Impeachment investigation appears to begin in House

I say “appear”, because it’s not really clear what’s going on. According to CNN (click on the screenshot below), a house panel apparently convened to investigate the possibility of impeachment has taken its first vote to define the parameters of the investigation:

(CNN)The House Judiciary Committee on Thursday approved a resolution defining the rules of the panel’s impeachment investigation, the first vote the committee has taken related to the potential impeachment of President Donald Trump.

The party-line vote came as House Democrats have struggled to define the committee’s probe, with Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler saying the committee is conducting an impeachment inquiry, while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders are refraining from calling it that.
Thursday’s vote, which does not need to be approved by the full House, gives Nadler the ability to deem committee hearings as impeachment hearings. It allows staff to question witnesses at those hearings for an hour after members conclude, gives the President’s lawyers the ability to respond in writing to public testimony and allows the committee to collect information in a closed setting.
And there’s a disparity between how different Democrats characterize what’s going on:

But the broader question — is the committee conducting an impeachment inquiry? — has flustered Democrats all week.

To Nadler and many on the committee, the committee is conducting an impeachment investigation. They argue that the debate over how to label the investigation is merely semantics: they have stated publicly and in court filings that their investigation is part of an active effort to decide whether to pursue impeachment.

House leadership, however, has taken a different tack. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries have all declined this week to say affirmatively that the committee’s investigation was an impeachment investigation or an impeachment inquiry, as Nadler has described it.

Well, declining to “say affirmatively” is not a statement of “no investigation”. My bet is that the House will proceed with the investigation, which my reveal more malfeasance on the part of Trump, even though a successful impeachment is doomed given the composition of the Senate.

31 Comments

  1. Posted September 12, 2019 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    One clarification: Impeachment requires only a majority vote of the House; conviction requires a 2/3 vote of the Senate (which I grant is unlikely). Two presidents have been impeached but not convicted (Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton), and Nixon resigned in the face of inevitable impeachment (and likely conviction. The bottom line, however, is that, at least historically, impeachment has been political death in all cases.

    Finally, for a nuanced analysis of what the resolution means, see

    https://www.lawfareblog.com/whats-judiciary-committee-resolution-impeachment-procedures

    I recommend Lawfare highly.

    • Posted September 12, 2019 at 10:27 am | Permalink

      The bottom line, however, is that, at least historically, impeachment has been political death in all cases

      How was impeachment Bill Clinton’s political death?

      • Posted September 12, 2019 at 10:40 am | Permalink

        Yes. In fact, Clinton’s impeachment likely hurt the Republicans in the 1998 midterm election.

        • Randy Bessinger
          Posted September 12, 2019 at 11:08 am | Permalink

          I just don’t think the American public cares about lying about sex. Even Evangelicals turned a blind eye to it when it came to Trump. Lying about money I think is different but that remains to be seen.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted September 12, 2019 at 11:43 am | Permalink

          Clinton wasn’t impeached until after the 1998 midterms, during the lame duck session (at a time when his approval rating was above 60%).

          And the 1999 Clinton impeachment trial didn’t hurt the Republicans none in the 2000 elections. They gained seats in the House, held onto the senate (at least until Vermont senator Jim Jeffords abandoned the Party in 2001), and “won” the presidency (after a fashion anyway, in the only vote that mattered, 5-4 in SCOTUS).

          I think any political lesson drawn from that experience is simply the “availability heuristic” at play.

          • Posted September 12, 2019 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

            The Starr investigation and the House vote to commence impeachment proceedings happened before the 1998 midterm election.

            • Ken Kukec
              Posted September 12, 2019 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

              True, but the House Republicans had a shitload of troubles that hurt them in the 1998 midterms that had nothing to do with Whitewater. Ask Newt Gingrich.

              In any event, the Democrats have crossed the investigatory and accusatory Rubicon, so that die is cast.

    • darrelle
      Posted September 12, 2019 at 10:41 am | Permalink

      I’m not so sure that in Clinton’s case impeachment resulted in political death. I’m ignorant of how it affected Johnson politically other than the apparent general historical consensus that it resulted in the executive branch losing some power to the congressional branch. In Nixon’s case it was so surely going to result in death that he bowed out before impeachment.

  2. Randall Schenck
    Posted September 12, 2019 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    Yes, Pelosi and others would rather play politics than perform their obligations. Just yesterday she got mad at the media for asking her about the gun control stuff and rightly so. Go ask Moscow Mitch about that. But she has the same obligation to us and the country as Nadler and should be backing him. What is she afraid of. If the Democrats do not act, do not put out more effort, they do not deserve to win. I would like to see some of the candidates go after Trump on his failed trade policy but so far, crickets. Stop attacking each other and attack the idiot.

    • Posted September 12, 2019 at 10:31 am | Permalink

      It’s obvious what she is afraid of: Trump winning the trial in the Senate.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted September 12, 2019 at 11:44 am | Permalink

        They have blown so much time so far there will never be a trial in the Senate. If there was to be one and the thing lost, so what. Everyone knows what the republicans are so that is no surprise. Where is your obligation as a Congressperson? More interested in politics than rule of law, just like the republicans.

        • Posted September 12, 2019 at 11:55 am | Permalink

          Nancy Pelosi’s first obligation is to get Trump out of office in 2020. Clearly you and she disagree as to whether impeachment will contribute to that aim but that doesn’t make my response to your question wrong.

          And, by the way, impeachment is a political process. It’s not a choice between the rule of law and politics. The law is irrelevant until Trump can be indicted after he has been forced out of office.

