WASHINGTON — House Democrats have resigned themselves to the likelihood that impeachment proceedings against President Trump will extend into the Christmas season, as they plan a series of public hearings intended to make the simplest and most devastating possible public case in favor of removing Mr. Trump.
Democratic leaders had hoped to move as soon as Thanksgiving to wrap up a narrow inquiry focused around Mr. Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, buoyed by polling data that shows that the public supports the investigation, even if voters are not yet sold on impeaching the president.
But after a complicated web of damaging revelations about the president has emerged from private depositions unfolding behind closed doors, Democratic leaders have now begun plotting a full-scale — and probably more time-consuming — effort to lay out their case in a set of high-profile public hearings on Capitol Hill.
Their goal is to convince the public — and if they can, more Republicans — that the president committed an impeachable offense when he demanded that Ukraine investigate his political rivals.
“Just the facts baby,” said Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. “If we tell that story with simplicity and repetition, the American people will understand why the president must be held accountable. If we don’t, then there is great uncertainty, and in that vacuum Donald Trump may find himself escaping accountability again.”
Mr. Trump, increasingly embittered by the impeachment inquiry, complained on Monday that Republicans were not defending him aggressively enough.
“Republicans have to get tougher and fight,” Mr. Trump said during a rambling, hourlong question-and-answer session with reporters at a cabinet meeting. “We have some that are great fighters, but they have to get tougher and fight, because the Democrats are trying to hurt the Republican Party for the election, which is coming up, where we’re doing very well.”
The president belittled Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, one of the only members of his party who has signaled he may be open to impeaching Mr. Trump, underscoring how anxious the senator’s defection has made him about possible cracks in support from his own party.
Launching into a series of attacks on Democrats, Mr. Trump said approvingly that they were “vicious and they stick together. They don’t have Mitt Romney in their midst — they don’t have people like that.”
“They stick together,” Mr. Trump added. “You never see them break off.”
It was the second time in as many days that he has complained about a lack of support from Republicans.
“When do the Do Nothing Democrats pay a price for what they are doing to our Country, & when do the Republicans finally fight back?” Mr. Trump tweeted late Sunday night.
The president’s allies on Capitol Hill tried Monday to ramp up their defense of the president by forcing a vote in the House to censure Representative Adam B. Schiff, the California Democrat who is leading the impeachment inquiry as the chairman of the Intelligence Committee. The vote, which failed in the Democratic-led chamber, was a display of Republican solidarity for Mr. Trump.
There are risks for Democrats in the longer timeline, which could make it more difficult for lawmakers in politically competitive districts, who fear a backlash from constituents if they appear to be preoccupied with targeting Mr. Trump instead of addressing major issues such as gun safety or health care.
And Democrats are all too aware that Mr. Trump has succeeded in the past in steering the subject away from allegations of misconduct on his part, as he did with the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election conducted by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III.
This time, Democratic leaders hope to deny him the opportunity.
They have issued subpoenas to a growing cast of characters, including Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s private lawyer who is at the center of the Ukraine pressure campaign, and have demanded documents from Vice President Mike Pence. They have invited or compelled Trump administration officials past and present to appear at the Capitol before rolling television cameras, and cloistered them behind closed doors to extract a daily drip of testimony that backs up their case.
That effort continues Tuesday when William B. Taylor Jr., the top American diplomat in Ukraine, is scheduled to testify behind closed doors about text messages in which he wrote to other officials that it was “crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.” On Wednesday, investigators will question Laura Cooper, a Pentagon official, about decisions to hold up Ukraine’s military aid.
Several other depositions of administration officials have been delayed until next week because of events honoring Representative Elijah E. Cummings, the Maryland Democrat who died last week, Democratic officials said.
To keep Republicans on the defensive in the interim, Speaker Nancy Pelosi held a House vote last week on Mr. Trump’s decision to pull back American troops from Syria — which was widely panned by lawmakers in both parties — and will force a vote this week on measures to combat foreign election interference.
On Monday, Ms. Pelosi offered the latest bit of what has become a daily, sometimes hourly, stream of information to shape the Democrats’ argument, circulating a fact sheet for reporters entitled “Truth Exposed: The Shakedown, the Pressure Campaign and the Cover-up” to sum up what has been learned about the Ukraine affair so far, along with a 90-second video laying out the case for impeaching Mr. Trump.
Ms. Pelosi’s aides have advised lawmakers to avoid talking at length about bit players or subplots in the drama they are unspooling, emphasizing the need to return again and again to Mr. Trump’s own words from a July phone call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine. “Do Us a Favor,” a quote from a reconstructed transcript of that call, was the title of their video.
Democratic leaders have pushed lawmakers with backgrounds in law enforcement or national security to make television appearances to discuss the inquiry, including Representative Elissa Slotkin of Michigan, a former C.I.A. analyst; Representative Val Demings of Florida, a former police chief; and Representative Tom Malinowski of New Jersey, a former State Department official.
“If we get mired in esoteric process concerns, we will lose the ability to tell a powerful story to the American people about the abuse of power that is connected to the Trump-Ukraine scandal,” Mr. Jeffries said.
Some Republicans, already uneasy about the allegations at the heart of the Ukraine inquiry, have grown increasingly uncomfortable with Mr. Trump’s behavior, and unwilling to defend him on a range of topics, including the Syria decision and his plan — abruptly abandoned in the face of a bipartisan outcry — to hold the Group of 7 summit of world leaders at one of his resorts in Florida.
The admission — later recanted — by Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, of a quid pro quo linking foreign aid to Mr. Trump’s effort to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rivals, was a worrying piece of evidence for nervous Republicans that the president and his team are woefully unprepared to confront the impeachment onslaught.
Mr. Romney, a frequent Trump critic, has called the president’s attempts to solicit dirt on a political rival “wrong and appalling.”
While there is no evidence that other Republicans are taking their cues from Mr. Romney, he is not the only member of the party to publicly express concern. Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, said last week that a president should never “hold up foreign aid that we had previously appropriated for a political initiative. Period.” Representative Francis Rooney, Republican of Florida who announced that he will not run for re-election, declined to rule out supporting impeachment. John Kasich, the former Republican governor of Ohio, said impeachment should move forward.
During his remarks at the White House, the president blasted House Democrats for pursuing impeachment, calling the effort to oust him “very bad for our country” and suggesting that dealing with the inquiry was getting in the way of more important issues.
“I have to fight off these lowlifes at the same time I’m negotiating these very important things,” Mr. Trump said.
Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com