House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., is leading the impeachment inquiry.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., is leading the impeachment inquiry. [J. Scott Applewhite | AP]

Lawmakers Head Home For 2 Weeks, But Impeachment Inquiry Rolls On

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House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, now the lead lawmaker in the impeachment inquiry of President Trump, says his panel will be working through the scheduled upcoming two-week congressional recess.

“I can tell you it’s going to be a very busy couple of weeks ahead,” Schiff told reporters Friday. The chairman said the committee is trying to schedule hearings and witness interviews, as well as working on document requests and possible subpoenas.

Asked how Congress will respond if the White House stonewalls congressional requests — as they have on virtually all other lines of inquiry — he responded: “They’ll just strengthen the case of obstruction.”

Sen. Jim Himes, D-Conn., a senior member of the intelligence committee, said he will spend part of the recess on a codel — a trip abroad for lawmakers — but he declined to identify the locale, or whether it included Ukraine. “For security reasons we don’t like to talk about destinations,” Himes said, but he echoed Schiff that the panel would be working throughout the recess and that panel members may return to Washington.

“The speaker has made it very clear that we are not to let momentum drop in this two weeks,” he said.

Himes said one witness the committee would like to hear from his Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who is a figure in the July 25 call that sparked a whistleblower complaint that has led to the impeachment inquiry. Giuliani has met with Ukrainian officials in regards to the president’s request to investigate the Biden family, but he has forcefully denied any wrongdoing in a number of dramatic media interviews in recent days.

In a spiral of accusations, Giuliani alleges a conspiracy involving the Obama administration, the Clinton Foundation, the Biden family, the Ukrainian government, and Ukrainian business interests. Giuliani told Fox News on Thursday that he had to investigate it because the Justice Department would not. “I got this because the FBI wouldn’t take it,” he told Fox.

“I think we need to understand who he talked to and what he said,” Himes said, “My hope would be that we could do that without creating the kind of public spectacle that seems to be his reason for being.”

Himes said the committee wants to know why a private citizen was conducting foreign policy and talking to foreign leaders on behalf of the president. “I do think we’re going to need to understand what he said, and to whom he said it,” he said.

Schiff has been assuring rank-and-file lawmakers that he will keep them up to speed on the committee’s progress. “This is very fast moving. Every single day information is coming out and we want to be able to explain to our constituents what’s going on,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., who said Schiff met with a faction of progressive lawmakers and told them he will make sure “the caucus is updated regularly.”

Generally, party leaders will convene conference calls during recess weeks if a need arises. “I have a feeling those conference calls will be packed,” Jayapal said, of the next two weeks.

Democrats so far have largely shrugged off whether the impeachment inquiry will derail the party’s ability to talk about anything else. “I’m not concerned about us slowing down our business in the House,” said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., noting the House has sent many bills over to the Senate.

“If the Senate was actually being productive and being worth their weight then I’d be concerned, but they haven’t done a damn thing all year,” She said, “There’s no leverage there in terms of their productivity, they haven’t been doing anything.”

Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., who sits on the Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees, says this recess will allow lawmakers to let constituents know the gravity of the impeachment probe.

“Don’t we want to go home and talk with our constituents about this momentous decision that has been made?” he said, “We have a legislative agenda we’ve been pushing. I think going home and talking about those other things too is the surest way to reassure people that we are capable of doing more than one thing at one time.”

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