The New York Times Company
WASHINGTON — The House Judiciary Committee on Thursday took its first recorded vote to press forward with a possible impeachment of President Donald Trump, putting aside Democrats’ internal divisions for the time being in a bid to strengthen its hand in investigating whether he committed high crimes and misdemeanors.
Voting along party lines, the panel approved rules for a continuing “investigation to determine whether to recommend articles of impeachment with regard to President Donald J. Trump,” which clarified new authorities for lawmakers and laid out a process, albeit limited, for the president to respond.
Speaking after the vote, the committee’s chairman, Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, also promised a series of hearings expanding the inquiry beyond the findings of Robert Mueller, the former special counsel, to consider other potentially impeachable offenses. The first session is scheduled to take place next week with Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s former campaign manager and an important witness to the special counsel’s obstruction of justice investigation.
But Thursday’s action was as much a symbolic display as it was a practical exercise of constitutional powers, aimed at showing federal courts and impatient Democrats that the House is, in fact, serious about building an impeachment case, even if it is not yet taking the politically loaded step of filing charges.
“This committee is engaged in an investigation that will allow us to determine whether to recommend articles of impeachment with respect to President Trump,” Nadler said. “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.”
The vote punctuated a legislative week in which Democrats appeared at times to be in deep disagreement about exactly what the Judiciary Committee is up to, how it fits together with other continuing investigations of Trump’s finances and policies by different panels, and how far they are willing to go toward impeaching Trump.
Senior Democrats and the lawyers advising them have a strong interest in demonstrating that the House is carrying out an impeachment inquiry, which maximizes their leverage in lawsuits to compel the cooperation of witnesses and secure grand jury testimony.