Congress

McCarthy asks Pelosi to suspend impeachment inquiry until she defines procedures

Minority leader says Democrats are limiting Republican participation and not following precedent

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., has asked Speaker Nancy Pelosi to suspend Democrats' impeachment inquiry until she defines procedures to govern it. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy sent a letter Thursday to Speaker Nancy Pelosi requesting she suspend Democrats’ impeachment investigation into President Donald Trump “until transparent and equitable rules and procedures are established to govern the inquiry.”

“Unfortunately, you have given no clear indication as to how your impeachment inquiry will proceed — including whether key historical precedents or basic standards of due process will be observed,” the California Republican wrote. “In addition, the swiftness and recklessness with which you have proceeded has already resulted in committee chairs attempting to limit minority participation in scheduled interviews, calling into question the integrity of such an inquiry.”

McCarthy posed 10 questions to Pelosi in the letter about the process. Those questions include whether she’ll hold a vote of the full House to authorize the inquiry, whether the minority will be granted subpoena power, and whether subpoenas will be subject to a committee vote upon request of the chairman or ranking member.

The minority leader also raised several questions about what rights Democrats plan to grant the president’s counsel, like the ability to attend hearings and cross examine witnesses. 

McCarthy’s final question was about jurisdiction of the impeachment inquiry. 

“Do you intend to refer all findings on impeachment to Chairman Nadler and the Judiciary Committee, as prescribed by Rule X of the Rules of the House, or is Chairman Schiff in charge of leading this inquiry, as has been reported in the press?” he said. 

McCarthy said that if Pelosi answers “no” to any of the questions he posed she “would be acting in direct contradiction to all modern impeachment inquiries of a sitting president” and “would create a process completely devoid of any merit or legitimacy.”

In response to the letter, Trump tweeted his endorsement of McCarthy for speaker, expressing confidence Republicans will take back the House in 2020.

‘We don’t have to’

Pelosi sent McCarthy a response Thursday afternoon that only addressed one of his process questions. 

“The existing rules of the House provide House Committees with full authority to conduct investigations for all matters under their jurisdiction, including impeachment investigations,” the California Democrat wrote.  “There is no requirement under the Constitution, under House Rules, or House precedent that the whole House vote before proceeding with an impeachment inquiry.”

Pelosi had expressed the same view when asked on ABC’s  “Good Morning America” why she’s not taking that step.

“We could. We don’t have to, but we could,” the California Democrat said in the interview, which was taped Wednesday and aired Thursday.

Pelosi claimed that Republicans are afraid that she actually will call for a vote to authorize the impeachment inquiry because it means they’ll have to take a position on it. Although she disagreed with the assertion McCarthy has made that the House needs to vote to make the inquiry legitimate, she did not rule out the possibility.

“We feel that we’re on very firm ground as we go forward,” Pelosi said. “And we may go to that place as we go just because it’s a Republican talking point, but it’s not necessary.”

Pelosi also pushed back on the idea that a House vote on articles of impeachment is inevitable.

“I don’t think so. No,” she said. “I think that we just go forward and follow the facts. I don’t think — there are some people [who] say, ‘Why are you calling for an inquiry? You should just call to impeach.’ I don’t think that would be fair, and it isn’t worthy of the Constitution. We should collect the facts.”

Later in the interview Pelosi somewhat contradicted her own statement, saying, “The facts are there and we are proceeding to get further evidence as we go forward.“ 

The decision on whether the House votes on articles of impeachment will not be based on whether any Republicans support impeachment or whether the Senate will vote to convict Trump, Pelosi said.

“It doesn’t hinge on whether Mitch McConnell has the guts to really do what the Constitution requires or what the impact is in the election,” she said.

In her letter to McCarthy, Pelosi noted that she received his correspondence “shortly after the world witnessed President Trump on national television asking yet another foreign power to interfere in the upcoming 2020 elections.” She was referring to Trump's remarks inviting China, in addition to the Ukraine, to investigate his potential 2020 rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.

“We hope you and other Republicans share our commitment to following the facts, upholding the Constitution, protecting our national security, and defending the integrity of our elections at such a serious moment in our nation’s history,” Pelosi wrote.

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