This week: Impeachment inquiry moves to Judiciary Committee

As lawmakers return from their Thanksgiving recess this week, the House is slated to move into its third phase of its impeachment inquiry into President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. 

The House Judiciary Committee — the panel that holds jurisdiction over drafting any article or articles of impeachment — is gearing up to hold its first hearing, entitled “The Impeachment Inquiry into President Donald J. Trump: Constitutional Grounds for Presidential Impeachment,” on Wednesday.

The hearing comes after the House Intelligence Committee held two weeks of public hearings with current and former administration officials. The panel, along with the Foreign Affairs and Oversight and Reform Committees, also held weeks of closed-door depositions as part of its probe into whether or not Trump tied Ukraine aid to the country investigating former Vice President Biden or his son Hunter Biden. 

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) informed members of the Demcoratic caucus last week that the panels overseeing the impeachment inquiry were working on preparing a report on their findings to send to the Judiciary Committee. 

Members of the Intelligence Committee are expected to be able to review the report on Monday evening. Schiff has also not ruled out the possibility of additional hearings or depositions.

“On Tuesday, the Committee will hold a business meeting, following our regularly scheduled briefing, at 6 pm to consider and adopt the report,” a committee staffer told The Hill on Saturday. 

“The report — along with any Minority Views — will then be forwarded to the Judiciary Committee pursuant to H.Res. 660.”

Republicans have blasted the process Democrats have conducted since the formal inquiry was launched earlier this fall, alleging the probe has lacked transparency and failed to provide fair rules for both parties. 

Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) had asked Trump if he wanted to take part in Wednesday’s hearing and set a deadline for Sunday evening for the president to respond. Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), a member of the Judiciary Committee, told ABC’s “This Week” that “it would be to the president’s advantage to have his attorneys” at the hearing. 

“That is his right, but I can also understand how he is upset at the illegitimate process that we saw unfold in the Intelligence Committee,” McClintock added.

But the White House sent a letter on Sunday night announcing it wouldn’t take part in Wednesday’s hearings. 

“We cannot fairly be expected to participate in a hearing while the witnesses are yet to be named and while it remains unclear whether the Judiciary Committee will afford the president a fair process through additional hearings,” it wrote. 

“More importantly, an invitation to an academic discussion with law professors does not begin to provide the president with any semblance of a fair process. Accordingly under the current circumstances, we do not intend to participate in your Wednesday hearing,” the White House added. 

Nadler also wrote to Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) on Friday asking if he would like to issue any subpoenas or interrogatories relating to the inquiry. He also gave the ranking member until Dec. 6 to notify him.

“I am prepared to schedule a meeting of the Committee on Monday, December 9, 2019 to consider any such referrals,” Nadler wrote to Collins.

Collins responded asking Nadler to expand Wednesday’s hearings beyond the four constitutional law scholars currently scheduled to testify. 

“To ensure fairness and restore integrity to the ongoing impeachment process, I request an expanded panel and a balanced composition of academic witnesses to opine on the subject matter at issue during the hearing,” he wrote.

“On December 4, the Committee will hear from only four academic witnesses during its consideration of the question of impeachment. This is less than a quarter of those called to testify during the Clinton impeachment,” he continued. “In light of this, I request that you expand the number of witnesses called upon to testify on December 4 to give the American people a wider array of perspectives regarding impeachment.”

The letter did not clarify which witnesses the Republicans would seek to call.

Insider Trading

The House is slated to take up a bill aimed at cracking down on insider trading. 

The Insider Trading Prohibition Act — led by Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) — would make it a federal crime to “trade a security based on material, nonpublic information that was wrongfully obtained, ending decades of ambiguity for a crime that has never been clearly defined by law.”

The measure aims to more clearly define wrongful trading of nonpublic information. It is expected to pass with some bipartisan support. 

“I believe that the best laws come from working in a constructive, bipartisan fashion,” Himes said in a statement after it passed out of the House Financial Services Committee. 

 “Today we were able to work out an agreement that will bring a strong bill to the floor and I look forward to continued work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and stakeholders as we move toward final passage.”

Middle East

The House is slated to pass a non-binding resolution expressing support for negotiating a two-state solution to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

The measure, introduced by Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), asserts the U.S.’s commitment to offering Israel its “unwavering support” to overcome its challenges. 

It states the “special relationship between the United States and Israel is rooted in shared national security interests and shared values of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law” and that the “United States has worked for decades to strengthen Israel’s security through assistance and cooperation on defense and intelligence matters in order to enhance the safety of United States and Israeli citizens.” 

Energy

The Senate will return on Monday evening to hold a final vote on Dan Brouillette’s nomination to lead the Department of Energy. 

Brouillette, if confirmed, will succeed outgoing Energy Secretary Rick Perry, who was scheduled to leave the administration over the weekend. 

Perry, the former governor of Texas, found himself at the center of the House impeachment inquiry because of his dealings with Ukraine. Trump reportedly named Perry as the impetus for the July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that is at the center of the impeachment probe.

Brouillette is expected to easily be confirmed after his nomination overcame a procedural hurdle before the Thanksgiving recess in a 74 to 18 vote. 

Brouillette is currently the deputy secretary for the Department of Energy, a position he was confirmed to by a 79-17 vote in August 2017.

He also served as an Energy Department assistant secretary between 2001 and 2003 and worked as chief of staff to the House Energy and Commerce Committee. 

Nominations

In addition to Brouillette, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has teed up several judicial nominations for floor action this week. 

McConnell, before the chamber left for Thanksgiving, filed cloture on Eric Komittee’s nomination be a judge in the Eastern District of New York, John Sinatra Jr. to be a judge in the Western District of New York, Sarah Pitlyk to be a judge in the Eastern District of Missouri and Douglas Russell Cole to be a judge in the Southern District of Ohio. 

He’s also paved the way for votes on the nominations of R. Austin Huffaker Jr. to be a judge in the Middle District of Alabama, David Barlow to be a judge for the District of Utah, Richard Earnest Myers to be a judge for the Eastern District of North Carolina and Sherry Lydon to be a judge for the District of South Carolina. 

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Written by Alan Smith

Alan Smith

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