House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler announced Friday that his committee is launching an impeachment inquiry — but he wouldn’t put it that way.
Speaking at a press conference at the U.S. Capitol, Nadler (D-NY) laid out next steps that his panel is taking in response to former special counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony this week.
First off, Nadler said he’s heading to court to get his hands on all confidential grand jury records from the Mueller investigation. Additionally, Nadler said his panel is in “ongoing negotiations” to secure testimony from former White House counsel Don McGahn — a key witness in Mueller’s probe into whether President Trump committed obstruction of justice.
“We will consider what we have to consider, including whether we should recommend articles of impeachment to the House,” Nadler said, standing alongside 11 of his fellow House Judiciary Democrats, all of whom are publicly in favor of launching impeachment proceedings.
The chairman was then pressed on whether what he’s doing isn’t in fact launching an impeachment inquiry without actually calling it that.
“I think too much has been made of the phrase ‘impeachment inquiry,'” Nadler said. “Among other things we will consider, obviously, are whether to recommend articles of impeachment…You may want to call that an inquiry or not.”
A formal impeachment inquiry can only be initiated after the full House votes to direct the judiciary committee to undertake such proceedings.
However, Nadler’s comments closely mirror language used in the House resolutions that prompted impeachment inquiries against Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.
The crux is that no formal vote has been undertaken, and that Nadler is thereby able to sidestep an official impeachment announcement while essentially beginning an inquiry to that effect.
“He’s trying to eat his cake and have it too,” Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor in Illinois, told the Daily News. “It’s savvy and allows him to get where he needs to go legally without having to put pressure on his more moderate members.”
Nadler’s Friday announcement marks the strongest indication yet that Democratic leaders are seriously considering impeaching the president.
Nearly 100 House Democrats are now publicly in favor of pulling the trigger on impeachment proceedings.
The latest lawmaker to jump on board the impeachment train was Massachusetts Rep. Katherine Clark, who on Thursday became the highest-ranking member of the House to support removing Trump from office.
“I deeply respect the committee work of House Democrats to hold the president accountable, including hearings, subpoenas and lawsuits. All of our efforts to put the facts before the American people, however, have been met with unprecedented stonewalling and obstruction,” said Clark, who as House Democratic Caucus vice chair is the chamber’s sixth most senior member.
“That is why I believe we need to open an impeachment inquiry that will provide us a more formal way to fully uncover the facts.”
Clark’s announcement came on the heels of Mueller’s Wednesday testimony before the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees.
In his testimony, Mueller at times came off as halting and stuttering, prompting right-wing pundits to slam the hearings as a failure for Democrats. Such optics aside, Mueller still testified that his investigation did not exonerate Trump of obstruction crimes and even said the president could very well be prosecuted after he’s out of office.
Some moderate Democrats are wary of impeachment, fearing it will turn into a toothless affair as the GOP-controlled Senate will all but certainly strike down any article passed by the House, giving Trump a political victory ahead of 2020.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi — whose consent is ultimately mandatory to impeach Trump — appears to be in that camp and continued advocating for a wait-and-see approach Friday, saying impeachment will only happen after House committees have exhausted all their investigative means.
“When we have what we need to proceed,” she said of the prospect of impeachment. “Not one day sooner.”
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