This week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry
© Greg Nash

The House Intelligence Committee is set to host its first public hearings after weeks of closed-door proceedings — marking an escalation of the probe into President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrat calls on White House to withdraw ambassador to Belarus nominee TikTok collected data from mobile devices to track Android users: report Peterson wins Minnesota House primary in crucial swing district MORE’s interactions with Ukraine. 

The hearings will mark the first time the public, and most members of the House, will be able to watch the impeachment inquiry. Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee are holding the hearings in the Ways and Means Committee room with the anticipation that millions will be tuning in to the proceedings. 

“You want to have as big of a blockbuster coming out of the gate as possible,” one senior Democratic aide close to the impeachment probe told The Hill. “The benefit of these guys is they can tell the totality of events; they can tell the whole story.”

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First, on Wednesday, George Kent, a senior State Department official, and William Taylor, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, are slated to testify before the panel. Then, on Friday, Marie Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Ukraine who was ousted for being insufficiently loyal to Trump, is scheduled to appear. 

The House passed a resolution along party lines in late October establishing the ground rules for the public phase of the inquiry, where lawmakers are looking into whether Trump tied Ukraine aid to the country opening up an investigation into former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenNAACP seeks to boost Black voter turnout in six states Biden touts Trump saying Harris would be 'fine choice' for VP pick Kamala Harris: The conventional (and predictable) pick all along MORE and his son, Hunter Biden. 

Under the resolution, staff counsels from both parties are given 45 minutes per side to question witnesses. Lawmakers will each get five minutes to ask questions. 

Though the public hearings won’t start until Wednesday, lawmakers are already jostling over witnesses and using the Sunday talk shows to serve opening salvos. 

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffGOP chairmen hit back at accusation they are spreading disinformation with Biden probe Schiff, Khanna call for free masks for all Americans in coronavirus aid package House Intelligence panel opens probe into DHS's involvement in response to protests MORE (D-Calif.) turned down a request over the weekend from Republicans to have Hunter Biden and the whistleblower whose complaint helped drive the inquiry testify. 

"The impeachment inquiry ... has gathered an ever-growing body of evidence — from witnesses and documents, including the President's own words in his July 25 call record — that not only confirms, but far exceeds, the initial information in the whistleblower's complaint," Schiff said. "The whistleblower's testimony is therefore redundant and unnecessary.” 

He added that he also wouldn’t let lawmakers use the public hearings to carry out "sham" investigations into the Biden family. 

House Intelligence Committee Republicans had requested several witnesses including Hunter Biden and his business partner Devin Archer, the whistleblower and former Democratic National Committee staffer Alexandra Chalupa. They also requested that Tim Morrison and former ambassador Kurt VolkerKurt VolkerGOP senators request details on Hunter Biden's travel for probe Yovanovitch retires from State Department: reports Live coverage: Senators enter second day of questions in impeachment trial MORE, who both provided closed-door depositions, testify publicly. 

Schiff had previously pointed to the parameters of the inquiry as guidance to Republicans for how Democrats would decide if a witness was relevant. 

Those parameters include questions about if Trump tried to get a foreign government to investigate a potential 2020 rival, if the president tried to use the government to apply pressure on Ukraine to “advance the President’s personal political interests” and if Trump or his administration tried to “obstruct, suppress or cover-up information to conceal” evidence of such actions. 

Top Republicans have blasted the process and parameters laid out by Democrats. 

“Setting aside the absurdity of these restrictions—note that the Democrats won't even be able to stay within their own parameters.  The first two witnesses they're calling have never even talked to POTUS. They have zero firsthand knowledge. How can they speak to his motive?” Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsOn The Money: McConnell says it's time to restart coronavirus talks | New report finds majority of Americans support merger moratorium | Corporate bankruptcies on pace for 10-year high McConnell: Time to restart coronavirus talks Lawmakers of color urge Democratic leadership to protect underserved communities in coronavirus talks MORE (R-N.C.) tweeted on Thursday. 

He added on Saturday, after Schiff’s answer on witnesses, that if Democrats “are denying GOP impeachment witnesses to prevent a ‘sham process,' they’re certainly too late—because that’s exactly what these last 6 weeks of House Democrat’s attempted impeachment have been. A sham.” 

