(CNSNews.com) - The House Judiciary Committee on Thursday took up a resolution that sets the rules for an impeachment hearing, or an impeachment inquiry, or whatever you want to call it. Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler made it clear he's done arguing about the terms:
This committee is engaged in an investigation that will allow us to determine whether to recommend articles of impeachment with respect to President Trump. That is what we are doing. Some call this process an impeachment inquiry. Some call it an impeachment investigation. There's no legal difference between these terms, and I no longer care to argue about the nomenclature.
In his opening statement, Nadler said, "The resolution before us represents the necessary next step in our investigation of corruption, obstruction, and abuse of power."
He said the Judiciary Committee is extending its investigation "beyond the four corners of the Mueller report" (which made insinuations but did not criminally indict the president).
But never mind that: Nadler is moving into new territory: "We have a responsibility to consider allegations of federal election crimes; self-dealing; violation of the Constitution's emoluments clause; and a failure to defend our nation from current and future attacks by foreign adversaries," he said.
Nadler also accused Trump of withholding evidence and witnesses from Congress on "indefensible legal grounds," something that merits a "congressional response."
"As members of Congress, and in particular, as members of the Judiciary Committee, we have a responsibility to investigate each of these allegation to determine the appropriate remedy," Nadler said.
"Our responsibility includes making a judgement about whether to recommend articles of impeachment. That judgement cannot be based on our feelings about President Trump. It should not be a personal reaction to misguided policies or personal behavior. It must be a decision based on the evidence before us and evidence that keeps coming in.
Nadler said neither the Constitution nor House rules require a vote by the full House for the committee to proceed with its impeachment inquiry/hearing/whatchamacallit. However, as Republicans note, there can be no formal impeachment hearing without the consent of the full House.
"There should be no doubt about our purpose," Nadler said. "We have been open about our plans in this committee for many months."
Let me clear up any remaining doubt. The conduct under investigation poses a threat to our democracy. We have an obligation to respond to this threat. We are doing so.
Under the procedures outlined in this resolution, we will hold hearings that allow us to further consider the evidence against the president. Those hearings, in addition to member questioning, will allow staff counsel to participate for one hour per witness, evenly divided between the majority and the minority. This will allow us to develop the record in ways that the five-minute rule does not always permit.
We will also allow the president to respond to the evidence in writing and on the record. No matter how we may disagree with him, President Trump is entitled to respond to the evidence in this way.
Nadler said any grand jury information made available to the committee will be discussed in closed session.
"Under these procedures, when we have finished these hearings, and considered as much evidence as we are able to gather, we will then decide whether to refer articles of impeachment to the House floor. We have a constitutional, moral and historical obligation to fully investigate these matters and to make that decision."
In response, Ranking Judiciary Committee Member Doug Collins (R-Ga.) said, "Welcome to Fantasy Island." He tweeted that the only way to launch authentic impeachment proceedings is for the full House to take a vote.
"Democrats followed the yellow brick road, and now they’re fully lost in impeachment Oz -- try as they might, they can’t find their way out of the mess they’ve made because they think 'words don’t matter,'" Collins tweeted.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) tweeted, "Democrats have NO IDEA what they are doing. Right at this moment they are holding an imaginary impeachment hearing that means nothing. But you can't impeach a president who hasn't done anything wrong!"
And appearing on Fox News Thursday, Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas), a member of the Judiciary Committee, called Democrats "the party of impeachment."
"The problem is, currently what the law requires to impeach any president is a vote of the full House of Representatives on a resolution for articles of impeachment. Problem for the Democrats is, they've tried that three times and it failed three times. So today they want to change the rules to keep impeachment alive," Ratcliffe said.
"So what they want to do is just implement some rules today to allow them, within the Judiciary Committee, to consider evidence and keep it in front of the American people while they talk about it but with no ability to move forward on that evidence for formal impeachment proceedings."