WASHINGTON (AP) — House Democrats unveiled legislation Tuesday authorizing the next phase of the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump as Democrats move to nullify complaints from Trump and his Republican allies that the impeachment process is illegitimate and unfair.
An eight-page resolution calls for open hearings and requires the House Intelligence Committee to submit a report outlining its findings and recommendations, with a final recommendation on impeachment left to the Judiciary Committee.
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Republicans would be allowed to request subpoenas, but such requests would ultimately be subject to a vote by the full committee, which Democrats control as the House majority.
Democratic Rep. James McGovern of Massachusetts, the chairman of the House Rules Committee, said the resolution provides "a clear path forward" as the House begins a public phase of the impeachment inquiry, which up to this point has largely consisted of closed-door interviews.
"This is a sad time for our country," McGovern said. "None of us came to Congress to impeach a president, but each of us took a solemn oath to protect and defend the Constitution."
"The president's Republican allies in Congress have tried to hide the president's conduct, but the American people will now see the facts firsthand," he added.
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said the resolution merely "confirms that House Democrats' impeachment has been an illegitimate sham from the start as it lacked any proper authorization by a House vote."
The resolution "does nothing to change the fundamental fact that House Democrats refuse to provide basic due process rights to the administration," she said, adding that the White House is barred from participating at all until after the intelligence panel "conducts two rounds of one-sided hearings to generate a biased report for the Judiciary Committee."
Separate language covering Judiciary proceedings allows for Trump and his lawyers to attend all Judiciary presentations and hearings. Trump's lawyers will be allowed to question any witness, according to a copy of the proposed Judiciary proceedings obtained by The Associated Press. The president can call witnesses if the committee agrees the testimony is "necessary or desirable to a full and fair record in the inquiry," the three-page document says.
The Judiciary language is expected to be incorporated into the larger resolution before the House votes on impeachment proceedings Thursday.
The impeachment inquiry is looking into Trump's July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in which he asked for a "favor" — to investigate a Democratic rival for president. Democrats say the request and other actions by the administration to push Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his family amounted to a quid pro quo for important military aid for Ukraine, providing sufficient grounds for impeachment.
The House is expected to vote on the resolution Thursday amid complaints from Trump and his Republicans allies that the monthlong impeachment process is illegitimate and unfair.
Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the No. 2 House Republican, denounced what he called a "Soviet-style impeachment process" led by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif.
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More than 75% of House members have been unable to view what is happening in closed-door depositions conducted by the Intelligence panel and two other committees, Scalise said. "That represents more than 230 million Americans whose voices are denied right now," he said.
Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, the No. 3 House Republican, said Democrats "have basically cooked up a process they have been conducting in secret" with the goal of preventing Trump's lawyers from asking questions of witnesses.
Democrats "are now attempting to sort of put a cloak of legitimacy around this process by saying they're going to bring it to a vote on the floor," Cheney said. "They can't fix it. The process is broken. It's tainted."
Democrats insisted they were not yielding to Republican pressure and dismissed a GOP argument that impeachment can't begin without a formal House vote.
Schiff and other Democrats defended the process and said the American people will soon hear from witnesses in an open setting, with transcripts of depositions already conducted set for public release.
"The evidence we have already collected paints the picture of a president who abused his power by using multiple levers of government to press a foreign country to interfere in the 2020 election," Schiff and three other committee chairs said in a statement Tuesday.
Following in the footsteps of previous impeachment inquiries, the next phase will move from closed depositions to open hearings, "where the American people will learn firsthand about the president's misconduct," the Democrats said.
Associated Press writer Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report.