WASHINGTON — The investigation of misconduct by the Trump administration will continue even after a House committee submits an initial report that could lead to the impeachment of President Donald Trump, said the Democrat leading the proceedings.
“What we’re not prepared to do is wait months and months while the administration plays a game of rope-a-dope in an effort to try to stall,” Rep. Adam Schiff of California, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” one of two appearances on Sunday talk shows.
Schiff said that the facts of what the president did “are really not contested” and that the Democratic case is “iron-clad.”
After two weeks of televised hearings, House impeachment lawmakers return behind closed doors this week for the next steps in their investigation of Trump; namely, turning factual findings into a formal report for the House Judiciary Committee.
Schiff said his committee will continue to collect documents and potentially conduct depositions or hearings after the report is sent.
“The investigation isn’t going to end,” Schiff said. On NBC’s “Meet the Press” he said he doesn’t “foreclose the possibility of” other public hearings.
‘Sense of urgency’
Schiff said that “there is a sense of urgency” in finishing and sending on the report, in the face of threats of foreign interference in the 2020 elections, but would not commit to a specific time line. Democrats still hope to wrap up their impeachment efforts by Christmas.
The investigation into Trump, triggered by a whistleblower’s report about his conduct on a July phone call with the president of Ukraine, was initially conducted with closed-door witness interviews and requests for documents.
But details exploded into view with the past two weeks’ public testimony from 12 career diplomats, civil servants and political appointees who described how Trump, through his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, tried to pressure Ukraine to announce an investigation into his potential Democratic opponent Joe Biden.
The testimony repeatedly drew attention to the senior administration figures that Trump has blocked from appearing, including Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and former White House National Security Adviser John Bolton. Pursuing additional witnesses, even for depositions, would probably mean extending the Democrats’ time line.
Asked on NBC’s “Meet the Press” if Bolton should testify, Schiff said, “People like John Bolton, whose deputies had the courage to come in and testify, are going to have to answer one day why they saved what they knew for a book rather than tell the country when the country needed to know.”
Republicans and Trump have suggested that Schiff himself should be called to testify in a potential Senate trial. If that happened, the lawmaker said, “then they pretty much made the decision not to take this process seriously.”
Up next is the task of distilling the evidence into a report with recommendations to be sent to Judiciary — the panel helmed by Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York — which will consider the document and formally draft and refer any articles of impeachment to the floor for a full House vote.
That next phase could involve public hearings as well, and in this round, Trump and his lawyers have the option of mounting a defense, including cross-examining any witnesses and requesting evidence. Whether they’ll choose to do so isn’t clear.
While the aim continues to be getting that report over to Judiciary by the end of November, Schiff hasn’t given an exact day.
No meeting — even by phone — had yet been scheduled as of Friday afternoon by Schiff with other Intelligence Committee Democrats to sort through any final decisions on how many articles of impeachment might be recommended, and for what.
“The case in terms of the Ukraine misconduct is iron-clad. But so is the case of the president’s obstruction of the Congress,” Schiff said on Sunday.
Senator Roger Wicker, a Mississippi Republican, also on NBC, took issue with Schiff’s characterization and said Democrats didn’t produce enough to warrant Trump’s removal. “There was no direct evidence of pressure on the Ukrainian government to do a certain act in order for the aid to go forward,” Wicker said.
He also pointed to opinion polls showing support for impeachment is falling — something Schiff said on CNN wasn’t a consideration for Democrats.
Separately, a U.S. judge is expected on Monday to rule on whether former White House Counsel Don McGahn must answer questions from the House Judiciary Committee, which sued to force his testimony.
Schiff, a former federal prosecutor, has become Trump’s main bogeyman during the impeachment hearings. The president has tweeted about the lawmaker dozens of times. He said Friday in an interview on Fox News that Schiff should be made to testify in a Senate impeachment trial, and reiterated that view on Saturday.
— With assistance from Tony Czuczka.
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