Catch Up on the Impeachment Inquiry

This is the Impeachment Briefing, The Times’s newsletter about the impeachment investigation. Sign up here to get it in your inbox every weeknight.

The inquiry will soon be transferred to the House Judiciary Committee. The core investigative work and public hearings are for now concluded, which means that the Judiciary Committee will begin considering articles of impeachment in the coming weeks. Its first public event will be Wednesday, a hearing that will feature four scholars discussing the constitutional standards for impeachment.

Democrats and Republicans prepared their impeachment reports. Staff members for the committees conducting the inquiry spent last week finishing dueling reports on the evidence they have compiled so far, which will serve as the guiding materials for the Judiciary Committee.

  • The Democratic report is expected to argue that President Trump used the power of his office to pressure Ukraine to do his bidding in order to gain an advantage in the 2020 election. Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee were expected to review it today, before the report is sent to the whole committee tomorrow for a vote.

  • The 123-page Republican report, which you can read here, argues that Mr. Trump was acting on “genuine and reasonable” skepticism of Ukraine when he pressed the country for investigations of his Democratic rivals.

President Trump will not participate in Wednesday’s hearing. Pat A. Cipollone, the White House counsel, sent a blistering letter to Representative Jerrold Nadler, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, yesterday, criticizing what he called an unfair process and turning down an offer to appear. The letter followed days of internal debate among the president’s legal team about whether to engage with the committee. In his letter, Mr. Cipollone did not rule out participation in future hearings. The White House has a Friday deadline to say whether it will participate at all.

  • Mr. Trump had already been briefed on the whistle-blower who prompted the impeachment inquiry when he unfroze military aid for Ukraine in September, according to two people familiar with the matter.

  • As Rudy Giuliani waged his campaign to unearth damaging information in Ukraine about Joe Biden, he privately pursued hundreds of thousands of dollars in business from Ukrainian government officials, documents reviewed by The Times show.

  • Three women accused Gordon D. Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union and a key impeachment witness, of making unwanted sexual advances, according to a report in ProPublica.

  • We saw more deposition transcripts. Mark Sandy, an official at the Office of Management and Budget, testified that two of his colleagues quit after expressing concerns about Mr. Trump’s decision to withhold military assistance to Ukraine.

  • Most Americans view impeachment along partisan lines. But a crucial slice of the electorate remains undecided, with possible implications for the 2020 election, according to new polling from Quinnipiac.

The passing of the impeachment baton to the House Judiciary Committee means that a new group of lawmakers will be responsible for concluding the inquiry, before a vote takes place on potential impeachment articles. I asked Julie Davis, our congressional editor, to help me understand where we are now.

Julie, we’re back! How would you characterize this moment in the inquiry?

JULIE: It’s the end of the phase that we’ve been in. The report that the Democrats are releasing this week is sort of this impeachment’s version of the Ken Starr report. It’s their way of signaling the end of the fact-finding part of the inquiry. But we’re also in sort of an interregnum: the bridge between the fact-finding and the actual impeachment. What they’ve actually been doing up until now is not impeachment, in a formal sense. As soon as the Judiciary Committee gets going, that can appropriately be considered the beginning of the impeachment proceeding.

What will this next phase look like?

It’ll unfold in the way a legislative debate does: There will be proposals put on the table — in this case, articles of impeachment — and people will offer amendments and vote on them publicly. Republicans will make their parliamentary points very publicly. It will be much more transparent how things are playing out. It’s not like the Intelligence Committee, where by definition they’re in a classified setting, dealing with classified material. This is where it gets ugly and messy.

What is this phase about?

It’s about public opinion. But it’s also about the Constitution, and having the basis to now turn to the question of whether to impeach the president. In order to do that, you have to have grounds, and you have to agree on a definition of what grounds are. That’s what you’re seeing this week with the report and then the hearing with the constitutional scholars, where they’ll be answering that question of what constitutes an impeachable offense. Democrats believe that procedurally, they need those two things to marry up — the grounds for impeachment and a common definition — before drafting actual impeachment articles.

It seems like we’re moving quickly. Are we?

Democrats feel like they have just come off this period of public hearings where they elicited all of this compelling testimony about what they consider clearly impeachable offenses, and they don’t want to let the process drag out for no good reason. They think the political situation is what it is — they have the public support they’re going to get, and things will only get worse, not better.

  • What is the impeachment process? Our graphics team put together a step-by-step guide today.

  • The names behind the Democratic and Republican reports might be familiar to you: Daniel S. Goldman and Stephen R. Castor, the staff lawyers who questioned witnesses in the public hearings. Mr. Goldman, an heir to the Levi Strauss fortune, got the job after meeting Representative Adam B. Schiff in an MSNBC green room. Mr. Castor, a longtime investigator for the House Oversight and Reform Committee, is a Deadhead. Read more about them.

  • My colleague Peter Baker wrote over the weekend about how the threat of impeachment has loomed over many presidents, serving as a deterrent they had to consider when making decisions that crossed into questionable territory.

  • In an interview with Time, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine questioned Mr. Trump’s decision to freeze military aid. “If you’re our strategic partner, then you can’t go blocking anything for us,” he said. “I think that’s just about fairness. It’s not about a quid pro quo.”


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