WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee Democrats have begun writing their report on the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump - a key step moving the process forward - but still may obtain more witness depositions and hold further hearings, the panel’s chairman said on Sunday.
Representative Adam Schiff, who is spearheading the inquiry that threatens Trump presidency, said the Democratic-led committee would continue investigations as it works on the report after two weeks of public hearings with testimony from current and former U.S. officials. The panel has held five public hearings and has no more scheduled.
The report could pave the way for House consideration of articles of impeachment - formal charges - against Trump. If these are approved, the Senate, controlled by Trump’s fellow Republicans, would then hold a trial on whether to convict the president and remove him from office.
The inquiry centres on a July 25 telephone call in which Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate political rival Joe Biden as well as a discredited conspiracy theory promoted by Trump that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
“We don’t foreclose the possibility of more depositions, more hearings. We are in the process of getting more documents all the time. So that investigative work is being done,” Schiff said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program.
“What we’re not going to do is wait months and months while the administration plays a game of ‘rope a dope’ in an effort to try to stall. We’re not willing to go down that road,” Schiff said.
“Rope a dope” is a term originated by the late boxer Muhammad Ali referring to delaying tactics.
Trump’s administration has refused to provide documents requested by House Democrats and blocked witnesses from testifying including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former national security adviser John Bolton and acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. Other current and former officials have defied White House instructions not to testify.
Schiff said the committee learns more information every day and he expects that to continue but the evidence is already so “overwhelming and uncontested” that lawmakers wanted to begin drafting the report for transmission the Judiciary Committee.
“Even as we compile this report, even as we submit evidence to the Judiciary Committee, we’re going to continue our investigation,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
The Judiciary Committee could conduct more proceedings if needed, including hearings, that allow Trump and his counsel to participate. The panel would draft any articles of impeachment against Trump before they would go to the full House for a vote.
Democrats also are looking into whether Trump abused his power by withholding $391 million in security aid to Ukraine - a vulnerable U.S. ally facing Russian aggression - as leverage to pressure Kiev into conducting the two investigations that could be politically beneficial to Trump.
The money - approved by the U.S. Congress to help Ukraine combat Russia-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country - was later provided to Kiev in September after the controversy had spilled into public view.
Trump is running for re-election in 2020. Biden is a leading Democratic contender to face Trump in that election.