WASHINGTON (AP) — House Democrats are planning a rapid start to their push for impeachment of President Donald Trump, with hearings and depositions starting this week.
Democratic leaders have instructed committees to move quickly — and not to lose momentum — after revelations that Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate his potential 2020 Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, and his family. The action is beginning even though lawmakers left town Friday for a two-week recess.
The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., says his committee is moving “expeditiously” on hearings and subpoenas. That committee, as well as the House Oversight and Reform Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee, have scheduled depositions starting this week for State Department officials linked to Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.
A look at next steps as Democrats march toward an impeachment vote:
A BUSY RECESS
Members of the House Intelligence Committee have been told to be prepared to return to Washington during the break. California Rep. Jackie Speier said she has already canceled some of her previous commitments.
“We’re expected to be here,” Speier said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has told the Democrats they need to “strike while the iron is hot” on impeachment, sending the committees into overdrive. Connecticut Rep. Jim Himes, a Democrat, said a plan is “being formed very rapidly.”
“What I know for sure is that momentum will not slow,” Himes said.
Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., said they will have to “work harder” and “sleep less.”
LONG WITNESS LIST, QUICK TIMELINE
Schiff’s committee has been negotiating to interview the whistleblower who began the firestorm by reporting to the inspector general for the intelligence community that Trump had urged the investigations on a July phone call with Zelenskiy.
Schiff told ABC’s “This Week” that his panel had reached agreement to hear from the whistleblower, who would testify “very soon.” Schiff said the exact date would depend in part on how quickly acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire completes the security clearance process for the whistleblower’s lawyers. “We’ll keep obviously riding shotgun to make sure the acting director doesn’t delay in that clearance process,” Schiff said.
The complaint from the whistleblower, whose identity is not publicly known, was released last week after Maguire withheld it from Congress for weeks. In the complaint, the whistleblower said White House officials moved to “lock down” the details of Trump’s call by putting all the records of it on a separate computer system.
The inspector general who handled that complaint, Michael Atkinson, is slated to testify to the Intelligence Committee in private on Friday, according to a person familiar with the committee who was spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
Lawmakers on the committee say they also want to speak to White House aides who were present for the call and to Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, who urged the investigations. Giuliani told ABC on Sunday that he “wouldn’t cooperate” with Schiff, but if Trump “decides that he wants me to testify, of course I’ll testify.” Schiff says he hasn’t decided whether he wants to hear from Giuliani.
Democrats say they hope to finish the investigation in a matter of weeks — perhaps even before Thanksgiving.
ARTICLES OF IMPEACHMENT
Once the committees have finished their own investigations, the committees will submit their findings to the House Judiciary Committee, which oversees the impeachment process.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., who serves on the Judiciary Committee, said the Intelligence Committee will be the “star of the show” as it investigates Trump’s activities related to Ukraine. Articles of impeachment would be drafted by the Judiciary Committee and, if adopted, sent to the House floor.
The Judiciary Committee chairman, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., has said he wants resolution on impeachment by the end of the year. Jayapal said that deadline “absolutely” stands, and that the plan is to be done before January, or “perhaps sooner.”
Republicans have focused their ire about impeachment on the Democrats, criticizing the probes as a rerun of a two-year investigation into Russian election interference in the 2016 election.
California Rep. Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee, said Democrats “don’t want answers, they want a public spectacle.”
“They have been trying to reverse the results of the 2016 election since President Trump took office,” said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.
If the House votes to approve charges against Trump, the Republican-led Senate would then hold a trial.
Some Senate Republicans have expressed concerns about Trump’s interactions with Ukraine, but there are few signs that there would be enough discontent to convict the president, who still has strong support in the GOP ranks. If Trump were impeached, it would take a two-thirds vote in the Senate to convict him and remove him from office. A memorandum from Senate Republicans circulated over the weekend acknowledged it would be hard for McConnell to block an impeachment trial, but he could deflect any House-approved impeachment articles to a committee.
The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., has said his committee will investigate the Ukraine matter but “don’t expect us to move at light speed — that will probably happen in the House.”
A NOD TO HISTORY
Trump would join a rare group if the House moves forward toward impeachment. Only two presidents have been impeached: Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998. Both won acquittal in the Senate.
