Impeachment Proceedings – What Happened?

“AAAAaaaaa!!! MOOOOooooMMM!!!!” [Screaming, scrambling, banging]

The life of a mom, right? 

Stuff happens. We can’t avoid it. The hardest part, though, is that I’m not always right there watching what everyone is doing. That means I have to mediate and make decisions based on the evidence alone, which isn’t always easy to get. Between the blubbering and crying, the mumbled replies and even refusals to cooperate with my information gathering, it can be pretty tough. 

But hey, that’s what moms do, right?

To get to the bottom of what’s going on, I tend to roughly follow these steps to collect information:

  1. Find out what happened (a multi-stage process really)
  2. Get more context.
  3. Consider appropriate consequences.

I have to be honest. As I try to keep up with political issues and hear all sides, it starts to feel A LOT like talking with my kids — kids with a bigger vocabulary. To that end, I’m going to walk you through the information I’ve collected so far surrounding the impeachment inquiry into President Trump. 

I’m more of a linear thinker. I like to know at least the rough sequence of events. It just helps me understand what I’m looking at and what’s really going on. Here’s what I’ve got so far with the impeachment inquiry.

  • Knowledge of whistleblower letter expressing “urgent concern” sparks preliminary investigations.
  • White House releases summary of phone call between President Trump and Ukraine’s president which took place earlier this year
  • Whistleblower letter is published
  • Impeachment inquiry begins at the guidance of House Majority leaders in closed-door meetings conducted through the Foreign Affairs, Intelligence, and Oversight committees. 
  • The White House objects and instructs State Department and other executive agencies to NOT cooperate with Congress regarding the impeachment inquiry.
  • Subpoenas are sent to several people in order to get needed testimony.
  • Several people come forward, in spite of objections and discouragement from their superiors, to testify in closed-door hearings.
  • Republican House representatives object and demand a formalized impeachment inquiry to establish ground rules 
  • The House of Representatives vote and the impeachment inquiry is formalized to include public hearings that will be conducted by six committees (Financial Services, the Judiciary, Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, Oversight and Reform, and Ways and Means).
  • Public hearings began last week.

I’m a nerd. I extensively research the terms to help reduce confusion and hopefully avoid getting fooled by people who pass around misinformation. You can find a chunk of that research at the end of the sequence of events for anyone who’s interested. 

It all started with an anonymous whistleblower sending a letter, addressed to the two chairmen of the Senate and House Intelligence committees, explaining a matter of “urgent concern”. What was the concern? Let me directly quote: 

“In the course of my official duties, I have received information from multiple U.S. Government officials that the President of the United States is using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election.” 

-Whistleblower

That letter from the Whistleblower sparked a preliminary investigation to see if there was any validity to the claim. Among the information collected was the best recalled transcript of a phone call between President Trump and the President of Ukraine. Based on that phone call, the House of Representatives continued to move forward with their information gathering and requested to speak to several key government officials, witnesses to the alleged events. 

The State Department, led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, asked for more time and advised employees not to testify. After some back and forth the House issued subpoenas to a handful of witnesses. Certain witnesses then came forward and testified before the Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, and Oversight House Committees in a number of closed-door meetings. Both Republicans and Democrats, as members of the respective committees, were present during these closed-door hearings, though Republicans clearly disapproved of the proceedings. 

Republicans voiced objections to the Democrat-led House approach to the impeachment inquiry and demanded that the House, together, vote on and formalize the impeachment proceedings. Demands escalated to include several Representatives storming a closed-door hearing of one of the committees. 

In response to the objections, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi then called for a formalizing of the impeachment inquiry and called for a vote. All but two of elected Democrats voted in favor of the impeachment inquiry proceedings, and all Republicans voted against it. Since the majority of the House of Representatives are from the Democratic party, the motion carried and the proceedings were approved. 

Now six committees in the House of Representatives are tasked to hold open hearings to gather information: Financial Services, the Judiciary, Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, Oversight and Reform, and Ways and Means. Public hearings began last week.

There is still a lot to sort through as things continue to progress, but ya gotta start somewhere.

Research Section:

House Rules:

Every two years Congress is organized, starting from the 1st United States Congress in 1789. We are now in the 116th Congress. Congress, when organized, has an opportunity to establish rules for how they will carry out their responsibilities. The last time they voted on House rules for impeachment was in 2015 under a Republican-led house. Rules have been followed since then, even though there has been a little confusion around this subject. Either way, at this point all demands have been met for formalizing the impeachment proceedings. 

