Media reporter for The Hill Joe Concha explains the optics of the impeachment inquiry.
President Trump on Thursday challenged House Democrats to impeach him “fast” and ship the process over to the Senate, where he threatened to seek testimony from top Democrats including House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
“The Do Nothing Democrats had a historically bad day yesterday in the House. They have no Impeachment case and are demeaning our Country. But nothing matters to them, they have gone crazy,” Trump tweeted early Thursday, just before Pelosi announced that she wants the Judiciary Committee to proceed with articles of impeachment.
“Therefore I say, if you are going to impeach me, do it now, fast, so we can have a fair trial in the Senate and so that our Country can get back to business,” he continued. “We will have Schiff, the Bidens, Pelosi and many more testify, and will reveal, for the first time, how corrupt our system really is.”
He added: “I was elected to ‘Clean the Swamp,’ and that’s what I am doing!”
The president’s tweets follow an hourslong hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, in what set the stage for the next phase of the Democratic-led House impeachment inquiry, with majority-invited law professors making the case that the president did abuse the office of the presidency. But the sole witness called by Republicans argued the contrary — he said the legal case to impeach Trump was “woefully inadequate” and even “dangerous."
IN TRUMP IMPEACHMENT TRIAL, SENATE REPUBLICANS COULD TURN TABLES ON DEMS
Pelosi, D-Calif., on Thursday morning, just after the president's tweets, called for the House to proceed with drafting articles of impeachment.
"The facts are uncontested. The president abused his power," Pelosi said on Thursday morning. "The president's actions have seriously violated the Constitution."
"Our president leaves us no chance but to act," she continued. "Sadly, but with confidence and humility, today, I am asking our chairman to proceed with articles of impeachment."
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., in concurrence with the other chairs of committees involved – Schiff, D-Calif., and Oversight Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y. – will now draft articles of impeachment. Should the House pass those articles, the impeachment inquiry would transform into a full-fledged Senate trial.
"@SpeakerPelosi & the Democrats should be ashamed. @realDonaldTrump has done nothing but lead our country – resulting in a booming economy, more jobs & a stronger military, to name just a few of his major accomplishments. We look forward to a fair trial in the Senate," White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham tweeted after Pelosi's announcement.
Republicans hold the majority in the Senate and Trump allies hold chairmanships on key committees, with many of them signaling their interest in exploring issues that House Democrats glossed over during their hearings — such as the Bidens’ business dealings in Ukraine and alleged Ukraine interference in the 2016 presidential election.
But despite his threats, the president does not, alone, have the power to call witnesses to testify in those proceedings. In the Senate trial, three separate parties have input to how it will play out: Senate Republicans, Senate Democrats and the White House.
A senior Senate Republican aide told Fox News last month that once they receive articles of impeachment, they will begin working on two resolutions — one that governs the timeline of the trial, and the other that sets up witnesses for closed-door depositions, as well as which witnesses will be required to testify on the stand.
The aide suggested that Republican senators – like Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Senate Homeland Security Chairman Ron Johnson, R-Wis. – could be attempting to help “shape” the witness list and the trial in their recent attempts to obtain documents and information from the administration and companies related to Hunter Biden.
Last month, Sen. Graham penned a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo requesting the release of any documents related to contacts between Biden and former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, and to a meeting between son Hunter Biden’s business partner and former Secretary of State John Kerry.
This pertains to questions surrounding the elder Biden’s role in pressing for the ouster of a Ukrainian prosecutor who had been investigating the natural gas firm Burisma, where Hunter Biden served on the board. Biden denies any wrongdoing, but Republicans have pressed for details throughout the impeachment process, in a bid to show that even though Trump’s pressure campaign on Kiev triggered the impeachment inquiry, his concern was legitimate.
Also last month, Johnson and Grassley penned a letter to the head of the National Archives and Records Administration to request records of multiple White House meetings that took place in 2016 involving Obama administration officials, Ukrainian government representatives, and Democratic National Committee officials
While Trump has sought to press an unsupported theory that Ukraine was tied to Democratic National Committee hacking, GOP lawmakers have sought details on other issues that are more grounded in published reports — like whether former DNC consultant Alexandra Chalupa was improperly digging up dirt on Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and others with Ukraine’s help at the time.
Democrats did not grant GOP requests to call Biden's son Hunter, Chalupa and others on the House side, and it’s unclear if Senate Republicans will at least attempt to call these and other witnesses, high-ranking members are showing their early interest in exploring the issues.
LEGAL SCHOLARS CLASH IN HEARING OVER WHETHER TRUMP COMMITTED IMPEACHABLE OFFENSE
But Thursday was not the first time the president has threatened to have Rep. Schiff appear as a witness. Last month, during an exclusive interview with “Fox & Friends,” the president said there was “only one person” he wanted to testify more than Hunter Biden.
“And that is Adam Schiff,” Trump said during that interview, also calling for the still-anonymous whistleblower to come forward to testify as well.
At the center of the impeachment inquiry, which began in September, is Trump’s July 25 phone call with Kiev. That call prompted the whistleblower complaint to the intelligence community inspector general, and in turn, the impeachment inquiry in the House. Trump challenged the accuracy of the complaint, though the transcript released by the White House did support the core allegations that he pressed for politically related investigations.
The president’s request came after millions in U.S. military aid to Ukraine had been frozen, which Democrats and witnesses have claimed shows a "quid pro quo" arrangement. Trump denies any wrongdoing.