For the first time since the Democrat-controlled House has talked about impeaching President Trump, public impeachment hearings that began Wednesday were aired live on television.
The first witnesses to take the stand includes three career public servants who have already testified behind closed doors. The witnesses previously indicated that President Trump linked military aid and a White House meeting for Ukraine to promises to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter for corruption.
“We intend to conduct these hearings with the seriousness and professionalism the public deserves. The process will be fair to the President, the Committee Members, and the witnesses. Above all, these hearings are intended to bring the facts to light for the American people,” Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, (D CA) said in a letter to House members the day before the scheduled public hearings.
Most Congressional Republicans still back Trump, and have expressed harsh criticism about the debacle of an impeachment inquiry and the efforts of the Democrats to undo the results of the 2016 election. Republicans have complained about the process, as well as the subpar witnesses, stating that allegations against the president do not merit impeachment. In addition, President Trump contends that the July call with Ukraine that set off the inquiry was “perfect.”
This week’s hearings will focus on the testimony from officials who handled U.S. policy in Ukraine. The three have already testified in closed-door interviews so no surprise is expected from them.
A resolution that the House approved indicates the exact impeachment inquiry process, including the format for public hearings, which will be followed. Republicans will finally get a chance to call their own witnesses, and Nunes has already sent the list of people whom Republicans wanted to be added to open hearings. This list includes Hunter Biden as well as the whistleblower whose complaint triggered the impeachment inquiry.
The House resolution, however, indicates that the Democrats need to approve any additional witnesses, and conveniently, Schiff did not include Biden or the whistleblower in upcoming hearings. He did agree though, to three others on the list who he said were “within the scope of the impeachment inquiry.”
The Intelligence Committee has scheduled three more public hearings next week which will bring eight additional witnesses. Also, the House Judiciary Committee has released their procedures for the impeachment inquiry, which allow the president and his counsel to attend any hearings and respond to any evidence presented. They have the opportunity to question any potential witnesses.
The Judiciary Committee will then review the Intelligence Committee’s report as well as input from other panels that have conducted investigations, to determine if there is enough evidence from lawmakers to impeach.
The panel will then vote and present them to the full House. A full House vote would likely happen quickly after any judiciary action. If the House approves articles of impeachment, the Senate will move to a trial.
John Roberts, Chief Justice of the United States, would preside over the trial while all remaining Senate business would be put on hold. All senators, including those running for president in the 2020 election, would be required to attend and hear the evidence presented.
Since Republicans control the Senate and stand united with the president, the House would need to garner 20 GOP senators to flip to join the Democrats’ efforts to secure the two-thirds majority required to convict and remove the president from office.