US House to vote on Trump impeachment inquiry

Washington: US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said that the House of Representatives would vote this week on a resolution to formally establish the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump, a move that will take the investigation held behind closed doors to a public phase.

“This week, we will bring a resolution to the Floor that affirms the ongoing, existing investigation that is currently being conducted by our committees as part of this impeachment inquiry, including all requests for documents, subpoenas for records and testimony, and any other investigative steps previously taken or to be taken as part of this investigation,” Pelosi wrote in a letter on Monday to other House Democrats.

The California Democrat said that they were “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”, Xinhua news agency reported.

The text of the resolution is yet to be released but it would reportedly hit the House floor on Thursday.

The resolution will set forth the procedure for holding open hearings; authorize the disclosure of transcripts of depositions gathered in closed committee hearings so far; outline procedures for House Committees to transfer evidence to the body’s Judiciary Committee; and establish due-process procedures for Trump and his legal team.

The Trump administration has directed government officials not to cooperate with the Democrats’ investigation, although some, particularly career diplomats who have worked for both Democratic and Republican administrations, have appeared before House Committees after being issued subpoenas, reports Efe news.

Several of them, particularly career diplomat William Taylor, reportedly have provided damning testimony against Trump of purported impeachable offences he allegedly has committed.

The vote on the resolution comes as the federal courts are increasingly being asked to resolve disputes between opposition lawmakers and the administration over allowing witnesses to give testimony and provide documents requested by the House committees.

The Democrats’ investigation has so far focused on whether Trump, his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and assorted administration officials pressured Ukraine to investigate alleged corruption engaged in by former Vice Presiden and current Democratic presidential hopeful, Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

It would be an impeachable offence if Trump had solicited or pressured a foreign government to provide, or even manufacture, evidence that one of his political rivals had engaged in corruption.

On Monday, former Deputy National Security Adviser Charles Kupperman failed to appear before a House committee after asking a federal court on October 25 to decide whether he must testify, given the fact that the White House is forbidding him to do so but Congress is demanding it.

The lawmaker heading the impeachment proceedings, House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff, told reporters on Monday that the lower house would not wait for the courts to rule on whether or not to enforce the subpoena against Kupperman or any other officials or witnesses.

“We are not willing to allow the White House to engage us in a lengthy game of rope-a-dope in the courts,” said Schiff, adding that Democrats would use the Trump’s refusal to allow witnesses to testify as evidence of obstruction of justice, which would be another impeachable offence.

Kupperman was present for the President’s July 25 telephone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which Trump asked the newly elected leader of the former Soviet republic to “do us a favour” and investigate the Bidens, allegedly withholding military aid for Kiev approved by Congress unless and until Zelensky publicly launched such a probe.

In response to Monday’s development, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement that they “won’t be able to comment fully until we see the actual text” while accusing Democrats of “conducting an unauthorized impeachment proceeding, refusing to give the President due process”.

“Their secret, shady, closed door depositions are completely and irreversibly illegitimate,” she added.