House launches formal impeachment inquiry into Trump
Behind closed doors, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi did not specify to her colleagues today precisely how the impeachment inquiry will play out or divvy up tasks for each of the committees to take on from here. In part, that's by design.
Here's what you need to know about what happens next:
- What committees are involved? Each of the six committees — Judiciary, Intelligence, Ways and Means, Financial Services, Oversight and Foreign Affairs — will continue with their investigations, looking at different elements of Trump's presidency, his past and his businesses. These committees months ago already sorted out the different areas they are investigating, and many of the investigations are still charging ahead or their fights are tied up in court. If the Democrats decide to impeach President Trump, the Democrats on these committees will each provide their input over what they believe should be included in articles of impeachment, which will be introduced by House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler. (Pelosi will have the ultimate say on this.)
- When would an impeachment vote happen? The House Judiciary Committee will consider the articles of impeachment resolution and schedule a vote on it. If it passes the House panel, then the full House is expected to take it up. If a majority of House members vote for the resolution, then the House will have impeached Trump. To convict the President and remove him from office, it would require support from a two-thirds majority of the Senate, a highly unlikely proposition.
- So in the end, what's changed? Not a whole lot, other than Pelosi formally endorsing an impeachment inquiry. But for the past couple months, the House Judiciary Committee has made the case that it was already conducting an impeachment inquiry with the goal of deciding whether to vote on articles of impeachment. There will not be a separate vote to open up an impeachment inquiry, Democrats say. Pelosi would not give a timeframe over this process but she told her colleagues it would be done "expeditiously," and Nadler has hoped to conclude it by the end of the year.
The attorneys for the whistleblower who filed a mysterious complaint, which includes allegations about President Trump's conduct, said they "applaud" the decision by the administration to release the report.
"We applaud the decision to release the whistleblower complaint as it establishes that, ultimately, the lawful whistleblower disclosure process can work. We await the release of the complaint in its totality," attorneys Andrew Bakaj, I. Charles McCullough, III, and Mark Zaid said in a statement.
Some background: The identity of the whistleblower and the details of the complaint are still unknown to the public. The individual filed the complaint over concerns with what Trump said to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky during a July phone call. The alleged whistleblower didn't have direct knowledge of the communications that partly prompted the complaint to the inspector general, an official briefed on the matter told CNN on Thursday. Instead, the whistleblower's concerns came in part from learning information that was not obtained during the course of their work, and those details have played a role in the administration's determination that the complaint didn't fit the reporting requirements under the intelligence whistleblower law, the official said.
President Trump made the decision today to release the whistleblower complaint, a source familiar tells CNN.
It’s unclear what is behind the White House change in position. As of late last week, the White House and the Department of Justice were advising the Office of the Director of National Intelligence not to turn over the complaint to Congress.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told lawmakers today that she pressed Trump during a phone call to release the complaint, CNN previously reported.
According to two sources familiar, the White House is preparing to release the whistleblower complaint to Congress as early as tomorrow. The complaint is under review and going through declassification, one source said.
Two White House officials downplayed expectations for any bombshells in the release of the call transcript detailing President Trump’s conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Both officials said the transcript is expected to be “underwhelming.”
One of the officials conceded that makes the release of the whistleblower complaint that much more important. But the official raised questions about the credibility of the administration employee who filed the complaint about Trump’s interactions with Zelensky, referring to the employee as “the so-called whistleblower.”
The White House is preparing to release the whistleblower complaint to Congress as early as tomorrow, according to two sources familiar.
White House press secretary Stephanie Grishams criticized House Democrats in a statement tonight, saying that they have "destroyed any chances of legislative progress for the people of this country by continuing to focus all their energy on partisan political attacks."
She added that the administration will continue "laying out the facts."
Here's her full statement:
"Americans deserve elected officials who focus on key issues to improve the lives of families, strengthen our communities, grow our economy, and keep our country safe. In President Donald J. Trump they have someone who has not only focused on those goals, but delivered results.
In a far departure from all of the work and results of this President, House Democrats have destroyed any chances of legislative progress for the people of this country by continuing to focus all their energy on partisan political attacks. Their attacks on the President and his agenda are not only partisan and pathetic, they are in dereliction of their Constitutional duty.
The Trump Administration will continue to be vigorous in laying out the facts and standing up for the many forgotten men and women who elected him."
The White House is preparing to release to Congress the whistleblower complaint as early as tomorrow, according to two sources familiar.
One source added it is under review and going through declassification and could be released within hours of the release of a transcript of President Trump's phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. According to a person familiar with the situation, Trump pressed Zelensky in a phone call to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden's son, Hunter.
What we know about the whistleblower complaint: CNN had earlier reported, citing a source familiar with the case, that the complaint was prompted by concerns over communications between the President and a foreign leader. The alleged whistleblower didn't have direct knowledge of the communications that partly prompted the complaint to the inspector general, an official briefed on the matter told CNN on Thursday. Instead, the whistleblower's concerns came in part from learning information that was not obtained during the course of their work, and those details have played a role in the administration's determination that the complaint didn't fit the reporting requirements under the intelligence whistleblower law, the official said.
Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, tweeted his support for the House's formal impeachment inquiry.
"It’s bad enough Trump sought help from a foreign power in the last election," Schiff said.
His support comes hours after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the formal inquiry, a dramatic and historic move that comes as the President faces outrage over reports that he pressured a foreign leader in an effort to target a political rival.
Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar told CNN that President Trump's phone call with Ukraine's president was "the straw that broke the camel's back" for the House deciding to move forward with an impeachment inquiry.
"This particular incident shows that the President clearly thinks he's above the law. He is withholding aid so he can pressure a foreign country to dig dirt on a potential presidential opponent. That is very unconstitutional and we must hold him responsible," Omar said.
Calls for an impeachment inquiry have grown louder amid a growing controversy over Trump's July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky where he discussed former Vice President Joe Biden.
Of the 235 Democrats in the House, there are at least 172 who've made clear they support starting the impeachment inquiry process, while some have gone further, according to a CNN count.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told her caucus today that the impeachment inquiry will be done "expeditiously," but wasn't specific in her timeframe, according to a source in the room during the meeting.
Rep. Jackie Speier told CNN that the President’s actions in regards to Ukraine were so egregious, that there has been a “dramatic” shift by Pelosi.
“I think she’s very laser-focused on this offense as being so egregious that it warrants a full blown impeachment inquiry,” she said.
Asked what the timeline is for this, she said, “swiftly.”
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler said today after Pelosi’s remarks, “I only have one thing to say, full speed ahead.”