The broadcast and cable networks have not yet announced their plans, but the hearing likely will get the same amount of coverage as that of last week’s House Intelligence Committee inquiry, which featured five days of witness testimony. ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS each pre-empted regular daytime programming to air the hearings.
The hearing will have a different set of figures presiding – Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) chairs the Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) is its ranking member. But the surroundings will look familiar: The hearing will be held in the same Longworth Office Building room as the Intelligence hearings, a space that is regularly used by the Ways and Means Committee. It’s the largest hearing room on the House side of the Capitol, and even has been compared to a small theater.
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Nadler sent a letter to Trump, giving him notice of the hearing and asking him if “you and your counsel plan to attend the hearing or make a request to question the witness panel.”
Nadler said that he wrote to Trump to remind him that the rules allow for him to be there, or for a representative to be there.
“At base, the president has a choice to make: he can take this opportunity to be represented in the impeachment hearings, or he can stop complaining about the process,” Nadler said in a statement. “I hope that he chooses to participate in the inquiry, directly or through counsel, as other Presidents have done before him.”
Earlier on Tuesday, Trump wrote on Twitter that “the D.C. Wolves and Fake News Media are reading far too much into people being forced by Courts to testify before Congress. I am fighting for future Presidents and the Office of the President. Other than that, I would actually like people to testify.”
A federal judge ruled on Monday that Don McGahn, the former White House counsel, would have to honor a congressional subpoena to testify, although he also could exert executive privilege in responding to questions.
John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser, has declined to appear before congressional committees as they conduct their impeachment inquiry, and current members of the administration including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry and Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney have rebuffed subpoenas issued by House Democrats. Trump wrote that he would “love” to have them testify about the “Phony Impeachment Hoax.”
Democrats do not want the impeachment inquiry to get bogged down in courts for months, and have instead indicated that failure to comply with subpoenas will be viewed as evidence of obstruction. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff earlier this week wrote that they are writing a report that summarizes the evidence gathered so far, and that it would be delivered to the Judiciary Committee early next week.
Schiff wrote that “the fact that the President has uniformly instructed all executive branch agencies and senior officials to obstruct the investigation further demonstrates consciousness of guilt on the part of the President.”
There had been some buzz that the Judiciary Committee, as it considers drawing up articles of impeachment, would focus on bigger picture issues, with constitutional law experts or historians.
In the letter to Trump, Nadler said that at the hearing, “we expect to discuss the constitutional framework through which the House may analyze the evidence gathered in the present inquiry. We will also discuss whether your alleged actions warrant the House’s exercising its authority to adopt articles of impeachment.”
The audiences for the five days of public hearings so far have ranged from 11 million to almost 14 million. Those aren’t blockbuster numbers, but they aren’t terrible, either.
Initial polls, however, show that the television event may not have significantly swayed public opinion, either way. A CNN poll conducted by SSRS showed that 50% believe that Trump should be impeached and removed from office, and 43% believe that he should not. Those numbers are identical to a poll in October. There was slight uptick in those that believe that Trump “improperly used the presidency to gain political advantage against a potential 2020 opponent.” Some pollsters noted that Democrats’ hearings may have been well timed in that support for impeachment appeared to have been on the decline until the public testimony.
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