On Thursday, they will have the vote they demanded, along with a road map for how the inquiry will go from here.
The procedure as outlined strikes a reasonable balance between the need to collect evidence and testimony, some of which must be done initially behind closed doors, and the transparency necessary for the public to have confidence that something as grave as the impeachment of a president is done fairly.
There will be public hearings. Transcripts of testimony already gathered privately will be released. The arrangement also sets out procedures under which Trump’s lawyers can call and cross-examine witnesses, although that may be made contingent on White House cooperation with the House Judiciary Committee’s requests for witnesses and documents.
All of this will be an educational exercise for the American public, in which people will once again be reminded that when it comes to impeaching a president, the Constitution gives the House a role like the grand jury in a criminal case. It collects and hears the evidence and decides whether to bring charges. From there, the action moves to the Senate, which holds a trial to decide whether to convict and remove the president from office.
So far, the effort in the House has moved methodically. Nonetheless, Republicans continue to howl about process. The reason: It allows them to avoid talking about the actual substance of the allegations against Trump.
The essential unseriousness of their argument became apparent last week, when two dozen House Republicans burst like a clown car into the secure meeting room of the House Intelligence Committee, where a Pentagon official was set to testify.
They recklessly violated the security of the facility by bringing in their cellphones, which is prohibited, and ordered pizza as they staged a five-hour sit-in. The point of their stunt was not entirely clear, given that roughly 100 lawmakers — both Democrats and Republicans — were actually authorized to be there, by virtue of membership on one of the three committees conducting the inquiry’s preliminary phase.
In the meantime, polls show a plurality of Americans now support not only impeaching Trump but also kicking him out of office. A mountain of evidence — which includes the White House’s own version of the conversation Trump had on July 25 with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky — already makes a compelling case that he has abused the power of his office.
Even now, it is clear that the president pressed a foreign power to dig up dirt on a leading political rival and to provide information that would support a crackpot conspiracy theory that undercuts the conclusion of this country’s own intelligence professionals that Russia interfered with the 2016 presidential election. And whether the phrase “quid pro quo” ever crossed Trump’s lips, testimony gathered thus far indicates that he withheld $391 million in congressionally appropriated aid to Ukraine to coerce its government to do his bidding.
Asked whether all of that is sufficient fodder for articles of impeachment against the president, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) earlier this week told a group of columnists: “There’s no question about that, right? We’ve had enough for a very long time. No, I think we have enough. But as long as there’s corroboration, we might as well get some more.”
The bigger challenge, she suggested, may be deciding what not to include. One thing that is not likely to make the cut, she said, is Trump’s apparent violation of what he calls the “phony emoluments clause” — which is the Constitution’s very clear ban on government officials’ accepting gifts or payments “from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”
“How much drama can the American people handle?” Pelosi asked. “Where does the law of diminishing returns set in? Where is the value added not worth the time?”
Still, the speaker appears to be in no hurry to wrap this all up, even though an election year looms. “We will take as long as the truth insists,” she said. “And that will be its own agenda.”
The truth. Eventually, that is what Republicans will have to face.