President Richard Nixon, who faced impeachment proceedings, resigned from office in 1974.
Georgia Won’t Examine DNA Evidence That Could Vindicate A Man On Death Row, Who’s Being Executed Tonight
A Georgia man on death row in Georgia is scheduled to be executed Wednesday evening with a lethal injection, although he repeatedly insists that the state examine crucial DNA evidence that could exonerate him.
Ray “Jeff” Cromartie, 52, acknowledges being involved in a robbery in a shop near the Georgia-Florida border in 1994 that left one clerk dead, but he has long confirmed that he was not the person who shot the gun that killed Richard Slysz. He maintains his co-defendant, Corey Clark, shot Slysz, and that DNA testing on both clothing and bullet casings might prove that claim. One of the co-suspects of Cromartie also believes that Clark may have shot Slysz, and the victim’s daughter has also asked for DNA testing as well.
Since Cromartie retains his innocence, he refuses to ask the state for leniency. He also rejected the original 1997 plea deal offered to him by prosecutors, since he would be required to plead guilty.
In the second half of the nineties, both Clark and the getaway driver for the robbery, Thad Lucas, evaded the charges of murder and the death penalty for agreeing to testify for the state. In exchange, they were given shorter sentences. Meanwhile, Clark designated Cromartie as the shooter, although there was never any physical evidence that linked him to the murder. Cromartie was still convicted. Lucas and Clark both completed time in prison, but were released in the early 2000s, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Although Clark has been mainly out of sight of the public since he was accused of violating his parole back in 2015, Lucas came forward in an affidavit this week to affirm that he once overheard Clark confess, and said that he couldn’t be sure that Cromartie was the shooter after all.
“I keep hearing that Jeff Cromartie is the shooter, and I know that is probably not true,” Lucas wrote. He said he didn’t come forward earlier because he didn’t think it would change anything, but then news coverage compelled him to speak out.
Slysz’s daughter, Elizabeth Legette, has also said she supports DNA testing to prevent another “meaningless” death. “My father’s death was senseless. Executing another man would also be senseless, especially if he may not have shot my father,” she wrote in a July 16 letter released by Cromartie’s defense team.
Cromartie’s lawyers also appealed Friday, stating that in 1997, Lucas told the Georgia Board of Pardons and Probation in 1997 that Clark, not Cromartie, shot Slysz.
State attorneys, however, have argued that Lucas does not know what happened in the store on the night of the shooting (he was waiting in the car while Clark ran inside with Cromartie) and that the claims do not conform to the standard where the court would review the evidence or would hold a new trial.
As early as September, a judge ruled that the attorneys had failed to review DNA evidence and that the verdict was ratified by the Georgia Supreme Court this month. Southern Judicial Circuit Senior Judge Frank Horkan, who had originally headed Cromartie’s death penalty trial, also said in September that Cromartie waited too long to request DNA testing and that testing would make no difference.
Cromartie could still be executed, even if DNA evidence were to prove he didn’t pull the trigger due to Georgia’s law of parties, which holds people legally responsible, also if they are involved in a crime and not the main culprit of a crime such as murder.
Currently, Cromartie is scheduled to die by lethal injection at 7.00 pm EST. in Georgia Diagnostic Prison in Jackson. He is said to be the third prisoner to be executed in Georgia in 2019, and at least the second high-profile execution of a black man who insists he can be acquitted by DNA evidence. Rodney Reed, a Texas man on death row who claims to be innocent of the murder he was indicted, is due to be executed on November 20. According to the Innocence Project, a legal organization that’s representing Reed in his call to survive, DNA evidence has exonerated at least 20 people in death row.
Live coverage of developments in Ray Cromartie’s execution happening below.
In-depth coverage of the impeachment hearings.
Incident At Schiphol Airport
Police are responding to an incident on board a plane at Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam.
Police have surrounded an Air Europa plane at a cargo area of Schiphol Airport following an incident on board.
The Royal Dutch Military Police have confirmed they are investigating a suspicious situation aboard an aircraft at Schiphol Airport.
German Outlet Nieuwsuur reports that scanner traffic indicates a ”heavily armed Special Security Unit DSI” has arrived at the airport.
More to come.