Democrats say they have effectively begun an impeachment inquiry into President Trump.
Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee announced Friday they are beginning an “impeachment investigation” against President Trump insisted former Special Counsel Robert Mueller delivered damning testimony against the president in this week’s hearing despite concerns from many on the left that his appearance was faltering and broke little new ground.
“We are telling the court that what we are doing is not just part of normal oversight but part of our Article 1 authority and responsibility to consider all remedies, including the possibility of articles of impeachment,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler said.
The Democrats sought to establish an impeachment shortcut two days after Mueller’s testimony before two House panels that was panned by critics as flat and uncertain at times. They said telling the court they are weighing impeachment would help them win more access to material Trump has refused to provide.
As a major next step, Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., announced that the committee would file a petition in court on Friday to obtain grand jury materials from the former special counsel’s investigation.
Nadler called the grand jury materials “critically important” for their investigation. In the petition, Democrats on the committee noted that because Justice Department policies do not allow the prosecution of a sitting president, the House of Representatives is “the only institution of the federal government” that can hold Trump accountable.
“The House must have access to all evidence,” Nadler said. “We are exercising our constitutional authority. We are continuing the investigation of President Trump’s malfeasances, and we will do and consider what we have to consider including whether we should recommend Articles of Impeachment to the House. We may, we may not. It remains to be seen.”
But while Nadler and other senior Democratic leaders made clear they’re keeping impeachment on the table — without committing to it publicly — colleagues who spoke alongside him at the same press conference described these investigative steps as a clear precursor to a formal decision on recommending impeachment articles.
“We are crossing the threshold,” Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, said. “When you think about the mode we were operating under before, it was an oversight. This is now crossing the threshold with this filing, and officially entering into an examination into whether or not to recommend articles of impeachment—I just want to make that point clear.”
“This is an impeachment investigation,” California Rep. Eric Swallwell, a member of the panel, said. “We are suggesting here is the first time we are telegraphing to the court that one remedy we have is impeachment.”
Nadler said his ramped-up investigation of Trump will include polling material provided to the Russians by the former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort as well as allegations Trump is violating the emoluments clause. They’ll also pursue testimony from former White House counsel Don McGahn and will subject him to “jail time and fines,” if he refuses.
And Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, said that the petition to the court Friday will help the committee “delve even further.”
“We are not running away from articles of impeachment,” she said. “We are building it on a trail of misconduct that was evidenced very deeply on Wednesday.”