Pelosi Confronts Decision on Formal Trump Impeachment Vote


(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump is pushing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to hold a formal vote on impeachment, a move that would change the politics of the probe more than its legal standing.

Trump this week escalated his fight against the Democratic-led investigation of his dealings with Ukraine with a letter from the White House counsel that contends the administration cannot cooperate with an inquiry that is "invalid" in part because the full House hasn't voted to investigate.

Many constitutional law experts disputed the White House legal analysis, and it's not clear that Trump would be any more cooperative if the House did vote.

A decision whether to call the president's bluff is likely to be a main topic when Pelosi convenes a conference call with House Democrats at the end of the week. Representative Dan Kildee of Michigan, one of the leadership's vote counters, said Democrats could easily pass a resolution authorizing the impeachment inquiry with as many as 230 votes.

But Gerald Connolly of Virginia, a senior Democrat and a member of a committee leading the inquiry, said there are plenty of reasons not to hold that vote.

"Caving to their phony demands could -- in an odd way -- have unintended consequences of actually empowering their various arguments," he said of the White House and Republicans. Connolly also pointed to shifting public opinion, as evidenced in polls, in favor of the inquiry even without a House vote.

In the two weeks since Pelosi said the House was beginning an impeachment investigation into whether Trump pressured Ukrainian officials to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a potential 2020 challenger, both sides have been girding for a potentially protracted fight over documents and witnesses.

With the White House vowing to block any cooperation, Pelosi is scheduled to hold the conference call on Friday to chart the next steps. The committees conducting the investigation have already issued a salvo of subpoenas for testimony or records directed at administration officials such as Secretary of State Michael Pompeo as well as Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

"We continue investigating and digging to uncover more of the truth. Nothing has changed," Pelosi spokeswoman Ashley Etienne said Wednesday. For now, she added, Democrats haven't settled on legal or tactical responses to the White House letter other than to keep moving forward with the probe.

Pelosi hasn't ruled out holding a House vote, though she's derided it as a "Republican talking point" and unnecessary.

"If we want to do it, we'll do it. If we don't, we don't. But we're certainly not going to do it because of the president," Pelosi said in an interview last week with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Republicans, led by Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, have been using ads, press releases and other efforts to hammer Democratic House members from GOP-leaning districts over impeachment. Vice President Mike Pence is campaigning over the coming weeks in the districts of four Democratic freshmen who defeated Republican incumbents in 2018.

Making a Link

Although most of those lawmakers have said publicly that they support the inquiry, a floor vote would more directly link them to an effort that's long been a rallying cry of the outspoken progressive wing of the Democratic Party, a frequent target of the president and his allies.

Trump and Republicans also have complained about the fairness of the process, citing closed-door hearings, and what they say are limitations on committee Republicans to subpoena their own rebuttal witnesses, or for the White House to have legal counsel in the room during depositions.

"If Democrats were interested in fairness, they would follow the same process as previous impeachment proceedings. Instead, they just make up the rules as they go along," said Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio,

Case Western law professor Jonathan Adler said the administration's assertion that the House must vote to conduct the inquiry is without legal merit. It is instead a political argument to voters that they shouldn't consider the investigation legitimate.

"As a political matter, if the House leadership wants to take some of these issues away from the White House, they could take a vote on the floor. They may decide politically to do that even in the absence of a legal requirement to do so," he said.

Michael W. McConnell, director of the Constitutional Law Center at Stanford Law School, said the lack of a vote on the impeachment investigation gives Trump a plausible justification for not cooperating. He would have no excuse to ignore the inquiry if there were a vote, he said."He can of course defend himself and his office, but it is not up to the president to decide whether a properly authorized impeachment inquiry is warranted," McConnell said. "That's why it is strange that Speaker Pelosi is proceeding in this fashion. Procedural regularity matters."


Precedents regarding impeachment investigations and proceedings don't provide a clear road map.

