What to Watch for During This Week's House Judicial Committee Hearings

On Monday, the House Judiciary Committee will hear evidence about the laws surrounding impeachment. In the meantime, Democrats will draft proposed articles of impeachment charging President Trump with high crimes and misdemeanors. The charges are based on a phone call over the summer during which Trump pressured Ukrainian President Zelensky to investigate his domestic political rival, Joe Biden.

What is going to happen?

Basically, the House Judiciary Committee is going to hear presentations of evidence both Democratic and Republican lawyers. The arguments will be delivered by Barry H. Berke for the committee Democrats and Stephen R. Castor for the Republicans. Daniel S. Goldman, the Democratic counsel for the House Intelligence Committee, will then present the evidence for impeachment, and Mr. Castor will present the evidence against it. Judiciary Committee members will then ask questions.

The proceedings will begin at 9 AM and last until late in the afternoon. The day’s events will occur inside the House Ways and Means Committee chambers.

An important week for the impeachment effort

The House Judiciary Committee heard from constitutional scholars last week. The scholars agreed that President Trump’s conduct constituted impeachable offenses according to constitutional theory. 

This week, the House Judiciary Committee turns from theory to reality as it conducts its first hearing on the evidence in the case against Mr. Trump and examines whether his actions rise to the level of impeachable offenses. The main difference between last week and this week is that the House will not hear from fact witnesses this week. Instead, the House will hear from lawyers on both sides of the aisle who will argue for and against passing articles of impeachment based on previously supplied evidence and testimonies.

According to the New York Times, “the White House refuses to participate in the hearing, meaning that no lawyers for the president will appear, unlike impeachment hearings involving past presidents. The White House has argued that the inquiry is illegitimate, partisan and rigged against Mr. Trump, so it will wait to mount a defense in a Senate trial, assuming the full House does vote to impeach him. For now, the president will leave his defense to committee Republicans, who have rallied behind him.”

Background on the impeachment investigation

The House has so far moved quickly through the impeachment process, refusing to allow the process to get bogged down by Republican delay tactics. Adam Schiff did a good job controlling the Republicans during the first round of hearings last month. The House Intelligence Committee heard from six witnesses who testified overwhelmingly in support of the notion that the President acted in ways that would be impeachable.

The hearings before the House Intelligence Committee and House Judiciary Committee come after a period of inquiry during which time the House held closed-door hearings. Throughout the process, Republicans have sought to paint the impeachment investigations as being unjust and unfair despite the fact that Republicans themselves wrote the rules under the previous 

Speaker of the House. However, the Democrats have held fast to the rules and effectively steered the proceedings forward at a good pace.

Key points to know about the impeachment investigation

- Mr. Trump and his team pressured President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine repeatedly to investigate Trump’s political rival, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

- A C.I.A. officer who was once detailed to the White House filed a whistle-blower complaint on Mr. Trump’s interactions with Mr. Zelensky.

- Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced in September that the House would open a formal impeachment proceeding and last week directed Democrats to draft articles of impeachment. Here’s how the impeachment process works, and here’s why political influence in foreign policy matters.

- House committees have issued subpoenas to the White House, the Defense Department, the budget office and other agencies for documents related to the impeachment investigation. Here’s the evidence that has been collected so far.

- Read about the Democrats’ rules to govern impeachment proceedings.

3 things to watch for this week

1. Republicans trying to frustrate the process

Republicans will likely continue to attempt to slow down the process and frustrate the functioning of the committee during the hearings. They have been pushing the narrative that the investigations and hearings are unfair and have therefore taken an obstructionist position in relation to the process. The GOP representatives will likely call for reviews of the rules, roll calls, and generally try to interrupt the hearings.

2. Democrats trying to shame Republicans

Democrats will likely spend significant amounts of time lamenting the state of the Republican party and the GOP efforts to spread false conspiracy theories regarding Ukraine. The Democrats have so far attempted to counter the GOP narrative that the hearings are unfair by sounding the alarm on their colleagues. As the Republicans continue to behave in an unruly manner and try new tactics, the Democrats will need to adapt and maintain strict control over the process. While there might not be as much time during this week’s hearings for Democrats to shame the Republicans as there was during last month’s hearing which featured long speeches by Rep. Adam Schiff, the Democrats will likely continue to paint the Republicans as worthy of ridicule.

3. Drafting of the Articles of Impeachment will move forward

At this point, it is very clear that the House will in all likelihood submit articles of impeachment to the House. There is some debate about how many articles will be included in the submission. These discussions will mostly happen outside of the hearing but be influenced by the content of the hearings.

Conclusion: a long week ahead

The House impeachment process is nearing its climax. This week will likely be the last week before articles of impeachment are submitted to the Senate. That means that the hearings this week represent the crucial phase of the investigation during which conclusions about all of the evidence provided during the hearings will be drawn. Keep your eyes peeled for Republicans acting petulantly, Democrats scolding them, and how the proceedings affect the drafting of the articles of impeachment.


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