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October 31: Impeachment Takes a Big Step Forward

By Helena Balch

Thursday, October 31, 2019, marked a monumental day in the Trump presidency as the House of Representatives voted to pass a resolution that formalized the impeachment inquiry. The resolution is essentially a set of guidelines that will frame the inquiry into President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine that will enable the House to decide whether to pursue the Articles of Impeachment. 

The House voted in favor of the resolution with 231 out of 232 “Yay” votes coming from Democratic members and 194 out of 196 “Nay” votes coming from Republican members for a final count of 232-196. Ultimately, the vote was mostly consistent with the party lines with two Democrats voting against their party and one Independent voting with the Democrats. 

Democratic Representatives Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey and Collin Peterson of Minnesota went against their party and voted “Nay” regarding the resolution, actions consistent with those of the preliminary procedural vote. Both of their districts are consistent with those won by Republican President Donald Trump in the 2016 election and neither had made public statements of support in regards to the impeachment proceedings like their Democratic peers.

Both Van Drew and Peterson stated that they believed proceeding with the inquiry without Republican support was a mistake and alluded to the idea that such a resolution promoted the political divide throughout the country. Both did, however, affirm that they will listen to the evidence presented during proceedings and make a decision in accordance with their judgment of such facts.

Independent Representative Justin Amash of Michigan voted against the Republicans, the party he left earlier in 2019, and voted “Yay” regarding the resolution. Amash’s district is considered to be a congressional district that intersected a pivot county, a county that voted for Donald Trump in 2016 after voting for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. On October 31, prior to the vote, he tweeted his support for the impeachment proceedings and the resolution: “The president will be in power for only a short time, but excusing his misbehavior will forever tarnish your name”. The tweet further confirmed his separation from the Republican party and their ideals as he stated “To my Republican colleagues: Step outside your media and social bubble. History will not look kindly on disingenuous, frivolous, and false defenses of this man”, in what some perceived to be an unnecessarily polarizing statement.

The resolution (H.Res.660), released by House Democrats, details the next steps of the inquiry into President Trump. The resolution serves to “eliminate any doubt as to whether the Trump Administration may withhold documents, prevent witness testimony, disregard duly authorized subpoenas, or continue obstructing the House of Representatives” according to House Speaker Nacy Pelosi as written in a letter to House Democrats. 

The resolution directs the committees instructed by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi—Intelligence, Judiciary, Foreign Affairs, Ways and Means, Financial Services, and Oversight and Reform—to “continue their ongoing investigations as part of the existing House of Representative inquiry into whether sufficient grounds exist for the House of Representatives inquiry into whether sufficient grounds exist for the House of Representatives to exercise its Constitutional power to impeach Donald John Trump, President of the United States of America, and for other purposes ”. This suggests that the scope of their investigations are not limited to the Ukraine situation and could involve other alleged scandals. 

The resolution sets forth Democratic Representative Adam Schiff, chairman of the Intelligence Committee, as the leader for an initial set of public hearings. As such, Schiff will be allowed to call hearings in relation to the impeachment investigation, write a public report on findings and recommendations to the Judiciary Committee in consultation with the Committees on Oversight and Reform and Foreign Affairs, and make transcripts of prior depositions available to the public with the proper redactions of sensitive information, suggesting that the name of the Ukraine whistleblower will be kept private. The hearing structure was also laid out to provide an extended stretch of continuous questioning, which deviates from the traditional structure as laid out by House Rule XI. This may serve the inquiry as it prevents the interruption of testimony as previously made possible by the constraints of House Rule XI. 

Additional information regarding procedures to be utilized by the Judiciary Committee are outlined in a separate document that is “pursuant to H. Res. 660”. This document provides information regarding the President’s participation in the inquiry that is not found in the resolution. This document does not grant procedural rights to the President in terms of the Committee on Intelligence’s proceedings but rather invites the President and his councils to Judiciary Committee hearings that involve the calling of witnesses and preliminary presentations of evidence. The President’s council is granted the ability to make objections, propose the inclusion of additional evidence and testimony, and, if time permits, question witnesses.

While this resolution is a step in the direction of impeachment of President Donald Trump, weeks or even months of investigations and hearings precede the recommendation of the House, which does not consign the President to removal from his position.

Helena Balch is a first-year from Montclair, NJ majoring in biology.

Note: this article was written in early November. The information contained is up-to-date as of then.


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