Pelosi expects public impeachment hearings to begin this month

No deadline to finish investigation, House speaker says

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: “I don’t know what the timetable will be – the truth will set us free.” Photograph: Kholood Eid/Bloomberg

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: “I don’t know what the timetable will be – the truth will set us free.” Photograph: Kholood Eid/Bloomberg

 

US House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Friday she expected the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump to begin public hearings this month but insisted there was no deadline to finish the investigation.

“I would assume there would be public hearing in November,” Ms Pelosi said. Any case made to impeach the president “has to be ironclad”, she said.

Ms Pelosi spoke a day after the House voted to set up a formal process for public hearings in an investigation of whether Mr Trump used his office to pressure Ukraine to open a politically motivated investigation in exchange for releasing military aid.

Ms Pelosi said the closed-door depositions of witnesses would continue as long as they were “productive”.

“I don’t know what the timetable will be – the truth will set us free,” she said. “We have not made any decisions on if the president will be impeached.”

Impact on markets

Ms Pelosi also said that Congress should pursue an impeachment inquiry regardless of its impact on financial markets. “The markets have their own strength and their resilience,” she said.

She discussed several other issues during a roundtable with Bloomberg journalists, saying Democrats would be tougher on China than Mr Trump by aligning with the European Union, rather than alienating those countries, to bring additional pressure on Beijing.

On impeachment, Ms Pelosi didn’t rule out the investigation continuing into 2020 – an election year – saying the emergence of new investigative leads cannot be predicted.

“There is – I should say – a mountain of concerns to be brought up,” she said, while also acknowledging the public’s attention span was limited. “When does the law of diminished returns set in?”

“There has to be clarity” for the public in any case for impeachment, she added, noting that the July 25th phone call between Mr Trump and Ukraine’s president, in which the US president asked for an investigation into his political rival Joe Biden, provided such clarity. “Of course it changed everything in the public mind.”

Mr Trump, she noted, had described the call as perfect. “No, it’s perfectly wrong – you can’t do that,” she said.

If the House takes a formal vote on articles of impeachment, possibly before the end of the year, it would take a two-thirds majority vote in the Republican-controlled Senate to convict the president, and therefore remove him from office. That’s an outcome viewed at this point as highly unlikely.

Party-line vote

Ms Pelosi has staunchly defended Thursday’s mostly straight party-line vote to formally initiate the investigation, though she had been saying for months such a vote was unnecessary.

Two Democrats who represent Republican-leaning districts voted against the measure laying out the investigative steps ahead. Not a single Republican House member voted in favour. Michigan representative Justin Amash, a Republican turned independent who has been a Trump critic, voted for the resolution.

A super-Pac political fundraising committee aligned with Republicans announced immediately after the vote that it would target digital advertising against the 29 Democrats representing Trump-won districts who voted for the investigation.

Those more moderate Democrats were central to Ms Pelosi’s party winning the House majority in 2018. Mr Trump’s re-election campaign this week debuted a national television commercial attacking Democrats, including Ms Pelosi, for not focusing on “real issues”.

Mr Trump, just the fourth president to be subject to a formal impeachment effort, will have to keep the Republican Party unified not just to prevent his removal from office by the Senate but also at the hands of voters in 2020. – Bloomberg