WASHINGTON - Arizona lawmakers split on party lines Thursday as the House passed a resolution that lays out the framework for the next public phase of the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
The 232-196 vote followed two hours of fiery debate, in which Republicans like Peoria Rep. Debbie Lesko called the resolution a "total sham" that violates basic standards of fairness by not giving Trump due process.
"It misleads the American public ... the process set forth in this resolution is far from open and far from transparent," Lesko said on the House floor."In fact, it is the exact opposite." But Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Tucson, said after the vote that the resolution "establishes the rules of the public hearings that will expose Trump's cover-ups, corruption, and shake-downs." He said Republicans will have to decide whether to "defend a corrupt president" or "defend the Constitution" they swore to uphold.
That partisan split mirrored the full House, which saw 231 Democrats and one independent vote for the measure and 194 Republicans and two Democrats oppose it. All four Republicans in Arizona's delegation opposed the resolution, while all five Democrats backed it. The vote comes a little more than a month after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the start of an impeachment inquiry, in the wake of a White House whistleblower's concerns about a Trump July 25 call to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky. The whistleblower said Trump appeared to ask for political favor during that call in exchange for hundreds of millions in U.S. aid the Ukrainians were seeking. In the weeks since Pelosi's announcement, three House committees - Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs - have been meeting behind closed doors to investigate the allegations.
Republican lawmakers and the White House have complained loudly about secret proceedings and the fact that the House never voted to tell the committees to proceed. The House did just that Thursday, directing those three committees to continue their investigations and adding the Judiciary Committee, where Trump will be allowed to have attorneys to present evidence in his defense. The resolution says House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and the ranking committee member, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., would jointly lead any public hearings. Republicans could request their own witnesses - but those witnesses would have to be approved by the majority. Schiff would have the right to either release or withhold any transcript from the closed-door hearings, a section attacked by Republicans like Rep. Andy Biggs of Gilbert. He also noted that, despite Thursday's vote, Democrats already have scheduled another week of closed-door hearings. "If this is about transparency, then open it up if you want the American people to see it," Biggs said. "Give members access to the transcript, let the media into the room. Let us participate. Failing to do so denies transparency." The resolution's author disagreed, saying the proposed rules are more than fair to Trump. "This resolution provides better protection to the president than what (President Bill) Clinton or (President Richard) Nixon received," said Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., citing Congress' last two impeachment proceedings. In a statement after the vote, the White House said Trump "has done nothing wrong and the Democrats know it," but are wasting time on an impeachment instead of focusing on pressing issues such as lowering prescription drug costs and securing the southern border.