As expected Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, got his resolution passed on Thursday, moving forward with impeaching the president. It passed on party lines, 24-17. Now he must deal with the mess he created because he ignored 200 years' worth of precedent, consequently putting his committee’s impeachment cart before the House’s horse.
Under that precedent there is a set process to follow to impeach a president: The House first authorizes the Judiciary Committee to conduct an investigation into potentially impeachable acts by the president. The committee then sets the rules for that investigation. If it finds something worthy of impeachment, it prepares articles of impeachment and presents them to the floor of the House for a vote.
But in his haste to impeach, Nadler went ahead without the House issuing a formal investigation request to his committee and created those rules anyway. To add to the confusion, Nadler calls the resolution part of the impeachment investigation his committee has been involved in since March.
So, Nadler is conducting, on his own, an impeachment investigation that the House hasn’t requested. Nadler couldn't care less. On Monday he told reporters, “[This] has been an impeachment inquiry and it continues to be.… We are examining the various malfeasances of the president with the view toward possibly … the possibility … of introducing … of recommending articles of impeachment to the House. That is what an impeachment inquiry is.”
This is driving House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) crazy. She wants to impeach the president, but the American people don’t want her to. She knows that if Nadler goes ahead and finds something — or creates something — that his committee finds impeachable, it will present articles for the full House to consider. Without the votes those articles won't be approved.
And there aren’t enough votes in the House. Only 135 members support impeachment, especially now that members have returned from their political junkets over the summer break carrying back with them the message that impeachment would likely reelect the president next November. The president knows that if the House approves one or more articles of impeachment, the Senate will ignore them and he will be able to declare a victory. This scenario is frightening the Democrat freshmen who just arrived in Washington, who would very much like to be reelected.
Pelosi ran out of patience on Thursday. When asked about the non-approved investigation Nadler is conducting, Pelosi waffled: “If we have to go there, we’ll have to go there. But we can’t go there until we have the facts.”
Those “facts,” presumably, will be forthcoming from Nadler’s committee as it continues with its unauthorized investigation/inquiry into the president’s “malfeasance.” She projected her impatience onto others: “People are impatient about it. We can’t go any faster than the facts.”
And then she gave tacit approval for Nadler to continue his unauthorized, non-House-approved investigation: “We’re still on the same path.”
When pressed again on the matter, she abruptly ended the press conference: “I’m not answering any more questions about a possible inquiry, investigation, and the rest.”
For his part Nadler will continue the witch hunt, which so far has come up with nothing to hang around the president’s neck. Next Tuesday, under the rules of the resolution his committee just passed, he and his committee will be questioning the president’s former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, about his possible participation in a possible obstruction of justice possibly requested by the president at the start of the Mueller investigation.
When the resolution passed on Thursday, Nadler said that it “represents the necessary next step on our investigation of corruption, obstruction, and abuse of power” by the president. Given the exigencies of the present political reality (a majority of Pelosi’s caucus wants impeachment hearings but a majority of voters don’t) it’s likely to be the last step.