House Judiciary Democrats told reporters Friday that they don’t need to launch a formal impeachment inquiry — they’re essentially conducting one already with their investigation into President Donald Trump.
“In effect,” Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler said when asked if the panel’s ongoing probe is effectively the same as an impeachment inquiry.
The only difference, the New York Democrat said, is with a formal impeachment inquiry the panel would only be considering impeachment.
“That’s not what we’re doing. … We’re not limited to that,” Nadler said.
Despite not being limited to impeachment, Nadler and several of his fellow Judiciary Democrats confirmed during a press conference Wednesday that their investigation has reached a point where they are considering whether to draft articles of impeachment against the president.
“From my personal standpoint, I would say we’re in an impeachment investigation,” Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin said, noting there’s no statute or House rule governing what form impeachment inquiry must take.
Rep. Eric Swalwell agreed, noting that the House efforts to impeach former Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton took different forms.
“This is an impeachment investigation,” the California Democrat said of the Judiciary Committee’s current probe into Trump’s alleged crimes and misdeeds.
The Judiciary Committee Democrats spoke Friday at a press conference that was billed as event to announce their next steps in their oversight agenda. Exactly half of the 24 Democrats on the panel attended.
Petition for grand jury info
Nadler opened the event by following up on his announcement from Wednesday that the committee planned to file two new lawsuits this week, one to obtain the grand jury information that was redacted in former special counsel Robert S. Mueller’s report and one to enforce a subpoena for former White House counsel Don McGahn’s testimony
The chairman announced that the panel had proceeded Friday with a court filing to obtain the grand jury information. Referencing ongoing negotiations with McGahn that he declined to characterize, Nadler said he’ll hold off on filing suit against him until next week.
“Unless he complies with our accommodation efforts in very short order, we expect to file an additional suit to enforce our subpoena for his testimony and that will be next week, or earlier next week.”
Nadler read a portion of the committee’s court petition for the grand jury information.
“Because Department of Justice policies will not allow prosecution of a sitting president, the United States House of Representatives is the only institution of the federal government that can now hold President Trump accountable for these actions,” Nadler read from the petition. “To do so, the House must have access to all the relevant facts and consider whether to exercise its full Article I powers, including a constitutional power of the utmost gravity, recommendation of articles of impeachment.”
The chairman predicted that Attorney General William Barr may oppose his effort to obtain the grand jury information.
A Justice Department spokesperson responded to the court petition, saying, “We are looking at this and continuing to work in good faith, as we hope the committee is operating, as well.”
The Judiciary Democrats made clear that their court filing Friday was an intensification of their probe. Swalwell noted that it is the first time the panel is telegraphing to court that one of the remedies it has is impeachment.
“We’re crossing a threshold, absolutely,” Texas Rep. Veronica Escobar said. “When you think about the mode we were operating under before it really was an oversight function. We are now crossing a threshold with this filing and we are now officially entering an examination of whether or not to recommend articles of impeachment.”
’Remains to be seen′
Nadler confirmed that the committee as part of its investigation will eventually have to answer the question about whether or not to pursue impeachment.
“We will consider what we have to consider, including whether we should recommend articles of impeachment to the House,” he said. “That’s the job of our committee. We may decide to recommend articles of impeachment at some point. We may not. That remains to be seen.”
The questions to the Judiciary Committee Democrats on the topic started with reporters pressing Nadler, who has reportedly lobbied Speaker Nancy Pelosi privately to allow his panel to open an impeachment inquiry, as to when he will publicly call for one. The other 11 Democrats participating in the press conference with him had already announced their support for an impeachment inquiry.
Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, the panel’s vice chair, defended Nadler.
“Impeachment isn’t a binary thing that you either are or you aren’t,” the Pennsylvania Democrat said. “What we’ve been saying and what we’ve been doing is starting a process where we’re engaging in an investigation to see if we should recommend articles of impeachment. It’s a process. We started it some months ago in some ways while waiting for the report and holding the hearings we already have. It’s an ongoing process. The court filings today are the next step.”
Nadler in his own defense asserted that he and Pelosi are in “total agreement” that if the Judiciary Committee is going to recommed articles of impeachment that they “must make strongest possible.”
Pelosi has argued against the House opening up an impeachment inquiry, saying there was more evidence to be obtained. The California Democrat reiterated her view Friday when pressed on the topic during her weekly press conference, occurring an hour ahead of the Judiciary Democrats’ event.
“We will proceed when we have what we need to proceed. Not one day sooner,” the speaker said. “And everybody has the liberty and the luxury to espouse their own position and to criticize me for trying to go down the path in the most determined, positive way. Again, their advocacy for impeachment only gives me leverage. I have no complaint with what they are doing.”