WASHINGTON — North Carolina Republicans are using procedural arguments to dismiss the relevance of the U.S. House impeachment investigation against President Donald Trump.
In their first full week back on Capitol Hill since House Democrats launched a formal impeachment inquiry late last month, North Carolina Republicans asked about the allegations against the president replied by decrying the Democrats’ tactics as opaque and unfair.
Asked if he has any concerns about the president’s actions, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), one of Trump’s most vocal allies in the House voiced concerns about how House Democratic leadership has proceeded with its investigation into allegations that Trump pressured the Ukrainian president to meddle in the 2020 U.S. presidential election.
“I’ve been on this impeachment thing for three years, and I’ve seen so many allegations and accusations made that were not based on fact,” said Meadows, who sits on one of the committees leading the impeachment inquiry.
“I’m all about believing that we need to have a transparent, open process. Hopefully at the end of the day … Americans will not view it not through my lens, not through a Democrat lens, but through the eye of justice and fairness,” he told Policy Watch in a brief interview this week.
The Trump administration announced this month that it wouldn’t cooperate with the House impeachment inquiry, and top administration officials have defied House subpoenas issued as part of the impeachment inquiry.
Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.), vice chairman of the House Republican Conference, also pointed to concerns with Democrats’ procedures when asked whether he had concerns about the administration’s refusal to comply with subpoenas.
“We’re concerned by the entire process,” he said, lamenting that lawmakers who aren’t on the committees leading the inquiry don’t have full access to witness testimony and documents that are kept behind closed doors.
“What I am concerned about is the American people need to get all the facts,” he said. “If Congress is even struggling to get all the facts into what’s going on, then it’s difficult for us to communicate with the American people.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) 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.
All nine North Carolina Republicans in the U.S. House have signed on as co-sponsors of a resolution to censure Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.). The resolution accuses Schiff of misrepresenting Trump’s July phone call with the Ukrainian president when Schiff spoke about the call during a September hearing.
“It is clear that Chairman Adam Schiff cannot be trusted to run an unbiased investigation,” Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) wrote this week in a tweet. “I joined my colleagues on the censure resolution because @HouseDems need to stop playing partisan political games and return to a process that is fair, objective, and fact-based.”
That resolution is expected to fail in the Democratic-controlled House.
North Carolina Republicans have also depicted the impeachment investigations as a distraction. Rep. David Rouzer (R-N.C.) wrote earlier this month: “It’s time for Democrats to end their impeachment obsession and focus on issues like infrastructure important to all Americans.”
Dems say they have no choice
North Carolina Democrats, meanwhile, are defending the investigation into Trump’s behavior. To ignore his actions, they say, would be to shirk their responsibilities as elected officials.
“At a certain point this becomes so egregious and so threatening that it’s our duty to deal with it,” said Rep. David Price (D-N.C.). “That doesn’t mean it’s the only thing we do, in fact we’re proceeding on a number of fronts, legislatively, but we’ve got to do this to protect the Constitution and protect our democracy. I really don’t think that’s too strong a way to put it.”
Price said his constituents are “really troubled” by the revelations about Trump’s attempts to exert pressure on Ukraine.
“I don’t think anybody’s ever had much doubt that Trump was impeachable, that wasn’t the issue,” he said. “Now it’s much more unequivocal, that you guys have to do this, you just have to do it.”
Price dismissed some of the procedural complaints his GOP colleagues have made. “If there’s a genuine procedural question that is not a procedural move we’re making that isn’t justified, then let’s talk about it. Otherwise, stop carping at the process,” he said.
Rep. G. K. Butterfield (D-N.C.) said Democrats are on “good, solid legal ground” in their investigations. And while his colleagues are parsing through new evidence, he said he’s made up his mind on the matter.
“Oh, my position has been fixed for the last four months,” he told Policy Watch. “I’m going to vote for inquiry, impeachment, removal, whatever, conviction and removal.”
If the House votes to impeach Trump, which it could do as early as this year, the Senate would hold a trial. 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 have either expressed no problems with Trump’s actions or said they disagree with the impeachment inquiry. The Post puts Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) in the camp supporting Trump unequivocally; it puts Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) among those who have expressed questions or concerns.
But House Democrats say they can’t decline to move forward with impeachment proceedings just because removal by the Senate appears unlikely.
“We’re two bodies,” said Rep. Alma Adams (D-N.C.) “The House needs to do its work. The Senate hasn’t done anything. I’m a member of the House.”