Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi went before the cameras late Tuesday to announce that the House is moving forward with an “official impeachment inquiry” concerning President Trump. That’s big news, but not as big as it could have been.
Pelosi’s announcement that six House committees will pursue investigations under an “umbrella” of an impeachment inquiry does ratchet up the process, which until now has mostly been the preserve of the House Judiciary Committee. She also used powerful language, assailing Trump’s “betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security and betrayal of the integrity of our elections.”
Pelosi put special emphasis on a factor that seems to have moved her, and some of her Democratic colleagues, to abandon their caution about impeachment: Trump’s telephone conversation with Ukraine’s president, which seems to figure in a whistleblower complaint by a member of the intelligence community.
That was the call in which, as Trump recounted it, he told President Volodymyr Zelensky that “we don’t want our people like Vice President Biden and his son [adding to] the corruption already in the Ukraine.” The conversation took place at a time when U.S. military aid to Ukraine was being held up. (On Tuesday Trump said he would release a “complete, fully declassified and unredacted transcript” of the call.)
Important as Pelosi’s announcement may be, it was missing something. The speaker didn’t say that she would ask the full House to vote to authorize the impeachment inquiry, as it did in the cases of Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton. The absence of such a vote has been criticized by Republicans (including the Judiciary Committee’s ranking minority member in this piece). It also figures in complaints that the Judiciary Committee inquiry is “impeachment lite.” I laid out my own argument about why a full House vote is important in a blog post earlier Tuesday.
Maybe we should refer to the process Pelosi unveiled as “impeachment lite plus.”