House Panel Sets Procedural Guidelines for Impeachment Probe

House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters, D-Calif., left, and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., arrive for a gathering of the Democratic Caucus on Tuesday. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON (CN) – The House Judiciary Committee on Thursday formally outlined how it will conduct its investigation into whether to begin official impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump, even as Democrats struggle to define where they are in that process.

The resolution approved in a 24-17 vote on Thursday morning allows Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., to call hearings for the purposes of investigating whether to bring articles of impeachment against Trump, and allows committee staff time to question witnesses at those hearings. It also allows the committee to receive some information in a classified setting.

The committee took up similar resolutions during the early stages of impeachment proceedings against Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.

The panel has said it is conducting an investigation into whether to bring impeachment proceedings against Trump in court filings as it fights for access to records related to former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible obstruction of justice by Trump.

But Democrats, including leadership, have not been in lockstep when trying to define what it is the Judiciary Committee is doing.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., told reporters on Wednesday the House is not in impeachment proceedings, only to partially walk the comments back later the same day by saying he supports the Judiciary Committee’s investigation.

Nadler made it clear on Thursday he is tired of arguing over the semantics of what to call his committee’s work.

“This committee is engaged in an investigation that will allow us to determine whether to recommend articles of impeachment with respect to President Trump,” Nadler said at the hearing Thursday. “Some call this process an impeachment inquiry. Some call it an impeachment investigation. There is no legal difference between these terms, and I no longer care to argue about the nomenclature.”

Republicans on the panel accused the committee leaders of using the resolution to make its investigation seem more serious than it is and of skipping steps in the impeachment inquiry process.

“You haven’t gotten enough evidence to convince a majority of the House of Representatives to even authorize an impeachment inquiry, and that’s probably why the committee hasn’t gone to the floor to ask for one – the votes aren’t there,” Representative James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., said during the hearing.

Georgia Representative Doug Collins, the top Republican on the committee, compared the resolution to an Instagram filter – a tool meant to dress up the committee’s work to make it look like it is doing something that it isn’t.

He said Nadler is already authorized to take some of the actions the resolution covers and that the committee should first have the full House authorize an impeachment inquiry.

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