WASHINGTON – A planned House Judiciary Committee vote this week is set to mark the start of an aggressive new phase of House Democrats’ oversight of United States President Donald Trump, putting new force behind a push to determine whether the president’s actions during the 2016 presidential campaign and after could form the basis for lawmakers to push him out of office.
The panel also said that former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski would appear next week for a hearing regarding Trump’s efforts to curtail the now-concluded probe by former special counsel Robert Mueller.
And the House Intelligence Committee ordered former national-security adviser Michael Flynn to testify on Sept. 25 after Flynn declined to do so on the advice of his lawyers, who have cited his rights against self-incrimination.
The report from Mueller did not establish that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia but declined to exonerate Trump on obstruction.
Trump has falsely said that the report found neither collusion nor obstruction, and that Democrats are seeking a redo after the Mueller report failed to spark broad public calls for impeachment.
A resolution released Monday, which is expected to clear the Democratic-controlled Judiciary Committee, would authorize chairman Jerrold Nadler (NY-10) to designate certain hearings as part of an ongoing probe into determining whether to formally begin impeachment proceedings against Trump.
It also would formalize other procedures, such as those related to questioning any witnesses who might appear.
The move is the latest sign that the committee is gradually widening its investigation, as many liberal House lawmakers have urged it to do.
The panel initially put its focus on the report from Mueller, but the report, and subsequent testimony before the panel, failed to trigger a broad shift in public opinion.
Whether to initiate impeachment proceedings is a politically-fraught question, and Democrats are divided over how to characterize their investigative efforts.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (CA-12) has been wary of pushing forward on impeachment when polls have shown a majority of the public doesn’t support such an effort.
“We’re legislating, we’re investigating as we have been and we are litigating, we are taking our information to court,” Pelosi told reporters on Monday, adding that the House action “includes the possibility of legislation on impeachment.”
A July poll by The Wall Street Journal and NBC News found that 21 percent of registered voters said that there was enough evidence for Congress to begin impeachment hearings.
Among Democrats in the survey, nearly 40 percent said there was enough evidence to hold impeachment hearings now.
Key witnesses have rebuffed requests to testify.
Last month, the committee authorized Nadler to issue subpoenas to individuals who participated in payoffs of former Playboy model Karen McDougal and adult-film actress Stephanie Clifford, known professionally as Stormy Daniels.
Last week, the panel issued a subpoena to the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, ordering him to produce documents that could shed light on allegations that Trump offered to pardon government officials who break the law to construct his desired border wall by the 2020 elections.
The Constitution gives the House the sole power of impeachment, but it doesn’t outline specifically how to get there. Congress has engaged in impeachment proceedings against a president three previous times.
All have included a House-wide vote to open an inquiry, and this investigation could also.
In the case of President Richard Nixon, the House Judiciary Committee formally opened its probe in October 1973 with a panel vote allowing its chairman to issue subpoenas without the consent of the full committee.
In February of the following year, the House voted 410-4 to grant the judiciary panel power to investigate the president, formally ratifying the inquiry the committee had started.
In October 1998, the Judiciary Committee, followed by the full House, voted on opening an impeachment inquiry into allegations of misconduct against President Bill Clinton in independent counsel Ken Starr’s report.