HOUSTON (FOX 26) - The die is cast, the rubicon crossed, Democrats led by Speaker Nancy Pelossi have launched impeachment proceedings against President Donald J. Trump.
The most extreme of measures was triggered by the emergence of a whistleblower report found to be "credible", alleging that during a July phone call President Trump pressured Ukraine's president to launch an investigation into political rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.
This week's panel: Wayne Dolcefino, Michelle Maples, Carmen Roe, Bob Price, Antonio Diaz and Craig Jackson join Greg Groogan to discuss this week's launch of impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump.
WASHINGTON (AP) - House Democrats are planning a rapid start to their push for impeachment of President Donald Trump, with hearings and depositions starting this week.
Democratic leaders have instructed committees to move quickly - and not to lose momentum - after revelations that Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate his potential 2020 Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, and his family. The action is beginning even though lawmakers left town Friday for a two-week recess.
The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., says his committee is moving "expeditiously" on hearings and subpoenas. That committee, as well as the House Oversight and Reform Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee, have scheduled depositions starting this week for State Department officials linked to Trump's dealings with Ukraine.
A look at next steps as Democrats march toward an impeachment vote:
A BUSY RECESS
Members of the House Intelligence Committee have been told to be prepared to return to Washington during the break. California Rep. Jackie Speier said she has already canceled some of her previous commitments.
"We're expected to be here," Speier said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has told the Democrats they need to "strike while the iron is hot" on impeachment, sending the committees into overdrive. Connecticut Rep. Jim Himes, a Democrat, said a plan is "being formed very rapidly."
"What I know for sure is that momentum will not slow," Himes said.
Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., said they will have to "work harder" and "sleep less."
LONG WITNESS LIST, QUICK TIMELINE
Schiff's committee has been negotiating to interview the whistleblower who began the firestorm by reporting to the inspector general for the intelligence community that Trump had urged the investigations on a July phone call with Zelenskiy.
Schiff told ABC's "This Week" that his panel had reached agreement to hear from the whistleblower, who would testify "very soon." Schiff said the exact date would depend in part on how quickly acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire completes the security clearance process for the whistleblower's lawyers. "We'll keep obviously riding shotgun to make sure the acting director doesn't delay in that clearance process," Schiff said.
The complaint from the whistleblower, whose identity is not publicly known, was released last week after Maguire withheld it from Congress for weeks. In the complaint, the whistleblower said White House officials moved to "lock down" the details of Trump's call by putting all the records of it on a separate computer system.
The inspector general who handled that complaint, Michael Atkinson, is slated to testify to the Intelligence Committee in private on Friday, according to a person familiar with the committee who was spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
Lawmakers on the committee say they also want to speak to White House aides who were present for the call and to Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal lawyer, who urged the investigations. Giuliani told ABC on Sunday that he "wouldn't cooperate" with Schiff, but if Trump "decides that he wants me to testify, of course I'll testify." Schiff says he hasn't decided whether he wants to hear from Giuliani.
Democrats say they hope to finish the investigation in a matter of weeks - perhaps even before Thanksgiving.
ARTICLES OF IMPEACHMENT
Once the committees have finished their own investigations, the committees will submit their findings to the House Judiciary Committee, which oversees the impeachment process.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., who serves on the Judiciary Committee, said the Intelligence Committee will be the "star of the show" as it investigates Trump's activities related to Ukraine. Articles of impeachment would be drafted by the Judiciary Committee and, if adopted, sent to the House floor.
The Judiciary Committee chairman, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., has said he wants resolution on impeachment by the end of the year. Jayapal said that deadline "absolutely" stands, and that the plan is to be done before January, or "perhaps sooner."
Republicans have focused their ire about impeachment on the Democrats, criticizing the probes as a rerun of a two-year investigation into Russian election interference in the 2016 election.
California Rep. Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee, said Democrats "don't want answers, they want a public spectacle."
"They have been trying to reverse the results of the 2016 election since President Trump took office," said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.
If the House votes to approve charges against Trump, the Republican-led Senate would then hold a trial.
Some Senate Republicans have expressed concerns about Trump's interactions with Ukraine, but there are few signs that there would be enough discontent to convict the president, who still has strong support in the GOP ranks. If Trump were impeached, it would take a two-thirds vote in the Senate to convict him and remove him from office. A memorandum from Senate Republicans circulated over the weekend acknowledged it would be hard for Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to block an impeachment trial, but he could deflect any House-approved impeachment articles to a committee.
The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., has said his committee will investigate the Ukraine matter but "don't expect us to move at light speed - that will probably happen in the House."
A NOD TO HISTORY
Trump would join a rare group if the House moves forward toward impeachment. Only two presidents have been impeached: Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998. Both won acquittal in the Senate.
President Richard Nixon, who faced impeachment proceedings, resigned from office in 1974.
WASHINGTON (AP) - House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said Sunday that he expects the whistleblower at the heart of impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump to testify "very soon."
"All that needs to be done, at this point, is to make sure that the attorneys that represent the whistleblower get the clearances that they need to be able to accompany the whistleblower to testimony," said Schiff, D-Calif., "and that we figure out the logistics to make sure that we protect the identity of the whistleblower."
As Democrats and the director of national intelligence worked out key arrangements, Trump's allies erupted in a surge of second-guessing and conspiracy theorizing across the Sunday talk shows, suggesting the White House strategy is unclear against the stiffest challenge to his presidency. One former adviser urged Trump to confront the crisis at hand and get past his fury over the probe of Russian election interference.