          • Posted September 12, 2019 at 11:59 am | Permalink

            “impeachment is a political process. It’s not a choice between the rule of law and politics.”

            Totally agree. Furthermore, prosecutors routinely fail to prosecute cases they feel they can’t win, for whatever reason. Sometimes a few people (eg, victims of the crime) accuse them of ignoring the rule of law but no one takes that seriously.

            • Randall Schenck
              Posted September 12, 2019 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

              Impeachment is specifically in the constitution. Do you know that congresspersons take an oath to the constitution. I think that anyone who thinks Impeachment is a political process is pretty tired. That is like saying running for office is a political processes. If you really think Polosi is right to blow off all the democrats and the evidence and do the safe thing then you have just joined Moscow Mitch.

              • Posted September 12, 2019 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

                “Impeachment is in the Constitution”

                Sure but so what? I think what people mean when they say impeachment is “political”, they mean that it is a judgement call by politicians rather than a strictly formulaic application of law. It is well known that the Constitution refers only to “crimes and misdemeanors”. It is left to Congress’s collective judgement and, therefore, it is very “political”.

              • Randall Schenck
                Posted September 12, 2019 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

                If you are not going to impeach this president then there is no such thing as impeachment.

        • Posted September 12, 2019 at 11:55 am | Permalink

          “Everyone knows what the republicans are so that is no surprise.”

          I don’t think that’s close to being true. The rubes that believe that “both sides are equally to blame” or “it’s all just politics” are exactly those vulnerable to Trump’s explanations that the Dems and the mainstream media are “just out to get him”. If the Senate were to try the case or, more likely, McConnell would just ignore it, claiming that “it had no merit”, then Trump and the GOP would claim it strongly as a huge win. They did the same thing with the Mueller report which explicitly did not exonerate him. That stuff works.

          • Lee
            Posted September 12, 2019 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

            “That stuff works.”

            That’s a major reason why the investigation is so important. If done right, the hearings will bring Trump’s unbounded corruption to the attention of many Americans who, because of their choice of “media”, don’t already know about it. The lady who attended Justin Amash’s town hall meeting and admitted she believed the Mueller report exonerated Trump (that’s all she had heard from her right wing sources), was surprised to learn that wasn’t the case.

            Presenting the case to the American people – that’s IMO perhaps the major objective of the impeachment initiative.

            • Posted September 12, 2019 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

              That’s what worked against Nixon. It really took public opinion to force the Republicans in Congress to take the accusations seriously.

              Unfortunately, Congressional Republicans will listen this time, regardless of what is uncovered. I also worry that a sufficient number of voters won’t be convinced either due to Trump and Fox’s efforts to portray it as one side against the other. Our only hope is that this is a minority of voters. At this point, it is crucial that the mainstream media avoid mistakes and even the appearance of having TDS. They need to be seen as clean and above board in their reporting lest they affirm the “two sides” narrative.

              • Posted September 12, 2019 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

                Oh, there’s definitely 35 to 40 percent who will believe the Fox news line on this. But 40 percent isn’t enough to win an election, even if you do a great job getting them to go to the polls.

    • Posted September 12, 2019 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

      It may be a wise strategy by the Dems to pursue impeachment with no time left on the clock for the republican senate to “exonerate” him. The dems would have there cake, ie go through with the devastating decision to impeach but not suffer the blowback if the senate vote happens after the 2020 election.

      • Posted September 12, 2019 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

        Yes! They could invoke something like McConnell’s Garland rule: “There shalt be no impeachment in a presidential election year.”

  3. Posted September 12, 2019 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    From what I read, the Dems are doing their investigations under the “impeachment” rubric as it may give them more clout with judges when they seek information and subpoena witnesses. At the same time, they currently have no intention to actually issue articles of impeachment and bring Trump to trial.

    This may seem like a scam to some but I don’t think it is. They have the right, and an obligation, to do an investigation first. If sufficient evidence of wrongdoing is found, they will go to full-on impeachment by submitting articles of impeachment to the Senate. (I think I have this right.)

  4. Posted September 12, 2019 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    This dance around impeachment has a prima ballerina, who is also the choreographer. She knows how important timing is and for her, I think, impeachment is not enough. Political annihilation will be sweet and is vital, but to erase the shame of this administration will take forever.

  5. Ken Kukec
    Posted September 12, 2019 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    Yeah, “apparently” — time to shit or get off the pot, Dems (if you’ll pardon my vulgarity).

    I think the American public prefers heartfelt miscalculation to to pusillanimous tergiversation.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted September 12, 2019 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

      I’ll haul a dictionary around so I can properly agree with what you said.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted September 12, 2019 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

        Lemme know if you find both “shit” and “pot” in that dictionary, buddy. 🙂

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted September 12, 2019 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

          Oh, that one is no problem. I deal pretty well with 3 and 4 letter words.

          Actually I think I accidentally produced the proper idea early on another thread. If you are not going to impeach this president, there is no such thing as impeachment.

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted September 12, 2019 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

          By the way, on a similar subject today, there was some news on McCabe and the possible prosecution thereof. I see no way in hell that the crooked justice department goes forward on that. The case is lame as hell and the Trump mouth sent this one down the crapper long ago. In tweets alone he wrecked any case they thought they had on this one.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted September 12, 2019 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

            I can’t imagine how low morale must be among the career people at Main Justice, except that it’s likely just as low in the intelligence community and at the State Department in Foggy Bottom, and probably also at the Pentagon.


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