WASHINGTON — Georgia Republicans are using procedural arguments to dismiss the relevance of the U.S. House impeachment investigation against President Donald Trump.
Asked if he has any concerns about the president’s actions, GOP Rep. Doug Collins of Gainesville — ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, one of six committees conducting the impeachment investigation — said that shouldn’t be the focus of the question.
“What concerns me more is the way that [Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi] has been handling this,” Collins told the Georgia Recorder this week in a brief interview on Capitol Hill.
Cassville Republican Rep. Barry Loudermilk — a member of the House Financial Services Committee, another committee investigating the president — shared the sentiment.
“My concern isn’t the way that the president is acting,” he said in an interview on Capitol Hill. “My concern is the process that’s taking place.”
Two of the main complaints among GOP lawmakers: House Democrats are proceeding with an impeachment inquiry without first holding a floor vote and are deposing key witnesses behind closed doors.
The process, Loudermilk and other Republicans say, is depriving the president of his “due process” rights. “The only defense the president has been given the opportunity to provide is over social media,” Loudermilk said.
Another complaint: The committee leading the investigation is now the House Intelligence Committee, a shift Loudermilk said was made to limit public access to information.
“There’s no valid reason to be going through what we’re going through right now.”
Pelosi launched the official inquiry the week leading into the two-week congressional recess, after reports alleged that Trump threatened to withhold foreign aid from Ukraine in exchange for an investigation of a major political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.
Since then, the House Intelligence Committee and two other committees have held hearings and deposed witnesses to determine whether Trump abused the power of his office. Pelosi said Thursday that the hearings have been closed to the public because lawmakers are gathering facts, in essence playing the role of special prosecutor.
Democrats also note that the Constitution does not require House Democrats to hold a floor vote before undertaking an impeachment inquiry. Doing so, some fear, could confuse members of the public, who may not distinguish between a vote supporting an impeachment inquiry from a vote to impeach the president.
And it could endanger vulnerable Democrats in swing districts, like Lucy McBath of Georgia’s 6th District. McBath, a Marietta Democrat, won the suburban Atlanta seat – once held by ex-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich — with 50.5 percent of the vote in 2018. It is regarded as a toss-up in 2020.
‘Checks and balances’
McBath told the Georgia Recorder this week that she heard a lot of views about the impeachment inquiry — pro and con — over the congressional recess, including from Trump supporters picketing her Atlanta office.
But she defended her party against GOP complaints in a short interview on Capitol Hill. “This is a process we have to have. Checks and balances. Finding the facts. … That’s simply what this is.”
Democratic Rep. Hank Johnson of Decatur got a supportive response from his constituents in Georgia’s 4th District.
“My constituents have been clamoring for me to come out in favor of impeachment,” he said. “They want it to take place as soon as possible because they believe that great damage is being done while the current president remains in office.”
On the question of process, he pointed the finger at the White House, accusing it of systemic obstruction. The White House sought to ignore congressional subpoenas and discourage administration officials from testifying.
“We will break through this massive wave of obstruction and get to the truth,” Johnson said. “We will proceed on and act in accordance with the law and eventually we will hold this president accountable.”
McBath and Johnson are both members of the House Judiciary Committee, which could vote later this year to send articles of impeachment to the House floor. Collins is the only Georgia Republican on that committee.
Loudermilk, for his part, said Democrats have nothing to go on — at least at this point — and that Democrats should focus on pressing matters of policy, like defense, trade, health care and immigration.
The standard for impeachment, he added, is not high crimes and misdemeanors but “offenses that are so egregious that you cannot allow the president to continue to the next election.”
On that, he said: “I have not seen one stitch of evidence that warrants impeachment.”
But Johnson suggested the evidence is clear. “The president has abused his power to such a degree that it puts our national security at risk.”
The House must act, he said, even though the outcome is uncertain.
To convict the president and remove him from office, a two-thirds majority is required in the Senate. At this point, that’s an unlikely prospect in the GOP-controlled chamber.
Most members of the Senate GOP conference have expressed unequivocal support for the president, according to a tally by the Washington Post. Of the 53 Republican senators, 38, including Georgia’s Johnny Isakson and David Perdue — have either expressed no problems with Trump’s actions or said they disagree with the impeachment inquiry.
Still, Johnson says prospects for impeachment may change as the process unfolds.
“As the days go by and as more revelations come to public knowledge, this will help shape senators’ attitudes so that when and if an impeachment resolution passes the House and goes to the Senate for a trial, they may be more amenable to listening to the evidence and making a conscientious decision with loyalty to the Constitution as opposed to loyalty to the current president.”