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Top House Democrat walks back remarks contradicting Judiciary on impeachment inquiry

Top House Democrat walks back remarks contradicting Judiciary on impeachment inquiry
© Greg Nash
House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerTech industry pushes for delay in antitrust legislation Biden signs Juneteenth bill: 'Great nations don't ignore their most painful moments' House passes political spending, climate change corporate disclosures bill MORE (D-Md.) on Wednesday walked back comments contradicting Judiciary Committee Democrats' assertion that they are in the midst of an impeachment inquiry, stating that he supports the panel's investigative efforts.
 
When initially asked during a press conference in the Capitol if he believed an impeachment inquiry is underway, Hoyer replied, "No."
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"Because I think the delineation ought to be whether or not they're considering a resolution of impeachment," Hoyer said.

Hoyer said he characterized the House Judiciary Committee's investigations into President TrumpDonald TrumpGuardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa wins GOP primary in NYC mayor's race Garland dismisses broad review of politicization of DOJ under Trump Schumer vows next steps after 'ridiculous,' 'awful' GOP election bill filibuster MORE as such because they are not actively considering a resolution to impeach.

"I do not think the nature of what is going on has changed. It may accelerate depending on what information they find," Hoyer said.

But shortly after the press conference, Hoyer issued a statement saying that he thought the question was about whether the full House is actively considering articles of impeachment.

"I strongly support Chairman Nadler and the Judiciary Committee Democrats as they proceed with their investigation ‘to determine whether to recommend articles of impeachment to the full House,’ as the resolution states. It is critical that Congress have access to all of the relevant facts, and we will follow those facts wherever they lead, including impeachment," Hoyer said.

Members of the House Judiciary Committee, including its chairman, Rep. Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerTech industry pushes for delay in antitrust legislation Senate on collision course over Trump DOJ subpoenas Black Democrats press leaders for reparations vote this month MORE (D-N.Y.), have framed their investigations to determine whether to recommend articles of impeachment as an impeachment inquiry, the first step in the process.

"We have been involved since June or July in an investigation looking toward the possibility of voting on articles of impeachment," Nadler told reporters on Monday evening. "You can call it an impeachment inquiry. You can call it an investigation. It's the same thing."

Nadler also said in a CNN interview last month that "this is formal impeachment proceedings."

In addition, House Democrats cited the possibility of impeachment in a court filing seeking grand jury material in former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE's investigation into Russian election interference and Trump's efforts to undermine the probe.

"I tried to make the point that in using the word impeachment, we think that probably gives more latitude and discovery based on some of the court cases," Hoyer said.

The inconsistent language among top Democrats has led to confusion over what precisely the caucus is doing on impeachment as leaders try to balance meeting demands from their liberal base while protecting centrists in swing districts.

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi quashes reports on Jan. 6 select committee Overnight Defense: Joint Chiefs warn against sweeping reform to military justice system | Senate panel plans July briefing on war authorization repeal | National Guard may have 'training issues' if not reimbursed On The Money: Powell says pickup in job gains likely this fall | Schumer, Pelosi meeting with White House on infrastructure MORE (D-Calif.), meanwhile, has framed the Judiciary Committee's activities as part of oversight that has already been underway without making overt references to impeachment.

"We're legislating, we are investigating as we have been, and we are litigating. We are taking our information to court — that's the path we are on and that's the path we will continue to be on," Pelosi told reporters on Monday.

Democrats on the Judiciary Committee are hoping to help clear things up Thursday when they vote to adopt procedures related to their investigative efforts to decide whether to recommend articles of impeachment.

The changes would allow Nadler to designate any future hearing as part of the investigation, as well as authorize committee counsel to interview witnesses.

Still, other Democratic leaders are taking care not to step into the semantical debate at all.

"I don't want to get caught in semantics. We all agree — from Speaker Pelosi through every single member of the House Democratic Caucus — that we have a constitutional responsibility to hold an out-of-control executive branch accountable," Rep. Hakeem JeffriesHakeem Sekou JeffriesThe antitrust package is a Trojan horse conservatives must reject Democrats seek staffer salary boost to compete with K Street Congress tiptoes back to normality post-pandemic MORE (N.Y.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, told reporters in the Capitol Wednesday.

Mike Lillis contributed.