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House Democrats took an important step in the impeachment inquiry, throwing a wrench into the GOP’s biggest defense

On Tuesday, House Democrats officially filed a resolution outlining the terms and parameters of the ongoing impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, throwing a wrench into many of the Republican criticisms of the impeachment process.

The resolution, H.R. 660, comes a little over a month after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi formally announced the House Intelligence, Oversight, and Foreign Affairs Committees would be jointly pursuing the impeachment investigation.

It lays out the terms for "open and transparent" impeachment hearings conducted by relevant House Committees — and significantly undercuts many of the Republican criticisms of how the inquiry has been conducted.

Specifically, Republicans have charged that the committees are not being transparent by mostly hearing witness testimony and reviewing documents behind-closed-doors, the process is shutting out Republicans, and the inquiry denying Trump "due process."

They have also claimed the process is illegitimate because the full House has not voted to approve an impeachment inquiry, but House Democrats are set to hold a floor vote on the resolution on Thursday.

Last week, 30 House Republicans made their displeasure known by barging into a secure committee room where the Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, and Oversight Committees were attempting to depose a Pentagon official behind closed doors.

A total of 46 House Republicans, including 12 of the ones who participated in the SCIF storming, sit on one of those three committees and are able to participate in every step of the inquiry, but the resolution gives the minority party even more authority to question witnesses and drive the process.

The House Rules Committee further put out a one-page summary describing the key points of the resolution, which aims to:

  • "Reaffirm" the ongoing investigative work, which some Republicans have dismissed as illegitimate.
  • Increase transparency by authorizing the House Intelligence Committee to publish redacted transcripts of recent depositions.
  • Establish public hearings for witness testimony, with each side given 45 minutes for committee counsel to question witnesses.
  • The resolution also gives "the minority the same rights to question witnesses that the majority has," including subpoena power for Rep. Devin Nunes, the Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee.
  • Give Trump and White House counsel staff chances to participate in hearings by submitting written testimony and responses, physically attend the hearings, and cross-examine witnesses, with the caveat that the relevant committees can deny those requests if the White House refuses to cooperate with the inquiry.
  • Vest the power to determine whether articles of impeachment are sent to the full House with the House Judiciary Committee.

By bringing the impeachment inquiry into its "public phase," the resolution is virtually negating all the GOP's criticisms that the inquiry is being conducted in secret, and the minority and the White House are being shut out of the process.

Not only do minority members of the committees get equal time for their staff to question witnesses, but they can even request subpoenas with the approval of the committee chair.

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