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House will take a vote for an impeachment inquiry that isn’t actually required

 
Attorney Scott Pilutik wrestles with the news of the day, from a lawyerly perspective…

[Regarding this story in the New York Times: Democrats Move Toward Bringing Impeachment Inquiry Public]

The House announced it’s going to conduct a vote on the procedure for its ongoing impeachment inquiry, but gave no details about what they’re voting on.

I think this probably means that Speaker Nancy Pelosi has the votes, even the purple-state Reps. And that also probably means they feel good about polling on the impeachment issue, because calling a vote isn’t necessary. A federal judge, Beryl Howell, even said so only days ago, in allowing Congress to review redacted portions of the Mueller Report.

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“Even in cases of presidential impeachment, a House resolution has never, in fact, been required to begin an impeachment inquiry,” she wrote.

Just prior to Howell’s ruling, John Bolton deputy Charles Kupperman filed a lawsuit seeking a declaration that he does not have to respond to a House subpoena in its impeachment inquiry, arguing its inquiry isn’t legitimate because the House didn’t vote. But Howell’s ruling (which will be appealed but which appeal is likely doomed) answered this precise question.

So why are the Democrats making a concession they don’t actually have to make? Besides confidence in the poll numbers, another reason could be because the Republicans have been working the refs, making disingenuous arguments about due process, and actively obstructing the inquiry by instructing officials to not cooperate (many are, a few aren’t).

The New York Times is reporting that the vote will concern not the current phase but the public phase, where they’ll wheel out many of the same witnesses they’ve already interviewed except now before TV cameras, a few weeks from now.

The Times is hinting that one of procedures the House Democrats will institute for the public phase is granting the ability of staff aides to question witnesses. If you’ve watched any over the last two decades, you’re aware of just how useless Congressional hearing can be when Senators and Reps use their time to grandstand instead of probe.

If the Democrats actually relinquish the steering wheel to the lawyers, they’ll have more success than if they deliver sermons or pursue the questioning themselves.

Since the facts are pretty bad for the Republicans they’ve opted for slinging empty slogans (“no quid pro”) than refuting any of it, so I imagine they’ll just feign outrage that the hearings are being held at all and impugn the motives of each witness. Treating career officials with hostility probably won’t go well for them, but that has been their only strategy so far.

I can’t imagine Republicans are going to call their own witnesses (will they be allowed?), but one defense they’ve flirted with is that everything Trump did was proper because he had the legitimate goal of fighting corruption; and the way you could show that is by subpoenaing, say, Hunter Biden, or the Crowdstrike CEO. Or Aquaman. But if they pursue their batshit conspiracy theory in public, it’ll be exposed to actual public scrutiny and might not hold up as well as it holds up on Newsmax and 4Chan.

But they won’t be able to say there wasn’t a vote in the House.

More immediately, Alexander Vindman is testifying behind closed doors tomorrow and his opening statement is here.

Vindman’s family emigrated from the Soviet Union in 1979, when he was 3. He has a Purple Heart. Watch the Right try to paint him as some secret double agent.

And here we go…

 

Of Vindman’s testimony, this is probably the most significant piece:

Following this meeting, there was a scheduled debriefing during which Amb. Sondland emphasized the importance that Ukraine deliver the investigations into the 2016 election, the Bidens, and Burisma. I stated to Amb. Sondland that his statements were inappropriate, that the request to investigate Biden and his son had nothing to do with national security , and that such investigations were not something the NSC was going to get involved in or push. Dr. Hill then entered the room and asserted to Amb. Sondland that his statements were inappropriate.

Unlike Taylor and others higher up the food chain, Vindman wasn’t present for as many interactions, but his testimony bolsters everyone else’s. That’s the problem for the Republicans — you have all these meetings, phone calls, text messages, etc., and you have 10+ direct witnesses all saying the same thing or bolstering each other’s testimony. If you can’t poke holes in that, and they’re going to be forced to try, I think, if that fails, and it will, they’re only argument is going to be, “Yeah, so what.”

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