Ahead of the hearings, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyGOP leaders go into attack mode against Harris Republicans introduce bill to defend universities conducting coronavirus research against hackers Bipartisan senators ask congressional leadership to extend census deadline MORE (R-Calif.) announced that House Oversight and Reform Committee ranking member Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanWorld's most trafficked mammal gives Trump new way to hit China on COVID-19 The 'pitcher of warm spit' — Veepstakes and the fate of Mike Pence Tucker Carlson calls Fauci a 'fraud' after tense hearing MORE (R-Ohio) — who has played a leading role during the closed-door hearings and proven to be one of Trump’s top defenders in the lower chamber — will temporarily replace Rep. Rick CrawfordRick CrawfordRepublicans score procedural victory on Democrats' infrastructure bill The case for renewed US engagement in Latin America Arkansas program that places unemployed guards, reservists in agriculture jobs can be a model for nation MORE (R-Ark.) on the House Intelligence Committee.

The move comes as the GOP looks to strengthen its defense as Democrats bring witnesses they feel provide the most damning testimonies forward as they look to conclude impeachment proceedings before the end of the year. 

The transcript of Taylor’s deposition shows he expressed concerns over an alleged back-door foreign policy channel led by Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiFeehery: Weak mayors destroy America's great cities Coronavirus concerns emerge around debates Giuliani says Black Lives Matter is 'domestic terrorist' group MORE, the president’s personal lawyer, used to pressure Ukraine to investigate a political opponent. 

Meanwhile, Kent testified he believed Giuliani was working with corrupt foreign officials and media figures to smear Yovanovitch in an attempt to have her removed from her post.  And the transcript of Yovanovitch’s deposition shows she told members of the investigative committees she felt threatened after seeing that the president criticized her during the July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. 

GOP lawmakers in the lower chamber have vehemently defended the president against allegations he acted improperly or that there was a quid pro quo, stating that the witnesses did not have first-hand access to the information and arguing the partial transcript of the call vindicates Trump. 

Export-Import Bank

The House is expected to take up legislation to reauthorize the  Export-Import Bank, which aims to aid the export of American goods and services, this week, House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerLawmakers of color urge Democratic leadership to protect underserved communities in coronavirus talks The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump to Democratic negotiators: 'They know my phone number' House will be out of session for additional week in September MORE (D-Md.) said in a "Dear Colleague" letter sent to the caucus. Congress faces a Nov. 21 deadline before its current funding expires.

“This legislation will help ensure a level playing field for American businesses that are competing in a global economy,” Hoyer wrote. 

The legislation slated to come to the floor would reauthorize the Ex-Im Bank for 10 years.

Equal Rights Amendment

The House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to mark up legislation to eliminate the deadline for ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment. 

“It is now highly likely that if we eliminate the deadline, Virginia will ratify and become the 38th state, and then the E.R.A. can go into effect as a constitutional amendment,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerBy questioning Barr, Democrats unmasked their policy of betrayal Chris Wallace: Barr hearing 'an embarrassment' for Democrats: 'Just wanted to excoriate him' Apple posts blowout third quarter MORE (D-N.Y.) told The New York Times. “So it’s time to do it.”

The markup comes following Democrats’ sweeping election victory in Virginia. Democrats say they have the votes to ratify the ERA in the state legislature. It would make Virginia the 38th state, meeting the three-fourths of the states needed for ratification. 

The panel previously held its first hearing on the ERA in 36 years in April.

Critics have argued that it could expand access to abortion and that women already have protection under the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause.

Appropriations

Top members of the House and Senate Appropriations committees are scheduled to meet this week as they try to break a stalemate on fiscal 2020 negotiations. 

Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyDavis: The Hall of Shame for GOP senators who remain silent on Donald Trump Wary GOP eyes Meadows shift from brick-thrower to dealmaker On The Money: Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire | Jobs report poised to light fire under COVID-19 talks | Tax preparers warn unemployment recipients could owe IRS MORE (R-Ala.) and House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyGovernors air frustrations with Trump on unemployment plans It's past time to be rid of the legacy of Jesse Helms Helping our seniors before it's too late MORE (D-N.Y.), as well as Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahySenate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Yates spars with GOP at testy hearing Vermont has a chance to show how bipartisanship can tackle systemic racism MORE (D-Vt.) and Rep. Kay GrangerNorvell (Kay) Kay GrangerHelping our seniors before it's too late House approves .3 trillion spending package for 2021 GOP lawmakers comply with Pelosi's mask mandate for House floor MORE (R-Texas), the ranking members of the committees, will meet on Tuesday. 

