WASHINGTON — House Democrats on Tuesday unveiled legislation authorizing the next phase of the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump, as Democrats move to nullify complaints from Trump and his Republican allies that the impeachment process is illegitimate and unfair.
An eight-page resolution calls for open hearings and requires the House Intelligence Committee to submit a report outlining its findings and recommendations, with a final recommendation on impeachment left to the Judiciary Committee.
Republicans would be allowed to request subpoenas, but such requests would ultimately be subject to a vote by the full committee, which Democrats control as the House majority.
House Rules Committee Chairman James McGovern of Massachusetts said the resolution provides "a clear path forward" as the House begins a public phase of the impeachment inquiry, which up to this point has largely consisted of closed-door interviews.
"This is a sad time for our country," McGovern said. "None of us came to Congress to impeach a president, but each of us took a solemn oath to protect and defend the Constitution."
"The president's Republican allies in Congress have tried to hide the president's conduct, but the American people will now see the facts firsthand," he added.
The impeachment inquiry is looking into Trump's July 25 call in which he asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy for a "favor" — to investigate a Democratic rival for president. Democrats say the request and other actions by the administration to push Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his family amounted to a quid pro quo for important military aid for Ukraine, providing sufficient grounds for impeachment.
The House is expected to vote on the resolution Thursday amid complaints from Trump and his Republicans allies that the monthlong impeachment process is illegitimate and unfair.
Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the No. 2 House Republican, denounced what he called a "Soviet-style impeachment process" led by House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff of California.
More than 75 percent of House members have been unable to view what is happening in closed-door depositions conducted by the Intelligence panel and two other committees, Scalise said.
"That represents more than 230 million Americans whose voices are denied right now," he said.
Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, the No. 3 House Republican, said Democrats "have basically cooked up a process they have been conducting in secret" with the goal of preventing Trump's lawyers from asking questions of witnesses.
Democrats "are now attempting to sort of put a cloak of legitimacy around this process by saying they're going to bring it to a vote on the floor," Cheney said. "They can't fix it. The process is broken. It's tainted."
Democrats insisted they were not yielding to Republican pressure and dismissed a GOP argument that impeachment can't begin without a formal House vote.
Schiff and other Democrats defended the process and said the American people will soon hear from witnesses in an open setting, with transcripts of depositions already conducted set for public release.
"The evidence we have already collected paints the picture of a president who abused his power by using multiple levers of government to press a foreign country to interfere in the 2020 election," Schiff and three other committee chairs said in a statement Tuesday.
Following in the footsteps of previous impeachment inquiries, the next phase will move from closed depositions to open hearings "where the American people will learn firsthand about the president's misconduct," the Democrats said.