WASHINGTON - The U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution Thursday formally setting out the process by which committees will continue carrying out the inquiry into whether President Donald Trump should face impeachment.
The vote showed the divide in the House between the majority Democrats whose leaders have argued there was no need to bring forth such a resolution to make the process legitimate and the minority Republicans who have thus far opposed the inquiry as too closed of a process and not giving them an equal part.
“We are taking this step to eliminate any doubt as to whether the Trump administration may withhold documents, prevent witness testimony, disregard duly authorized subpoenas, or continue obstructing the House of Representatives,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a letter to Democratic lawmakers.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the resolution “falls way short” of bringing fairness and due process into the inquiry.
“I understand that many House Democrats made up their minds on impeachment years ago. But our basic norms of justice do not evaporate just because Washington Democrats have already made up their minds,” McConnell said.
Thus far, the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees have heard closed-door testimony from diplomats and other officials as they probe whether Trump should be impeached for urging a foreign country, Ukraine, to dig up dirt on a political rival with the aim of helping his re-election bid.
The resolution calls for moving to public hearings with the House Intelligence committee eventually issuing a report on its findings and recommendations to the House Judiciary Committee, which would then be responsible for deciding whether to recommend the full House impeach Trump.
The committees are scheduled to hear testimony Thursday from Timothy Morrison, who was Trump’s top Russian and European affairs adviser on the National Security Council until he resigned Wednesday, according to a senior administration official.
House Democrats said Wednesday they want to hear from former National Security Adviser John Bolton and asked that he testify next week.
Several other witnesses have testified that Bolton was deeply disturbed that Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, was working behind the scenes to pressure Ukraine to investigate Democrats and 2020 presidential candidate Biden for alleged corruption — evidence of which has never surfaced.
Giuliani was apparently running what critics call a “shadow foreign policy” behind the back of the State Department. Bolton was said to have called Giuliani’s work a “drug deal” and that he wanted nothing to do with it.
Subpoena for Bolton
Trump fired Bolton last month after they clashed on several fronts, including Ukraine.
Bolton has laid low since he left the White House. A lawyer for Bolton says he is “not willing to appear voluntarily,” which means the House committees would have to issue a subpoena if they want to him to appear.
One of witnesses in Wednesday’s testimony, Foreign Service officer and Ukraine expert Christopher Anderson, said Bolton cautioned him about dealing with Giuliani, warning that Giuliani could complicate diplomatic efforts to improve ties between Washington and Kyiv.
Another Foreign Service officer, Catherine Croft, told the House committees she had received a number of telephone calls from former Republican congressman turned lobbyist Robert Livingston, telling her that U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch should be fired.
She said Livingston described Yovanovitch as an “Obama holdover” and “associated with George Soros,” a longtime supporter of liberal causes.
“It was not clear to me at the time, or now, at whose direction or at whose expense Mr. Livingston was seeking the removal of Ambassador Yovanovitch,” Croft said.
Trump fired Yovanovitch in May. She testified that she was replaced because of “unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives.”
Meanwhile in the Senate, Trump’s nominee to become the new U.S. Ambassador to Russia, John Sullivan, said at his confirmation hearing he knew Giuliani was involved in efforts to fire Yovanovitch.
When asked whether a president should ask a foreign power to investigate his political opponents, Sullivan replied “I don’t think that would be in accord with our values.”
Trump has called the impeachment inquiry a witch hunt and a hoax. He described his July 25 telephone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, during which he is said to have asked for the investigations, as “perfect.” The White House released a rough transcript of the Trump-Zelenskiy call.