Tom Campbell, a law professor at Chapman University and a former Republican congressman from California, said that in 1973 the House Democratic leadership wanted to put the GOP minority in a tight spot by putting some on record against even starting impeachment proceedings against President Richard Nixon, a fellow Republican. Then-Minority Leader John Rhodes foiled that plan by telling Republican House members they had a "free vote" to vote yes, and almost all did, Campbell said.

In 1998, Campbell said, Speaker Newt Gingrich wanted to give cover to Republican members potentially facing primary pressure for not moving aggressively to impeach President Bill Clinton. They could point to their vote to commence proceedings generally to ward off such attacks, he said.

Campbell said Pelosi also may be making political calculations about holding a vote.

"She does not want to make her moderates vulnerable next November, until she has specific articles of impeachment ready," Campbell said. "This allows those members to say they are simply studying the evidence and have not reached any hasty conclusions."

"Preliminary votes to start impeachment proceedings have, thus, always been political acts--not constitutionally compelled acts," he added.

(Adds remarks from analyst in 18th, 19th paragraphs)

To contact the reporters on this story: Billy House in Washington at;Erik Wasson in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Joe Sobczyk at, John Harney

For more articles like this, please visit us at

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


More Related News

Republican Critics, Fearing Trump, Toe an Anti-Impeachment Party Line, for Now
Republican Critics, Fearing Trump, Toe an Anti-Impeachment Party Line, for Now

SAN ANTONIO -- Republican activists who gathered over Texas barbecue here last week said they were stunned when Rep. Will Hurd, the rare Republican in Congress who is willing to publicly criticize President Donald Trump, joined every other member of his party in voting against holding public impeachment

Feud Between Trump Advisers Underscores a White House Torn by Rivalries
Feud Between Trump Advisers Underscores a White House Torn by Rivalries
  • World
  • 2019-11-12 13:40:40Z

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump's chief of staff and former national security adviser clashed in court Monday. Two new books describe how top aides to the president secretly plotted to circumvent him. And nearly every day brings more testimony about the deep internal schism over the president's effort to pressure Ukraine for domestic political help.In the three years since his election, Trump has never been accused of running a cohesive, unified team. But the revelations of recent days have put on display perhaps more starkly than ever the fissures tearing at his administration. In the emerging picture, the Trump White House is a toxic stew of personality disputes, policy...

Judge dismisses Trump lawsuit against NY officials, House committee over taxes
Judge dismisses Trump lawsuit against NY officials, House committee over taxes

A federal judge on Monday issued another blow to President Donald Trump and his ongoing effort to avoid having his tax records turned over to Congress. U.S. Judge Carl Nichols granted a motion to dismiss a lawsuit that Trump filed in July over the TRUST Act in New York, which gave Congress the authority to retrieve tax information from New York residents.

Fox News Contributor Causes Scene When She Names Alleged Whistleblower on Air
Fox News Contributor Causes Scene When She Names Alleged Whistleblower on Air

Fox News contributor Mollie Hemingway caused a scene on Sunday morning when she purposely named the alleged whistleblower at the center of the impeachment inquiry against President Trump, seemingly breaking the network's policy of identifying the person.Amid a concerted effort by Trump's allies to publicly out the whistleblower who filed the complaint about Trump's infamous July 25 call with the Ukrainian president, right-wing media outlets have touted an online report purportedly sharing the identity of the person. Mainstream media outlets and social media platforms, meanwhile, have refrained from spreading the person's name.Fox News had reportedly also instructed its employees to not...

In Seeking to Join Suit Over Subpoena Power, Mulvaney Goes Up Against the President
In Seeking to Join Suit Over Subpoena Power, Mulvaney Goes Up Against the President

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Even in a White House of never-befores, this may be one of the more head-spinning: The president's chief of staff is trying to join a lawsuit against the president.Mick Mulvaney works only about 50 steps from the Oval Office as he runs the White House staff, but rather than simply obey President Donald Trump's order to not cooperate with House impeachment investigators, he sent his lawyers to court late Friday night asking a judge whether he should or not.To obtain such a ruling, the lawyers asked to join a lawsuit already filed by a former White House official -- a lawsuit that names "the Honorable Donald J. Trump" as a defendant along with congressional...

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply


Top News: Middle East