House committee approves guidelines for impeachment hearings

In this Sept. 10, 2019, photo, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., prepares for a markup hearing on a series of bills on Capitol Hill in Washington. The House Judiciary Committee is preparing for its first impeachment-related vote, set to define procedures for upcoming hearings on President Donald Trump even as some moderates in the caucus are urging the panel to slow down. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

WASHINGTON — House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler says there’s no confusion about what his committee is doing: It’s an impeachment investigation, no matter how you want to phrase it.

Nadler tried to clear up any misconceptions Thursday as the committee approved guidelines for impeachment hearings on President Donald Trump . Some of Nadler’s fellow Democrats — including House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer — have stumbled over how to explain what they’re doing.

“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,” Nadler, D-N.Y., said as he opened the meeting. “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.”

Republicans disagree with Nadler and they argue that the House has never voted to open an official inquiry. Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, the top Republican on the committee, said the committee “has become a giant Instagram filter … it’s put in there to look like something, but it’s really not.”

Collins said Democrats are trying to have it both ways.

“My colleagues know very well they don’t have the votes to authorize impeachment proceedings on the House floor, but they want to impeach the president anyway,” Collins said. “So, they are pretending to initiate impeachment.”

Impeachment has divided Democrats who control the House. Democrats on Nadler’s committee, including some of the most liberal members of the House, have been eager to move forward with the process. But moderates, mostly first-term lawmakers who handed their party the majority in the 2018 election, are concerned about the committee’s drumbeat on impeachment and the attention that comes with that continued action.

Several of those freshman lawmakers met with Nadler on Wednesday and expressed concerns about the path ahead.

“It’s sucking the air out of all the good stuff that we’re doing, so that’s our concern,” said Florida Rep. Donna Shalala, who attended the meeting. She said very few constituents in her swing district asked her about impeachment over the August recess.

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