WASHINGTON — The House Judiciary Committee has scheduled its first impeachment hearing for Dec. 4, as Democrats press forward with their inquiry into President Donald Trump's actions involving Ukraine.
"The Committee intends this hearing to serve as an opportunity to discuss the historical and constitutional basis of impeachment, as well as the Framers' intent and understanding of terms like 'high crimes and misdemeanors,' Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., wrote in a letter to Trump on Tuesday, Nov. 26.
The announcement came hours after Trump said Tuesday that he would "love" for several senior administration officials to testify in the impeachment inquiry but that the White House was preventing them from doing so to protect the institution of the presidency.
The Justice Department formally appealed Monday's ruling by a federal judge that former White House counsel Donald McGahn must comply with a House subpoena.
Meanwhile, House investigators are busy pulling together a report based on public testimony and private depositions over the past several weeks. Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said the report will be forwarded to the Judiciary Committee shortly after Congress returns from Thanksgiving recess next week.
The Judiciary Committee will then decide whether to draft articles of impeachment, which would eventually be considered by the full House. If Trump is impeached, a trial would follow in the Republican-led Senate.
Democrats are seeking to build a case that Trump leveraged military assistance and an Oval Office meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in exchange for investigations of former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, and a debunked theory alleging Ukrainian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
A report released Tuesday by the House Budget Committee said the White House Office of Management and Budget engaged in a "pattern of abuse" of its own authority and the law in holding up security assistance to Ukraine.
In findings based on documents turned over by OMB, the Democrat-led panel cites unusual steps the agency took over the summer as it moved to hold up nearly $400 million in State Department and Pentagon funds for Ukraine that had already been approved by Congress.
This funding delay is at the center of the Democrats' impeachment inquiry against Trump.
At the annual White House turkey pardon on Tuesday, Trump jokingly brought up the topic of impeachment after introducing the turkeys, Bread and Butter, raised by a family of famers in North Carolina.
"Thankfully, Bread and Butter have been specially raised . . . to remain calm under any condition, which will be very important because they have already received subpoenas to appear in Adam Schiff's basement on Thursday," Trump said, prompting laughter from some in the crowd. "It's true. Hundreds of people have."
"It seems the Democrats are accusing me of being too soft on turkey," he continued. "But Bread and Butter, I should note that unlike previous witnesses, you and I have actually met. It's very unusual."
Trump made one more joke, a dig at the media, before proceeding with the pardon.
"In any event, I expect this pardon will be a very popular one with the media. After all, turkeys are closely related with vultures," he said, adding: "I don't know if I like that line, but there's a little truth to it."
On Tuesday night, Trump is scheduled to attend a rally near Miami, billed by his campaign as a "homecoming" extravaganza. It follows his recent decision to move his formal residence from New York to Florida - and underscores the state's importance to his reelection efforts as he grapples with the impeachment proceedings that threaten his presidency.
Florida is now not only Trump's home but what Republicans hope is an emerging GOP bastion. During the 2018 midterm elections, Florida was a rare place on the political map where the GOP registered gains. The Republicans ousted an incumbent Democratic senator and won the governor's mansion even as their party nationally was swept out of its House majority.
Those victories, carried by Trump-aligned bids, have encouraged the Trump campaign as it aims to keep seniors and conservatives engaged in Florida and elsewhere.
This article was written by John Wagner, Colby Itkowitz and Felicia Sonmez, reporters for The Washington Post. The Washington Post's Robert Costa and Erica Werner contributed to this report.