WASHINGTON (CN) — Has the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump been a slow march or a sprint? While the question continues to divide Capitol Hill on party lines, Republicans are showing discord on whether speed is necessarily bad.
“The speaker and Chairman Nadler and Chairman Schiff have all said ‘Well, we don’t really have a definite timeline,’ but it sure looks like they do,” said Representative Tom Cole, an Oklahoma Republican, reacting to the first day of impeachment proceedings Wednesday before the House Judiciary Committee.
“I think getting it over sooner rather than later is better,” Cole continued, “because it gets in the way right now of truly getting big things done.”
Democrats contend that the duty of safeguarding American democracy justifies swift resolution of the evidence against Trump, but many Republicans say rushing this process will irrevocably endanger the office of the president.
Johnathan Turley, a George Washington University law professor, made the case against hurried proceedings Wednesday in testimony before the committee.
“If you rush this impeachment, you'll leave half this country behind,” he said. “You have to give the time to build the record. This isn't an impulse buy item. You're trying to remove a duly elected POTUS.”
Turley was the lone witness called by Republicans at a hearing where three other experts on constitutional law testified for the Democrats that Trump committed impeachable offenses.
As the speed of the inquiry divided lawmakers Wednesday, Representative Rob Woodall, a Georgia Republican, called the issue academic given other issues with the process.
“Move it quickly, move it slowly — when your jury is comprised of folks who already voted yes even before they saw the first piece of hearing testimony, I don’t know how the number of days of hearings changes that outcome,” Woodall said.
Senator Lindsey Graham contrasted Trump’s treatment against those of other presidents who faced impeachment inquiries. In every case in modern history, he said, these inquiries were conducted through outside counsel and lasted for years, not weeks or months.
While Trump’s lawyer Pat Cipollone has been invited to the Judiciary Committee’s hearings, Graham said the “damage is done.”
“It’s a joke, he can’t call anybody in the Judiciary,” Graham said of the committee’s invitation to Cipollone. “If I were him, I’d want to call a bunch of witnesses and I doubt he’ll have a chance to do it.”
Senator Tom Carper, a Delaware Democrat, downplayed the speed of the House inquiry meanwhile, since any trial on articles of impeachment would occur in the Senate.
“The key is not so much whether or not it’s going too fast or too slow, the key is are we following the process and will it lead us to the truth,” Carper said.
Congressman Cole said there is an assumption in the chamber that the committee will introduce articles of impeachment by Christmas, but Democrats offered no such timeline Wednesday when they met ahead of Wednesday’s hearing.
“I am very focused on making sure we get 218 votes for the proposition we put on the floor,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said. “I don’t think the party is divided at all.”