However, the House must avoid at all costs the debacle that has occurred regarding other investigations. Without the power to enforce subpoenas for administration figures to testify and to produce documents, the House Judiciary Committee hearings have bogged down into endless procedural delays, process fights and nonproductive inquiries. Court battles have dragged on. That is not the way for Congress to proceed.
The aim of House members who want to pass articles of impeachment and put pressure on Republicans should be to complete the House’s work swiftly, within a few weeks. A select committee would take weeks to organize, staff and meet. It is entirely unnecessary and introduces an added procedural complication. The appropriate forum for investigation of the discrete issues, namely Trump’s attempt to gain help from a foreign power and his refusal to allow Congress to investigate, already exists in the House Intelligence Committee.
Acting director of national intelligence Joseph Maguire will appear before the Intelligence Committee on Thursday. In all likelihood, Maguire will refuse to turn over the whistleblower complaint. As soon as he does that, Schiff should have subpoenas at the ready for the whistleblower complaint and for appearance of witnesses such as acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.
If Schiff does not receive such information within two weeks, the committee should assemble all information in the public record, including Trump’s and Rudolph W. Giuliani’s latest admissions (e.g., Trump did ask to delay the delivery of aid), confirm the administration has refused as required by law to turn over needed information and refer the matter to the House Judiciary Committee to vote on two articles of impeachment. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who spoke directly with the Ukrainians, can provide a sworn statement substantiating the Ukrainians’ concern that Trump was pressuring them to dig up dirt on former vice president Joe Biden and his son.
The House Judiciary Committee can take up an article on Trump’s abuse of power in seeking to enlist a foreign power and an article on his refusal to comply with the whistleblower law. It can then send the recommendation to the House floor, where a vote can be promptly taken. (That is precisely what Biden, according to The Post’s report, intends to ask Congress to do.)
There would be no extended, fruitless court battles; no fight over witnesses’ invocation of fake privileges; and no delay for weeks in setting up yet another committee. The facts in the public record are sufficient; it is up to the administration to provide any information that would exonerate the president.
At the same time, House leadership and Democratic presidential candidates need to begin a national campaign to pressure Senate Republicans to act in defense of the Constitution. That requires coordinated ads, appearances and public speeches to explain what we already know, which is a lot. My colleague Greg Sargent has already compiled a handy timeline with available information about the facts that Trump, Giuliani and others have already provided publicly.
Let the administration prepare its defense for the Senate, and let the advocates of impeachment and removal run a vigorous campaign to enlist as many Senate Republicans as possible.
That’s it. That’s the process. By condensing investigations and accepting the administration’s refusal to comply with subpoenas at face value, Congress avoids the prolonged process arguments and use Trump’s statements against him. Democrats will force Republicans either to join them or defend a president who has egregiously abused his office and illegally bottled up evidence of a whistleblower’s complaint documenting the same. The House will fulfill its obligations, the Senate will be compelled to vote and the voters can render their judgment. Time is of the essence.