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

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 bhouse5@bloomberg.net;Erik Wasson in Washington at ewasson@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Joe Sobczyk at jsobczyk@bloomberg.net, John Harney

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

COMMENTS

More Related News

Trump Campaign Looks at Electoral Map and Doesn
Trump Campaign Looks at Electoral Map and Doesn't Like What It Sees

President Donald Trump is facing the bleakest outlook for his reelection bid so far, with his polling numbers plunging in both public and private surveys and his campaign beginning to worry about his standing in states like Ohio and Iowa that he carried by wide margins four years ago.The Trump campaign has recently undertaken a multimillion-dollar advertising effort in those two states as well as in Arizona in hopes of improving his standing while also shaking up his political operation and turning new attention to states like Georgia that were once considered reliably Republican. In private, Trump has expressed concern that his campaign is not battle-ready for the general election, while...

Trump says he went to White House bunker for
Trump says he went to White House bunker for 'inspection,' not because of protests

President Donald Trump denied reports that he was escorted to an underground bunker at White House because of security concerns amid violent protest.

Former Commanders Fault Trump
Former Commanders Fault Trump's Use of Troops Against Protesters

WASHINGTON -- Retired senior military leaders condemned their successors in the Trump administration for ordering military units Monday to rout those peacefully protesting police violence near the White House.As military helicopters flew low over the nation's capital and National Guard units moved

'No way I was staying home': Trump's response leads more protesters to White House

A crowd of demonstrators gathered outside the White House one day after federal law enforcement officers forcefully cleared the area to allow the president to visit a church.

Police Target Journalists as Trump Blames
Police Target Journalists as Trump Blames 'Lamestream Media' for Protests

Barbara Davidson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist, was covering a protest near The Grove shopping mall in Los Angeles on Saturday when a police officer ordered her to move.She showed him her press credentials, she said in an interview. The officer said he did not care and again told her to leave the area.After saying, "Sir, I am a journalist covering this," Davidson turned to walk away, and the officer shoved her in the back, causing her to trip and hit her head against a fire hydrant, she said. She was not hurt, she added, because she was wearing a helmet she had bought while getting skateboarding equipment for a nephew.Davidson, who sells her work through Redux Pictures, an...

Leave a Comment

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

Cancel reply

Comments

Top News: Middle East