Democrats signal they may be ready to play hardball on the impeachment process

Those following the unfolding impeachment drama have turned their eyes to Thursday’s much-anticipated vote in the House on a resolution that formalizes procedures for the House’s inquiry into President Trump’s Ukraine scandal. Among its provisions, the resolution makes clear that the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and its chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., will be the face of public hearings going forward.

But the Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over impeachment in the House, inserted an interesting twist into the proceedings when its chairman, Jerry Nadler, D-NY, released his committee’s internal procedures for impeachment moving forward. Among other things, the procedures detail the president’s rights in any impeachment proceedings. The three-page document is a signal that House Democrats may be ready to play hardball with the administration should it continue to stonewall the investigation inquiry.

Specifically, section F of the Judiciary procedures creates a loophole for Democrats to take away the president’s ability to call witnesses or question witnesses that otherwise will appear before the panel “should the president unlawfully refuse to make witnesses available for testimony… or produce documents requested” by the any of the House’s investigative committees.

The provision appears to be an attempt by House Democrats to force compliance by an administration that has issued blanket orders for witnesses to stonewall the House’s subpoenas to testify and produce relevant documents. In short, it stipulates, “Don’t respect the committees and your rights to participate in your own impeachment proceedings will be stripped.”

It is important to stress that this threat applies to noncompliance with any of the multiple House investigations continuing to date, not just those directly related to the Ukraine matter, including disputes like the Ways and Means Committee’s request for the president’s tax returns. As it reads, the Judiciary stipulation reads the president will potentially forfeit his rights in impeachment proceedings if he continues to ignore oversight requests from any of the other committees.

Of course, such a provision gives Republicans another process-related argument against Democrats, continuing their misleading claims that the president has not been afforded his due process rights that were granted to presidents in previous impeachment proceedings. Plus, they will likely argue that no such provision has a precedent in the impeachment efforts against Presidents Nixon and Clinton.

It also signals that Democrats, at least on the Judiciary Committee, are ready to start holding the president’s noncomplying feet to the fire after his past noncompliance with the House’s previous oversight requests. It remains to be seen if they will follow through with their threat.

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Topics: Legislative Procedure