Subpoena: 

an official order to produce testimony or evidence. This usually comes from a court of law or may also come from a government agency. Failure to follow the subpoena request may result in a fine or whatever the issuing agency may feel is appropriate. It’s called being in “contempt”. So basically, this is like, “Hey, get over here and testify” with a consequence attached to it. Boy, I wish I could use this on my kids sometimes. Hey kid, here’s a subpoena to tell me the truth about what happened. If you don’t tell me, you owe me $2 or you have to go to your room. You don’t have any money, so I guess you’ll be going to your room. 

Committees: 

As enormous (and that’s not an exaggeration) of a beast as our government is, Congress keeps track of various aspects through specific committees. Committee members are only elected representatives (politicians). Whatever political party is in the majority in the House or Senate also reflects in the majority of the members of each committee as well as the chairperson of the committee. (Now we see another reason why parties care who holds the majority.) 

The title of each committee usually gives us a hint as to what each committee is supposed to do. The House and Senate have their own committees, some sharing the same name but with slightly different tasks. I’ll define the six committees of the HOUSE which are relevant to the impeachment inquiry. 

Committee name: Financial Services
Chairperson: Maxine Waters (D-CA)
Number of total members: 60
Number of Republicans: 26
Number of Democrats: 34
Primary responsibility: The Committee oversees all components of the nation’s housing and financial services sectors including banking, insurance, real estate, public and assisted housing, and securities. The Committee continually reviews the laws and programs relating to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Federal Reserve Bank, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and international development and finance agencies such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The Committee also ensures enforcement of housing and consumer protection laws such as the U.S. Housing Act, the Truth In Lending Act, the Housing and Community Development Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, the Community Reinvestment Act, and financial privacy laws.

Committee name: Judiciary
Chairperson: Jerry Nadler (D-NY)
Number of total members:41
Number of Republicans: 17
Number of Democrats: 24
Primary responsibility: It is charged with overseeing the administration of justice within the federal courts, administrative agencies and Federal law enforcement entities. The Judiciary Committee is also the committee responsible for impeachments of federal officials. Because of the legal nature of its oversight, committee members usually have a legal background, but this is not required.

Committee name: Intelligence
Chairperson: Adam Schiff (D-CA)
Number of total members: 25
Number of Republicans: 11 (2 of which were added specifically for the impeachment proceedings)
Number of Democrats:14
Primary responsibility: It is charged with the oversight of the United States Intelligence Community (such as the FBI, CIA, Defense Intelligence Agency, etc.), though it does share some jurisdiction with other committees in the House, including the Armed Services Committee for some matters dealing with the Department of Defense and the various branches of the U.S. military.

Committee name: Foreign Affairs
Chairperson: Eliot Engel (D-NY)
Number of total members:47
Number of Republicans: 21
Number of Democrats: 26
Primary responsibility: It is responsible for oversight and legislation relating to: foreign assistance; national security developments affecting foreign policy; strategic planning and agreements; war powers, treaties, executive agreements, and the deployment and use of United States Armed Forces; peacekeeping, peace enforcement, and enforcement of United Nations or other international sanctions; arms control and disarmament issues; the International Development Finance Corporation, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID); activities and policies of the State, Commerce, and Defense Departments and other agencies related to the Arms Export Control Act and the Foreign Assistance Act, including export and licensing policy for munitions items and technology and dual-use equipment and technology; international law; promotion of democracy; international law enforcement issues, including narcotics control programs and activities; international cyber issues; U.S. Agency for Global Media; embassy security; international broadcasting; public diplomacy, including international communication and information policy, and international education and exchange programs; and all other matters not specifically assigned to a subcommittee. 

Committee name: Oversight and Reform
Chairperson (Acting): Carolyn Maloney (D-NY)
Number of total members: 40
Number of Republicans: 18
Number of Democrats: 22
Primary responsibility: This is the committee who has the power to issue subpoenas on behalf of the House of Representatives. It has oversight over federal civil service, municipal affairs of the District of Columbia in general (other than appropriations); federal paperwork reduction; government management and accounting measures generally; holidays and celebrations (so we know who to bother for those extra holidays we’d like to make official); overall economy, efficiency, and management of government operations and activities, including federal procurement; national archives; population and demography generally, including the census (anyone working on this next year??); postal service generally, including transportation of the mails; public information and records; relationship of the federal government to the states and municipalities generally; and reorganizations in the executive branch of the government.

Committee name: Ways and Means
Chairperson: Richard Neal (D-MA)
Number of total members:42
Number of Republicans:17
Number of Democrats: 25
Primary responsibility: It is the chief tax-writing committee of the United States House of Representatives. Members of the Ways and Means Committee are not allowed to serve on any other House Committees unless they apply for a waiver from their party’s congressional leadership. The Committee has jurisdiction over all taxation, tariffs, and other revenue-raising measures, as well as a number of other programs including: Social Security, Unemployment insurance, Medicare, Enforcement of child support laws, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Foster care and adoption programs

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