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Jim McGovern

Setting the rules for the impeachment inquiry

House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern prepared for a markup of the resolution that will formalize the next steps in the impeachment inquiry of President Trump.
House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern prepared for a markup of the resolution that will formalize the next steps in the impeachment inquiry of President Trump.J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press/Associated Press

On Thursday, the House of Representatives plans to vote on a resolution that provides a clear pathway forward as we begin the public-facing phase of our impeachment inquiry into the conduct of President Trump.

UPDATE: House passes impeachment resolution laying out rules for inquiry

The Founders of our country gave the House of Representatives the sole responsibility of impeaching a president when he or she steps outside the bounds of the Constitution.

Yet beyond giving us the discretion to determine the rules of our own proceedings, the Constitution is silent on the process of impeaching a president.

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Following in the footsteps of previous inquiries, the resolution I introduced will ensure our investigation has the proper procedures in place to allow the American people to hear firsthand the evidence against the president.

It will set forth important due process rights for the president and his counsel in Judiciary Committee proceedings.

Our investigation has been guided by precedent, including the impeachments of Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.

In the case of Nixon, the House began investigating grounds for impeachment in October 1973, but did not pass a formal authorizing resolution until February 1974, and did not enact its procedures until May 1974.

In the case of Clinton, independent counsel Kenneth Starr spent four years investigating the president in closed-door interviews, and the Judiciary Committee did not adopt procedural protections or hold public hearings until one month after receiving the Starr Report.

Unlike those impeachments, no special prosecutor has been named to investigate Trump on his dealings with Ukraine. There is no single report from which this Congress can make a decision about whether or not to impeach the president on this matter.

Instead, our Intelligence Committee, in coordination with the Oversight Committee and House Foreign Affairs Committee, has been holding depositions, issuing subpoenas, and gathering evidence much like a grand jury would do when presented with allegations of serious wrongdoing.

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Just like a criminal probe, our depositions have occurred in private to prevent witnesses from coordinating testimony or outside forces from intimidating them.

This is a process that even former Republican representative Trey Gowdy, who chaired the Benghazi Committee, has endorsed. He said, “If you’re going to have private investigations with unlimited time for questioning and cross-examining witnesses — that’s a good thing.”

Now, as our investigation enters its public-facing phase, it is important for us to set out a clear path forward for public hearings.

Consistent with prior impeachment inquiries, we will confer due process rights for both the president and the minority party as our investigation progresses. As this process moves forward in the Judiciary Committee, my resolution provides due process protections for Trump that were afforded to Nixon and Clinton. That includes allowing the president’s counsel to attend and ask questions at the presentation of evidence, question witnesses, and raise objections.

I don’t know whether the House will impeach Trump. Only the facts can decide that. But I do know this: As much as this president flouts the Constitution, we are going to protect it.

As much as I disagree with this president and don’t like his tweets, his tone, or his policies, I never wanted our country to come to this point.

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But I believe that a hundred years from now, historians will look back at this moment and judge us by the decisions we made. They will see what we did when confronted with this crisis.

Our actions will have ramifications far beyond the petty partisan politics we were sent to Congress to rise above.

The House will ensure the public-facing phase of this inquiry is transparent and will stand the test of time. That’s what members of this institution deserve. It’s what the president deserves. And it’s what the American people deserve.


Democratic US Representative Jim McGovern of Massachusetts is chairman of the House Committee on Rules.