Senior Republican senators have introduced a bill condemning the “illegitimate” impeachment inquiry against Donald Trump, as the president’s party bolsters efforts to fight back against the fast-moving investigation led by House Democrats.
Lindsey Graham, the senator from South Carolina who chairs the Senate judiciary committee, and Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, introduced a resolution on Thursday condemning the process taking place in the House of Representatives.
“What is going on is a run around the impeachment process, creating a secret proceeding behind closed doors that fundamentally in my view denies due process,” Mr Graham said.
“I am not here to tell you that Donald Trump has done nothing wrong,” he added. “I am not here to tell you anything other than that the way that they are going about it is really dangerous for the country, and we need to change course while we can in the House.”
Republicans have doubled down on their criticisms of the how the impeachment inquiry is being conducted in recent days. The effort comes after William Taylor, the top US diplomat in Kiev, said in a closed-door deposition on Tuesday that the release of US military aid to Ukraine had been contingent on the country’s president publicly saying he was opening an investigation into both Burisma, an oil and gas company whose board included Hunter Biden, the son of former US vice-president Joe Biden, as well as alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 US elections.
US voters who approved of the impeachment inquiry, according to Quinnipiac University poll
On Wednesday, dozens of House Republicans, led by Mr Trump’s ally Matt Gaetz, the Republican congressman from Florida, stormed a secure hearing room that Democrats have used for the impeachment inquiry in protest of the proceedings.
Mr Graham and Mr McConnell’s resolution called on Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House, to hold a vote on the House floor to authorise an impeachment inquiry. Democrats have said a House vote is not necessary, but the White House and Republicans have pushed for one, believing that even if the majority of the House backed an inquiry, any vote would divide Democrats and unite Republicans
The resolution also demanded that the House provide Mr Trump “with due process” and said it should “provide members of the minority with the ability to participate fully in all proceedings”.
Mrs Pelosi launched a formal impeachment inquiry into Mr Trump last month, accusing him of betraying his oath of office and US national security by seeking political favours from a foreign power.
The inquiry has been led by the House intelligence committee, whose chair, Adam Schiff, has become the target of much criticism from Republicans. On Monday, House Republicans sought to censure Mr Schiff, accusing him of making a “mockery of the impeachment process” and calling for his resignation. The resolution failed on a vote divided along party lines.
The House intelligence committee, along with the House foreign affairs committee and the House oversight committee, has conducted a series of closed-door depositions with US officials in recent weeks, questioning Mr Taylor; Gordon Sondland, US ambassador to the EU; and Fiona Hill, a former top White House Russia adviser, among others.
Mr Schiff has defended conducting the questioning behind closed doors, saying the committees have followed congressional rules relating to gathering evidence and testimony from witnesses. He has emphasised that in each closed-door session, both parties have been given equal time and representation to question witnesses. Mr Schiff has also vowed to release interview transcripts to the public, with classified or sensitive information redacted, at a later date, as well as recall some of the witnesses for public hearings as soon as the first week of November.
Mr Trump is just the fourth president in US history to face impeachment proceedings. Under the US Constitution, the House has the power to impeach the president by a simple majority vote. If the president is impeached, his case will be sent to a trial in the Senate, where his removal from office is contingent on the backing of two-thirds of senators.
A Quinnipiac University poll published Wednesday found that a record high 55 per cent of American voters approved of the impeachment inquiry, a 4 percentage point increase over the same survey last week. The latest poll also found that nearly half — 48 per cent — of registered voters said Mr Trump should be impeached and removed from office.