- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 4, 2019

House Democrats on Wednesday accelerated the rush to impeach President Trump, with the party’s leaders dropping the pretense of not anticipating the throw-him-out vote before the end of the year.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, has long insisted that there is no set schedule or even an expectation for articles of impeachment. But some rank-and-file Democrats told The Washington Times that leadership privately has been hoping for an impeachment vote before Christmas and they appear to be teeing it up.

“I don’t know if it can get done precisely by Christmas. I know there’s a hope on part of the leadership that it might,” said Rep. Jim Himes, Connecticut Democrat.

Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer confirmed that he saw an opening for an impeachment vote before New Year’s Day, when the issue would get thrown into the mix with 2020 election politics.

“There’s time to do it before the end of the year,” said Mr. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat.

House Democrats also talked of articles of impeachment as a foregone conclusion, though speculation continued about adding more charges to the abuse of power, bribery and obstruction allegations connected to Mr. Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.

The House is juggling several end-of-year items. The most pressing issue is a Dec. 20 deadline to fund the government and avoid a partial shutdown.

Another big item on the to-do list is ratifying the long-stalled U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA. Democratic leaders have slow-walked the trade deal brokered by the Trump administration, but they are being increasingly pressured by their members to act.

Moderate Democrats from key swing districts are pushing for progress on the trade deal to chalk up a major accomplishment other than impeachment before heading home for the holidays.

On top of that, Mr. Hoyer plans to advance a handful of other legislative priorities, including the Democrats’ plan to lower drug prices.

Democratic lawmakers said they could to it all and impeach Mr. Trump too, despite the time crunch. They noted that the House passed articles of impeachment against President Bill Clinton on Dec. 19, 1998.

Rep. Mark Pocan, an early supporter of impeachment who serves on the House Appropriations Committee, said they could tackle the outstanding issues before Christmas.

“They’re entirely different committees,” the Wisconsin Democrat told The Washington Times. “Both can move on difference tracks and never cross each other.”

House Republicans have remained united in opposition to impeachment.

“The clock and the calendar are driving impeachment, not the facts,” said Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee.

The partisan dynamic in Congress all but guarantees a party-line impeachment vote in the House, where a simple majority in the Democrat-run chamber will be enough to impeach Mr. Trump.

The odds are in his favor in the Republican-run Senate, however, where it takes a two-thirds majority to convict a president and remove him from office.

Meanwhile, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold L. Nadler took the reins of the impeachment effort and vowed to move “swiftly” on articles of impeachment if warranted by the evidence. He also made it clear that was where he thought the committee was headed.

“The president has shown us his pattern of conduct. If we do not act to hold him in check now, President Trump will almost certainly try again to solicit interference in the election for his personal political gain,” the New York Democrat said.

Mr. Nadler’s committee, which is tasked with drafting articles of impeachment, took over the inquiry Wednesday.

The committee held a hearing with a panel of hand-picked legal scholars who testified that Mr. Trump’s conduct warranted impeachment.

“If what we are talking about is not impeachable, then nothing is impeachable,” said Michael Gerhardt, a professor at the University of North Carolina.

The sole Republican witness, George Washington University Law School professor Jonathan Turley, said the Democrats’ case was “woefully inadequate” and warned that their rush to impeach would set a dangerous precedent.

“If you rush this impeachment, you are going to leave half the country behind,” he said. “And certainly that’s not what the framers wanted. You have to give the time to build a record. This isn’t an impulse-buy item. You are trying to remove a duly elected president of the United States, and that takes time and takes work.”

Taking up the impeachment drive after the investigatory phase was conducted by three other House committees, Mr. Nadler said he intended to quickly move the process along with a hearing of the evidence and then a decision on articles of impeachment.

“If it is true that President Trump has committed an impeachable offense or multiple impeachable offenses, then we must move swiftly to do our duty and charge him accordingly,” he said.

The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence spearheaded the investigation and issued a 300-page report Tuesday that laid out the case against Mr. Trump. The report from the committee’s Democrats said Mr. Trump abused his power by pressuring Ukraine to investigate political rival Joseph R. Biden and his son Hunter.

The impeachable offenses enumerated in the report include using Oval Office power for personal political gain, inviting foreign interference in the 2020 election and obstruction of the congressional investigation.

The impeachment case stems from a July 25 phone call in which Mr. Trump pressed Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky for a “favor” in investigating former Vice President Joseph R. Biden and Ukraine meddling in the 2016 election.

A whistleblower, who is believed to be a CIA official assigned to the White House, accused the president of abusing his power for personal gain on the call, including withholding $391 million of U.S. military aid from Ukraine as leverage.

Mr. Trump has acknowledged that he wanted an investigation into alleged corruption involving Hunter Biden, who landed a high-paying position on the board of Ukraine natural gas company Burisma Holdings in 2014. At the time, his father was the point man for Obama White House policy in the country, which is notorious for corruption, especially in the energy industry.

Mr. Trump has denied wrongdoing and condemned the impeachment inquiry as a partisan “sham.”

The White House said the latest hearing fell flat.

“It did nothing to change the fact that, despite weeks of hearings in this sham process, the president did nothing wrong. Congress should get back to working for the American people. The United States–Mexico–Canada trade agreement, infrastructure, and drug pricing all await action from Speaker Pelosi. Instead, House Democrats continue to ignore their constituents by focusing on this pathetic and desperate charade,” said White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham.

The number of articles of impeachment could be growing, potentially including allegations raised by special counsel Robert S. Mueller’s Russia probe. His report, while not substantiating claims of Trump campaign collusion with Russia, indicated possible obstruction of justice by Mr. Trump. That could be an impeachable offense.

It’s an open question on how far Democrats will go, knowing that it could split the party.

Rep. Elise Slotkin, who represents a swing district in Michigan, was one of the moderate Democrats whose support help launch the inquiry. But she doesn’t know if she will support articles and said she could see herself breaking with the party on some charges.

“Some people are interested in kind of a kitchen sink approach,” she said. “There are lots of things I don’t agree with the president has done, but we have been taking the country down this road on this very targeted issue of Ukraine … and that’s what I think we should focus on.”

Mr. Hoyer dismissed concerns about defections on articles of impeachment, such as the party suffered when two Democrats joined all the Republicans in voting against the impeachment inquiry.

“It’s not unanimity, but it sure as the devil is consensus,” he said of support for the impeachment effort. “The party is united and will be united, not unanimous.”

Jeff Mordock contributed to this report.

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