By Chad Pergram
Published September 27, 2019
The House of Representatives is currently on a two-week recess for the Jewish holidays of Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah, but that doesn't mean the wheels of its impeachment inquiry against Donald Trump won’t churn on Capitol Hill and in Congressional districts.
The House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees will continue to toil behind the scenes investigating and, eventually, crafting actual articles of impeachment. More on that in a moment.
On Friday afternoon, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., issued a subpoena demanding a slew of Ukraine-related documents from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo by Oct. 4. They also scheduled depositions with five State Department officials between Oct. 2 and Oct. 10.
In a letter to colleagues, Schiff also confirmed that the intelligence committee will hold a closed briefing with intelligence community Inspector General Mike Atkinson on Oct. 4. Lawmakers also want to hear from President Trump’s attorney Rudolph Giuliani and Attorney General William Barr. Sources tell Fox the intelligence community whistleblower is putting together a legal team and may not be heard from for a few weeks.
“I do think the Attorney General has gone rogue,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif, said Friday. “He has for a long time now. And since he was mentioned in all of this, it’s curious that he would be making decisions about how a complaint would be handled."
There has long been tension between the administration and the Democratic House over providing witnesses and documents on a host of subjects, ranging from testimony by former White House Counsel Don McGahn during the Mueller probe to information regarding the census.
The subpoenas are part of a two-pronged strategy by Democrats. Get the information to help tailor the articles of impeachment, or convert a refusal to comply into an impeachment article itself.
House Democrats say the recess period is important to educate the public about the impeachment process and to gin up support for it
“Congress ought to be talking to their constituents and gaining their perspective on that and why they think this is such an important facet of this ongoing investigation,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md. “I think consideration of the public's viewpoint is critically important.”
“We are not going to be able to engage the American people here [in Washington],” said Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich. “This is what impacts them the most..we have to go home and educate them.”
Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn., flipped his district from red to blue in 2018. Phillips says he’s seen “a distinct change from my constituents over the last number of months and a growing call for action” against the president. Phillips says he’ll use the break “to educate those in our districts about how this process works.”
Rep. Jahana Hayes, D-Conn., is a former high school government teacher.
“One of the things I did this week was I put a civics one on one lesson on my social media. This is the impeachment process. So I kind of went right back into teacher mode. And I want people to understand that this is the process,” said Hayes. “I plan to do a lot of civics this week.”
Keep an eye on the 31 House districts currently held by Democrats which President Trump won in 2016. A lot of these members have town hall meetings planned over the recess. Pay particular attention to some of the forums conducted by Reps. Kendra Horn, D-Okla., Haley Stevens D-Mich., Max Rose, D-N.Y., Anthony Brindisi, D-N.Y., Xochitl Torres Small, D-N.M., and Ben McAdams D-Utah.
So, what might the articles of impeachment against Trump actually look like?
It is unlikely the House will actually just craft a solitary article of impeachment. Various Democrats would like to impeach President Trump for different reasons. There’s the Ukraine matter. Some may prefer to tackle emoluments. Cummings may cite obstruction of Congress as his panel struggles to get documents and testimony from the administration. Rep. Al Green, D-Texas, has wanted to impeach Mr. Trump over “moral fitness,” citing the President’s conduct when it comes to the treatment of minorities and his 2017 remarks about Charlottesville. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., may target the President’s stonewalling of Congress for his tax returns.
The House Judiciary Committee crafted five articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon in 1974. The panel approved three of the five: obstruction of justice, abuse of power and contempt of Congress. The committee did not adopt articles of impeachment related to Nixon’s campaign to bomb Cambodia and his failure to pay taxes. Nixon resigned before the full House could consider the articles.
In 1998, the Judiciary Committee adopted four articles of impeachment against Bill Clinton However, the full House only approved two of the four: lying to a grand jury and obstruction of justice. The House rejected an additional article of lying to a grand jury and an article centered on "abuse of power."
If the full House approves any single article of impeachment, Trump is considered “impeached.”
As always, it's about math. The current House breakdown is 235 Democrats, 199 Republicans, and one independent: Rep. Justin Amash, I-Mich. To pass anything in the House, 218 yeas are needed. That means Democrats can only lose 17 votes from their side and still have enough to pass an article of impeachment. Amash has endorsed impeachment, so let’s say the magic number is actually 16. If the president is to be impeached, that means Democrats could have 15 of their own voting for articles of impeachment while representing a district which Trump carried in 2016.
A House floor vote to impeach the President is kind of like an indictment, codified in Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution. If the House votes to impeach, Article 1, Section 3 of the Constitution sends the article(s) to the Senate for a trial presided over by Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts. (Note Roberts’ proper title. This is one of the reasons the Chief Justice is “of the United States,” and not just the “Supreme Court.”)
The House then sends over “impeachment managers” to present the House’s case to the Senate. These are actual House members who essentially serve as “prosecutors.” The remaining impeachment managers from President Clinton’s 1999 Senate trial are Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who was in the House at the time, along with Reps. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, and Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis.
If the Senate votes to “convict” the impeached figure, they are evicted from office. A two-thirds (67) vote is required for a Senate conviction.
There have only been 19 impeachments in House history. But the Senate has only voted to remove eight persons from office.