House Democrats vote to approve guidelines for Trump impeachment hearings

By Emily Tillett

/ CBS News

The House Judiciary Committee voted on Thursday in favor of a new resolution formalizing the impeachment inquiry and further intensifying its investigation into President Trump amid a growing chorus of Democrats to hold the president accountable for his actions. The vote fell along party lines 24-17.

While mostly technical, the committee's vote also moves to install new procedures for its inquiry, allowing committee chairman Jerry Nadler to designate which committee and subcommittee hearings are related to the probe, give committee counsel extra time to question witnesses and receive evidence in closed executive session.

"The resolution before us represents the necessary next step in our investigation of corruption, obstruction, and abuse of power," Nadler said in a statement before Thursday's meeting.

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Nadler, on Monday, referred to his committee's actions as an "impeachment inquiry," but he did not refer to the inquiry as "formal."

"It has been an impeachment inquiry and it continues to be…We are examining the various malfeasances of the president with the view toward possibly, the possibility, of introducing, of recommending articles of impeachment to the House. That is what an impeachment inquiry is," Nadler told reporters in the Capitol Monday.

House Judiciary Republican aides reiterated that they do not believe the new procedures the majority is slated to formalize expands in any way the power of the panel, they said in a conference call with reporters Wednesday. "There is nothing novel," one aide said. The new procedures would have "zero impact" on House decorum rules regarding accusations against the president that members can discuss openly, another aide added.

The aides sought to downplay the move by the majority, saying the main reason the new procedures are being authorized is that Democrats don't have enough support to initiate a "formal" impeachment inquiry through a resolution approved by a full vote on the House floor.

At this point, a majority of House Democrats now support opening an impeachment inquiry. There has been some confusion over whether the Judiciary Committee's investigation is a formal one. Nadler in his statement addressed ongoing confusion over the semantics of just what his committee intends to do.

"This Committee is engaged in an investigation that will allow us to determine whether to recommend articles of impeachment with respect to President Trump. Some call this process an impeachment inquiry. Some call it an impeachment investigation. There is no legal difference between these terms, and I no longer care to argue about the nomenclature," he said.

"But let me clear up any remaining doubt: The conduct under investigation poses a threat to our democracy. We have an obligation to respond to this threat. And we are doing so."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has continued to urge her colleagues to pursue other means to holding the president and administration accountable, rather than impeachment. Pelosi has been adamant in her talks with the Democratic caucus that the public still isn't supportive of taking such a serious step. Nadler argues that his committee is bound to continue its probe.

"As Members of Congress-and, in particular, as members of the House Judiciary Committee-we have a responsibility to investigate each of these allegations and to determine the appropriate remedy. That responsibility includes making a judgment about whether to recommend articles of impeachment," Nadler said. "That judgment cannot be based on our feelings about President Trump. It should not be a personal reaction to misguided policies or personal behavior. It must be a decision based on the evidence before us, and the evidence that keeps coming in."

Grace Segers, Kimberly Brown and Camilo Montoya-Galvez contributed reporting.

First published on September 12, 2019 / 10:27 AM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Emily Tillett

Emily Tillett is a politics reporter and video editor for CBS News Digital

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