"I honestly believe this president has not gotten his pound of flesh yet from past grievances on the 2016 investigation," said Tom Bossert, Trump's former homeland security adviser. "If he continues to focus on that white whale," Bossert added, "it's going to bring him down."
The Ukraine investigation produced what the Russian probe did not: formal House impeachment proceedings based on the president's own words and actions.
The White House last week released a rough transcript of Trump's July 25 call with Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, as well as the whistleblower's complaint alleging the U.S. president pressured his counterpart to investigate the family of Joe Biden, the former vice president who is seeking the Democratic nomination to challenge Trump's reelection next year.
In a series of tweets Sunday night, Trump said he deserved to meet "my accuser" as well as whoever provided the whistleblower with what the president called "largely incorrect" information. He also accused Democrats of "doing great harm to our Country" in an effort to destabilize the nation and the 2020 election.
Trump has sought to implicate Biden and his son Hunter Biden in the kind of corruption that has long plagued Ukraine. Hunter Biden served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company at the same time his father was leading the Obama administration's diplomatic dealings with Kyiv. There has been no evidence of wrongdoing by either of the Bidens.
The House forged ahead, with Schiff's committee leading the investigation. Democrats are planning a rapid start to their push for impeachment, with hearings and depositions starting this week. Many Democrats are pushing for a vote on articles of impeachment before the end of the year, mindful of the looming 2020 elections.
Schiff has said the whistleblower has agreed to testify, but the logistics involving security had yet to be set. Lawyers for the whistleblower expressed concern about that individual's safety, noting that some have offered a $50,000 "bounty" for the whistleblower's identity. They said they expect the situation to become even more dangerous for their client and any other whistleblowers, as Congress seeks to investigate this matter.
On a conference call later Sunday, Pelosi, who was traveling in Texas, urged Democrats to proceed "not with negative attitudes towards him, but a positive attitude towards our responsibility," according to an aide on the call who requested anonymity to share the private conversation. She also urged the caucus to be "somber" and noted that polling on impeachment has changed "drastically."
A one-day NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll conducted last Wednesday found that about half of Americans - 49% - approve of the House formally starting an impeachment inquiry into Trump.
There remains a stark partisan divide on the issue, with 88% of Democrats approving and 93% of Republicans disapproving of the inquiry. But the findings suggest some movement in opinions on the issue. Earlier polls conducted throughout Trump's presidency have consistently found a majority saying he should not be impeached and removed from office.
On the call, Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries of New York urged the caucus to talk about impeachment by repeating the words "betrayal, abuse of power, national security." At the same time, Democrats' campaign arm was mobilizing to support the candidates, according to a person on the call who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the details.
In contrast, Republicans offered a televised array of strategies to a president who spent the day at his golf club in Virginia and prefers to handle his own communications.
Stephen Miller, the president's senior policy adviser, called the whole inquiry a "partisan hit job" orchestrated by "a deep state operative" who is also "a saboteur."
"The president of the United States is the whistleblower," Miller said.
And House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy said Trump had done nothing impeachable.
"Why would we move forward with impeachment? There's not something that you have to defend here," the California Republican said.
Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal lawyer who has been encouraging Ukraine to investigate both Biden and Hillary Clinton, promoted a debunked conspiracy theory, insisting that Ukraine had spread disinformation during the 2016 election.
Bossert advised that Trump drop that defense.
"I am deeply frustrated with what he and the legal team is doing and repeating that debunked theory to the president. It sticks in his mind when he hears it over and over again," said Bossert, who also was an adviser to President George W. Bush. "That conspiracy theory has got to go, they have to stop with that, it cannot continue to be repeated."
Giuliani not only repeated it but also brandished what he said were affidavits that support them and claimed that Trump "was framed by the Democrats."
Schiff said in one interview that his committee intends to subpoena Giuliani for documents and may eventually want to hear from Giuliani directly. In a separate TV appearance, Giuliani said he would not cooperate with Schiff, but then acknowledged he would do what Trump tells him. The White House did not provide an official response on whether the president would allow Giuliani to cooperate.
"If they're going to obstruct," Schiff warned, "then they're going to increase the likelihood that Congress may feel it necessary to move forward with an article on obstruction."
Two advisers to the Biden campaign sent a letter Sunday urging major news networks to stop booking Giuliani on their shows, accusing Trump's personal attorney of spreading "false, debunked conspiracy theories" on behalf of the president. The letter added: "By giving him your air time, you are allowing him to introduce increasingly unhinged, unfounded and desperate lies into the national conversation."
Biden advisers Anita Dunn and Kate Bedingfield sent the letter to the presidents of ABC News, NBC News, CBS News, MSNBC, CNN and Fox News as well as executive producers and anchors of their news shows. The advisers also asked that if Giuliani continues to appear, the networks give equivalent time to a Biden campaign surrogate and admonished the networks for giving Giuliani time in the first place, calling it "a disservice to your audience and a disservice to journalism."
Giuliani appeared on ABC's "This Week" and CBS' "Face the Nation," while Schiff was interviewed on ABC, NBC's "Meet the Press" and CBS' "60 Minutes." Bossert spoke on ABC and Miller on "Fox News Sunday." McCarthy's remarks were broadcast Sunday on "60 Minutes."
Associated Press writers Kevin Freking, Eric Tucker and Mary Clare Jalonick in Washington; writer Bill Barrow in Atlanta; and AP Polling Director Emily Swanson contributed to this report.