The House Trump impeachment inquiry took a step toward the kind of made-for-TV drama that captured the Watergate generation.
The House voted on a resolution that sets the ground rules for the ongoing impeachment investigation, including for public hearings. Republicans maintained a united front against the rules.
Representative Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) said that laying out the case against the President in public testimony was key. "[T]his public-facing phase of our impeachment inquiry will set the stage for the American people to hear the facts directly," he said.
CNN's John King said the challenge for Democrats in upcoming hearings is to make the impeachment investigation public in a "compelling way."
The televised Watergate hearings that ultimately forced the resignation of Richard Nixon captured the viewing public and made a star out of Sen. Sam Ervin, who chaired the Watergate investigation committee.
The White House signaled that the vote was a result of the Democrats' "unhinged obsession with this illegitimate impeachment proceeding."
The vote was 232 to 196, with two Democrats voting against the resolution and no Republicans voting for it. One Democrat and three Republicans were recorded as not voting.
It essentially makes formal the impeachment inquiry that has been going on for weeks now.
Among the things the resolution does is make the House Judiciary Committee the lead in impeachment proceedings along with the House Intelligence Committee.
While the President has been challenging the House to hold the vote on the process, apparently this was not the process it was looking for.
"With today’s vote, [House] Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi and the Democrats have done nothing more than enshrine unacceptable violations of due process into House rules. Speaker Pelosi, [House Intelligence Committee] chairman Adam Schiff and the Democrats conducted secret, behind-closed-door meetings, blocked the Administration from participating, and have now voted to authorize a second round of hearings that still fails to provide any due process whatsoever to the Administration," the White House said following the vote. "The Democrats want to render a verdict without giving the Administration a chance to mount a defense. That is unfair, unconstitutional, and fundamentally un-American."
The President's tweeted response was brief and familiar:
"The President has done nothing wrong, and the Democrats know it," said White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham after the vote. "Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats’ unhinged obsession with this illegitimate impeachment proceeding does not hurt President Trump; it hurts the American people. Instead of focusing on pressing issues that impact real families, like reducing gun violence, passing the USMCA, improving healthcare, lowering prescription drug costs, securing our southern border, and modernizing our aging infrastructure, the Democrats are choosing every day to waste time on a sham impeachment—a blatantly partisan attempt to destroy the President."
Grisham told Fox News that the impeachment inquiry has been a closed-door sham, and the rules vote seemed like phase two of the same.