules of the Intelligence Committee’s public hearings, while every Republican voted against it. If a majority of the House votes in favor of the articles of impeachment, the president will officially have been impeached.
What about the Senate?
If the House votes to impeach the president, the articles of impeachment would move to the Senate, which would conduct a trial to determine whether to remove the president from office. Or, it should conduct a trial; there no legal requirement for Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to actually take up the articles of impeachment. If he does — and it does appear he will — it’s unclear how such a trial would be structured, or how long it would last. Multiple outlets have reported that a Senate GOP aide and a senior White House official discussed the potential of a trial lasting two weeks, and that it could begin as early as January.
Regardless, a two-thirds majority (67 votes) would be needed to remove the president from office. Republicans occupy 53 of the 100 Senate seats and categorically dismissed the validity of the inquiry, meaning — barring a massive shift in GOP sentiment — the Senate will not vote to remove Trump from office.