WASHINGTON (CN) – The impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump marched another step forward Tuesday as House Democrats published a resolution to formalize the inquiry and set additional standards about how public hearings and interviews will be conducted.
The resolution will be debated and amendments will be considered by the House Rules Committee on Wednesday afternoon, with a final vote expected on the House floor Thursday.
On its face, the resolution is largely standard to existing rules for congressional hearings – except in the way it empowers House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff.
As currently written, the resolution entitles Schiff to call as many public hearings as he wishes. He can also add as many rounds of uninterrupted questioning as he likes, up to 45 minutes per side – meaning the committee’s ranking minority member, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., can ask questions equally.
In addition to making the hearings open, the resolution sticks to typical committee rules for questioning: Each side will have the same right to question witnesses as the other and per existing standards, the ranking minority member of the committee has 72 hours after a hearing is scheduled to request additional witness testimony.
Though it was not specified in the resolution, a fact sheet distributed by Democrats on the House Rules Committee on Tuesday suggests the approach to questioning during the inquiry will mirror the method used by Republicans during the impeachment of former President Bill Clinton.
Democrats on the Rules Committee said President Trump – and his attorneys – are invited to participate in impeachment proceedings once the matter is transferred to the House Judiciary Committee, the body with authority to advance articles of impeachment.
The president or his attorneys can present their case, respond to evidence and submit written requests for more testimony or evidence, according to a supplemental on the resolution distributed by the House Judiciary Committee late Tuesday. Once in Judiciary Committee’s purview, Trump or his attorneys are also free to attend hearings, raise objections or cross-examine witnesses as he or they see fit.
In a statement Tuesday, the four chairs spearheading the inquiry weighed in on the draft resolution.
“The House impeachment inquiry has collected extensive evidence and testimony and soon the American people will hear from witnesses in an open setting. The resolution introduced in the House Rules Committee today will provide that path forward,” said Schiff, House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Eliot Engel, House Oversight Committee acting chairwoman Carolyn Maloney and House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerry Nadler.
The evidence they have collected thus far “paints a picture of a president who abused his power by using multiple levers of government to press a foreign country to interfere in the 2020 election,” they said.
During a press conference with Senate Republican leadership ahead of the resolution’s release, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell expressed doubt that Democrats will have the votes to pass the resolution in the House.
But within an hour after the resolution was released, lawmakers once hesitant to jump aboard the impeachment inquiry, like South Carolina Democrat Joe Cunningham, signaled the tide may turn quicker than McConnell thinks. Cunningham told his local paper, The Post and Courier, on Tuesday night that he intends to vote in favor of the resolution.