The conference comes after Shelby, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell warns control of Senate 'could go either way' in November On The Money: McConnell says it's time to restart coronavirus talks | New report finds majority of Americans support merger moratorium | Corporate bankruptcies on pace for 10-year high McConnell: Time to restart coronavirus talks MORE (R-Ky.) and White House director of legislative affairs Eric Ueland met last week to talk about funding the government. 

Congress has until Nov. 21 to prevent the second shutdown of the year. Leadership is eyeing another short-term patch until mid-December to give them more time to negotiate on full year 2020 bills. 

The Senate has passed four of the fiscal 2020 bills, while the House has passed 10. But the two chambers have reached a deal on none of the 12 appropriations bills because of disagreements over top-line spending figures, known as 302(b)s, and the border wall. 

Nominations

The Senate is keeping its focus on nominations this week after members return to Washington on Tuesday. 

McConnell has teed up votes on two nominations: Chad WolfChad WolfSenate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Watch live: Acting DHS chief testifies on deployment of federal agents to protests The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the Air Line Pilots Association - Key 48 hours loom as negotiators push for relief deal MORE to be under secretary for strategy, policy and plans at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Steven Menashi to be judge on the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. 

Wolf has been serving in the position in an acting capacity. But providing him with Senate confirmation will allow Wolf to become the acting DHS secretary — a post Trump tapped him for earlier this month. 

Wolf would be Trump's fifth acting or Senate-confirmed DHS secretary in less than three years, following Kevin McAleenan, Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenTrump's acting ICE chief to leave post Trump's fight with city leaders escalates Neo-Nazi pleads guilty to 'swatting' Black church, Cabinet official, journalists MORE, Elaine DukeElaine Costanzo DukeTrump mulled selling Puerto Rico, former aide says Chad Wolf becomes acting DHS secretary Senate paves way for Trump's next DHS chief MORE and John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE.

After Wolf’s nomination, the Senate will turn to Menashi, who cleared the Judiciary Committee last week along party lines.

Menashi has garnered widespread opposition from Democrats and their outside group allies over his writings on the Muslim community and his work in the Trump administration.

Demand Justice, a progressive outside group, is targeting GOP Sens. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyDavis: The Hall of Shame for GOP senators who remain silent on Donald Trump Trump slams 'rogue' Sasse after criticism of executive actions From a Republican donor to Senate GOP: Remove marriage penalty or risk alienating voters MORE (Utah), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiBipartisan senators ask congressional leadership to extend census deadline Davis: The Hall of Shame for GOP senators who remain silent on Donald Trump On The Money: Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire | Jobs report poised to light fire under COVID-19 talks | Tax preparers warn unemployment recipients could owe IRS MORE (Alaska), Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyMcConnell warns control of Senate 'could go either way' in November The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden picks Harris as running mate Progressive Jewish group endorses Biden MORE (Ariz.), Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerMcConnell warns control of Senate 'could go either way' in November Senate Democrats ask Trump to withdraw controversial public lands nominee The Hill's 12:30 Report - Speculation over Biden's running mate announcement MORE (Colo.), Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Speculation over Biden's running mate announcement Davis: The Hall of Shame for GOP senators who remain silent on Donald Trump Lincoln Project expands GOP target list, winning Trump ire MORE (N.C.) and Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Speculation over Biden's running mate announcement Davis: The Hall of Shame for GOP senators who remain silent on Donald Trump Lincoln Project expands GOP target list, winning Trump ire MORE (Iowa) with digital ads ahead of the vote. 

Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate, meaning Democrats would need to flip four GOP senators, and hold their own caucus together, in order to sink Menashi’s nomination on the floor. 

So far one Republican, Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsProgressive Jewish group endorses Biden Poll: Gideon leads Collins by 8 points in Maine Senate race The Hill's 12:30 Report - Speculation over Biden's running mate announcement MORE (Maine), has said she’ll oppose the nomination.