The House Judiciary Committee, which is spearheading the Democratic-led impeachment drive, will move swiftly to draft articles of impeachment against President Trump, possibly by the end of this week, the panel’s chairman said Sunday.
Trump’s congressional supporters separately found themselves on the defensive over the disclosure that the president’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, traveled last week to Ukraine and met with political figures associated with efforts to dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.
Giuliani is a central character in the impeachment drama, having led what witnesses portrayed as a shadow foreign policy built around the president’s personal political agenda of advancing the discredited theory that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 election, and that the Bidens engaged in corruption.
The Judiciary Committee plans a hearing on Monday to hear evidence gathered by the Intelligence Committee during its investigation.
The results may determine how broad the articles of impeachment against Trump will be — in particular, whether they will reach back to episodes of possible obstruction of justice outlined in the Russia report submitted last spring by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.
Mueller said he could not exonerate Trump of obstruction but indicated he followed Justice Department guidelines saying a sitting president could not be indicted. That was widely read as a suggestion that the only available remedy was impeachment.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), the Judiciary Committee chairman, said the scope and nature of the articles of impeachment were still under consideration. Abuse of presidential power in connection with Ukraine policy and obstruction of the current impeachment probe were expected to be the centerpiece.
“The fact is that we’re not going to make any decision as to how broad the articles should be, as to what they contain, what the wording is, until after the hearing” on Monday, Nadler said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“We’ll bring articles of impeachment, presumably, before the committee at some point later in the week,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Citing what he called “uncontested” evidence that Trump acted improperly to pressure Ukraine, Nadler said the fast pace of the impeachment proceedings was dictated by pressing worries about the integrity of the 2020 campaign.
“The president, based on his past performance, will do everything to make it not a fair election,” Nadler said in an interview on ABC’s “This Week.”
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), who heads the House Intelligence Committee, said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” the proceedings should “focus on those issues that provide the greatest threat to the country.”
He added: “The president is engaged in a course of conduct that threatens the integrity of the next election.”
In the months since the August complaint by an anonymous whistleblower about Trump’s dealings with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky kick-started the impeachment drive, the president has sometimes spoken in a manner that undercuts those trying to defend him.
This weekend, he seemingly gave his seal of approval to Giuliani’s latest trip to Ukraine, even while his congressional allies have claimed that the Democrats have not conclusively proven that the former New York mayor has acted at the president’s behest.
Trump on Saturday spoke enthusiastically of Giuliani’s visit last week to the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, telling reporters at the White House: “I hear he has found plenty.” Trump also said Giuliani wanted to share his findings with Congress.
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), a zealous Trump ally, said Sunday on CNN: “I don’t know of any role that Rudy Giuliani is playing on behalf of the president.”
He added, “I don’t know that he’s over there at the president’s direction, and in fact I would suggest that he is not.”
Another ardent Trump backer, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, said on ABC that Giuliani’s trip was “weird” and “odd,” coming during the impeachment proceedings, but said if Giuliani wanted to appear before congressional investigators and explain his role, that would be “helpful.”
The White House, which has denounced the House proceedings as illegitimate, said Friday the president’s team would not take part in Monday’s hearing. The administration has blocked compliance with subpoenas for documents and testimony from senior officials.
Gaetz, however, suggested that Trump’s acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, together with Giuliani, should appear before investigators. It would be “to the president’s advantage to have people testify who could exculpate him,” Gaetz said.