(Bloomberg) -- The impeachment of President Donald Trump moves to one of the most polarized committees in Congress where Republicans known for their combativeness will pose a test of Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler’s ability to keep the proceedings under control.
Nadler’s committee will ultimately be the one that draws up articles of impeachment -- based on the Intelligence Committee investigation of Trump’s interactions with Ukraine -- that almost certainly will be presented to the full House for a vote.
In contrast with the relative decorum seen in the Intelligence panel hearings last month, the Judiciary members reflect Congress‘s widest cultural and ideological extremes and are “a bunch of brawlers,” said Representative Andy Biggs, an Arizona Republican.
“It should get pretty, pretty hot and under the collar as we go along,” Biggs, chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said Sunday on Fox News. He predicted that the Judiciary sessions will become “much more feisty, I would say, than the Intel Committee was.”
The Intelligence Committee’s report on its investigation, released Tuesday, said the president abused his office by pressuring Ukraine’s government to deliver a political favor, then seeking to hide his conduct and obstruct a congressional investigation. His conduct, the report said, compromised national security, and he continued seeking foreign assistance to investigate a 2020 election rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.
“This continued solicitation of foreign interference in a U.S. election presents a clear and present danger that the president will continue to use the power of his office for his personal political gain,” the report’s summary said.
The report didn’t recommend whether Trump should be impeached, and Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, said that decision should be made by the full House.
The Judiciary panel will hear Wednesday from four prominent law professors -- three called by the Democrats and one by the Republicans -- on the constitutional standards for impeaching the president. The hearing is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m.
Nadler hasn’t said whether he’ll hold further hearings before the committee decides on drafting impeachment articles to present to the full House for a vote Democrats intend to come before Christmas.
In a letter to Trump on Friday, Nadler said his committee will weigh investigative findings on an “effort in which President Trump again sought foreign interference in our elections for his personal and political benefit at the expense of our national interest.”
On Monday, the top Republican on the Judiciary panel, Doug Collins of Georgia, wrote to Nadler complaining of artificial deadlines for a Trump defense and a denial of fairness and due process heading into Wednesday’s hearing.
White House Counsel Pat Cipollone notified Nadler on Sunday that Trump and his lawyers would not be participating for those reasons on Wednesday.
The rules for questioning witnesses will be the same as those used by the Intelligence panel -- an extended first round by the top Democratic and GOP members or their staff attorneys, followed by questions from rank and file lawmakers.
One key difference will be the cumbersome size of the Judiciary Committee, which includes 24 Democrats and 17 Republicans, compared with the Intelligence Committee’s 13 Democrats and nine Republicans.
The Judiciary panel is a diverse collection of lawmakers reflecting a wide variety of ideological outlooks. Ultra-conservatives Jim Jordan of Ohio, Louie Gohmert of Texas and Matt Gaetz of Florida are part of a GOP roster that includes just two women and no African Americans.
On the Democratic side sits a racially and ethnically diverse group that includes 11 women and some of Congress’s farthest left-leaning members. They include Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, Steve Cohen of Tennessee, Jamie Raskin of Maryland, Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chair Pramila Jayapal of Washington State -- and Nadler, who represents parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn.
The Judiciary Committee often focuses on hot-button issues such as gun control, the death penalty, sentencing guidelines, immigration reform and same-sex marriage.
During the Trump presidency it has reflected even stronger partisanship. The previous chairman, Republican Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, oversaw inquiries into the FBI’s investigations of Hillary Clinton and Russian election interference. When Democrats took over in January, Nadler started probing alleged abuses of power by Trump.
Even before reports emerged in late September that Trump sought political help from Ukraine’s president while withholding military aid and an invitation to a White House meeting, Nadler had already declared that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s findings on Russian election meddling in 2016 amounted to “very substantial evidence that the president is guilty of high crime and misdemeanors.”
Nadler, now serving his 14th full term, took the anti-impeachment side in 1998 when Republicans tried to oust Democratic President Bill Clinton over his affair with a White House intern. He called the effort “a clearly partisan railroad job” and contended, “We’re lowering the standard of impeachment.”
Now, Nadler is being accused by the White House and Republicans of helping lead an investigation that’s skewed toward a predetermined outcome.
He has something to prove beyond whether the House has a solid case of impeachable offenses. He needs to show he can keep the process from spinning out of control into a partisan free-for-all.
That’s what happened on Sept. 17 when the Judiciary Committee questioned former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski at a hearing stemming from Mueller’s report. Lewandowski openly defied the panel by sidestepping questions, speaking over lawmakers and y even promoting a potential run for a U.S. Senate seat in New Hampshire.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi never publicly criticized Nadler, but when she announced the formal impeachment inquiry into the Ukraine allegations, she designated Schiff and the Intelligence Committee to hold the first public hearings with witnesses.
Schiff remained firmly in control of the proceedings last month. There was little combativeness from the current and former government officials who testified, though Republicans on the panel got rowdy more than once.
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