Dems try to clear up con­fu­sion over probe

House panel OKs hear­ing guide­lines on im­peach­ment

The Morning Call - - NATION & WORLD - By Mary Clare Jalonick

WASHINGTON — House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee Chair­man Jer­rold Nadler tried to clear up con­fu­sion within his cau­cus about im­peach­ment on Thurs­day as the com­mit­tee ap­proved guide­lines for im­peach­ment hear­ings on Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

Nadler says there’s no un­cer­tainty about what his com­mit­tee is do­ing: It’s an im­peach­ment in­ves­ti­ga­tion, no mat­ter how you want to phrase it.

Some of Nadler’s fel­low Democrats — in­clud­ing House Ma­jor­ity Leader Steny Hoyer — have stum­bled over how to ex­plain what they’re do­ing, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been re­luc­tant to echo the com­mit­tee’s as­ser­tions that they are in the midst of an im­peach­ment probe.

At a news con­fer­ence af­ter the com­mit­tee vote, Pelosi was on the de­fen­sive. She said she sup­ports what the com­mit­tee is do­ing, and “I salute them for that work.”

She said, though, that when she trav­els the coun­try, “peo­ple are say­ing it’s good to be care­ful about how we pro­ceed.”

Im­peach­ment has di­vided Democrats who con­trol the House. Democrats on Nadler’s com­mit­tee, in­clud­ing some of the most lib­eral mem­bers of the House, have been ea­ger to move for­ward with the process.

But mod­er­ates, mostly first­term law­mak­ers who handed their party the ma­jor­ity in the 2018 elec­tion, are con­cerned about the com­mit­tee’s drum­beat on im­peach­ment and the at­ten­tion that comes with that con­tin­ued ac­tion.

Given those di­vi­sions, Nadler and Pelosi have been talk­ing about im­peach­ment very dif­fer­ently. While Nadler has been clear that his com­mit­tee is mov­ing ahead, Pelosi is re­luc­tant to men­tion the “I” word and has re­peat­edly said the strat­egy is to “leg­is­late, in­ves­ti­gate and lit­i­gate.”

In pri­vate meet­ings, she has urged cau­tion and told the cau­cus that the public isn’t there yet on im­peach­ment.

At the same time, she has signed off on the com­mit­tee’s moves.

Pressed on whether there were mixed mes­sages com­ing from lead­er­ship and the com­mit­tee, she wouldn’t an­swer. “I have said what I am go­ing to say on the sub­ject,” Pelosi said.

Nadler, too, de­clined to an­swer a sim­i­lar ques­tion. “I’m not go­ing to get into that,” he said af­ter the com­mit­tee’s vote.

At the hear­ing, he was force­ful about the Ju­di­ciary panel’s path.

“Some call this process an im­peach­ment in­quiry. Some call it an im­peach­ment in­ves­ti­ga­tion. There is no le­gal dif­fer­ence be­tween these terms, and I no longer care to ar­gue about the nomen­cla­ture,” Nadler, D-N.Y., said as he opened the meet­ing.

“But let me clear up any re­main­ing doubt: The con­duct un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion poses a threat to our democ­racy. We have an obli­ga­tion to re­spond to this threat. And we are do­ing so.”

The con­fu­sion was high­lighted Wed­nes­day when Hoyer, D-Md., in­di­cated to re­porters that there was not an im­peach­ment in­ves­ti­ga­tion — and then is­sued a clar­i­fi­ca­tion say­ing he thought the ques­tion was “in re­gards to whether the full House is ac­tively con­sid­er­ing ar­ti­cles of im­peach­ment, which we are not at this time.”

Like Pelosi, he said he sup­ported the com­mit­tee’s work.

As the com­mit­tee said it would move ahead, sev­eral fresh­man law­mak­ers met with Nadler on Wed­nes­day and ex­pressed con­cerns about the path ahead.

“It’s suck­ing the air out of all the good stuff that we’re do­ing, so that’s our con­cern,” said Florida Rep. Donna Sha­lala, who at­tended the meet­ing. She said very few con­stituents in her swing dis­trict asked her about im­peach­ment over the Au­gust re­cess.

With law­mak­ers di­vided, it’s un­clear whether the im­peach­ment process will ever move be­yond the com­mit­tee’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The com­mit­tee would have to in­tro­duce im­peach­ment ar­ti­cles against Trump and win ap­proval from the House to bring charges. The Repub­li­can-led Se­nate is un­likely to con­vict Trump and re­move him from of­fice.

Repub­li­cans ex­pressed their frus­tra­tion with the en­tire process be­fore the com­mit­tee voted on Thurs­day. They say the com­mit­tee can­not be in im­peach­ment be­cause the House has never voted to open an of­fi­cial in­quiry.

Ge­or­gia Rep. Doug Collins, the top Repub­li­can on the com­mit­tee, said the com­mit­tee “has become a gi­ant Instagram fil­ter it’s put in there to look like some­thing, but it’s re­ally not.”

J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE/AP PHOTOS

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said the strat­egy is to “leg­is­late, in­ves­ti­gate and lit­i­gate.”

Chair­man Nadler says there’s no un­cer­tainty on what his panel is do­ing.

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