McCarthy’s argument and that of numerous House Republicans over the weeks that followed was simple: Pelosi could not declare that the House had begun an impeachment inquiry without first voting to authorize it.
Despite those factors, Pelosi on Monday announced she would do what Republicans demanded: hold a vote to formalize the inquiry. And on Tuesday, many of the Republicans who had demanded a vote said the vote wouldn’t actually change their views on the legitimacy of the inquiry.
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) said it would affirm “the Soviet-style process that’s been going on.”
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) said it would continue a “sham” process, and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) said it would be “totally antithetical to our constitutional principles.”
After previously calling the inquiry “illegitimate,” Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) said the inquiry would still be “illegitimate” even after the vote.
The resolution formalizing the inquiry would enable Republicans to:
- Request witnesses and documents.
- Authorize committees to publicly release interview transcripts.
- Outline public hearings in the inquiry.
That said, Democrats can vote in committee to deny their requests.
A separate summary released by the House Judiciary Committee outlined procedures that would allow the president and his counsel to:
- Attend all hearings.
- Question witnesses.
- Recommend additional testimony and evidence.
House Democrats did include a caveat on the rights of Trump and his attorney: If they “unlawfully refuse to make witnesses available for testimony … or to produce documents requested,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) “shall have the discretion to impose appropriate remedies, including by denying specific requests by the President or his counsel.”
Republicans have also raised concerns about the process that Democrats have used for conducting the closed-door depositions in the inquiry. Except that process was part of the rules that House Republicans passed in 2015 and that McCarthy, Scalise, Jordan and Zeldin voted for (Gaetz was not yet in Congress).
Earlier this month, the White House said it would not cooperate with the House impeachment inquiry, in part because the House would not vote on it.
“In the history of our Nation, the House of Representatives has never attempted to launch an impeachment inquiry against the President without a majority of the House taking political accountability for that decision by voting to authorize such a dramatic constitutional step,” White House lawyer Pat Cipollone wrote on Oct. 8.
The next day, Trump was asked if he would cooperate with the inquiry if the House voted to formalize it.
“Well, we would if they give us our rights,” Trump said. “It depends. If they vote and say you can’t have lawyers, you can’t ask questions, you can’t have anybody present, all of these crazy things — and even some of the reporters said to me it really is an unfair situation.”
On Thursday, the House is set to authorize the things Trump requested three weeks ago.