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What's next as House committees launch impeachment probes

MARY CLARE JALONICK
Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., talks to the media after Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire testified before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Democrats are planning a rapid start to their push for impeachment of President Donald Trump, with hearings and depositions starting next week.

Democratic leaders have instructed committees to move quickly — and not to lose momentum — after revelations that Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate his potential 2020 Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, and his family. The action is beginning even though lawmakers left town Friday for a two-week recess.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said Friday that his committee is moving "expeditiously" on hearings and subpoenas. And the intelligence panel, the House Oversight and Reform Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee have scheduled depositions starting next week for State Department officials linked to Trump's dealings with Ukraine.

Here's a look at next steps as Democrats march toward an impeachment vote:

A BUSY RECESS

Members of the House intelligence panel have been told to be prepared to return to Washington during the break. California Rep. Jackie Speier, on the panel, said she has already canceled some of her previous commitments.

"We're expected to be here," Speier said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has told the Democrats they need to "strike while the iron is hot" on impeachment, sending the committees into overdrive. Connecticut Rep. Jim Himes, a Democrat, said a plan is "being formed very rapidly."

"What I know for sure is that momentum will not slow," Himes said.

Illinois Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, a Democrat on the intelligence committee, said they will have to "work harder" and "sleep less."

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LONG WITNESS LIST, QUICK TIMELINE

The intelligence panel has been negotiating to interview the whistleblower who began the firestorm by reporting to the inspector general for the intelligence community that Trump had urged the investigations on a July phone call with Zelenskiy. The whistleblower also said that White House officials then moved to "lock down" the details by putting all the records of it on a separate computer system.

The complaint from the whistleblower, whose identity is not publicly known, was released Thursday after acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire withheld it from Congress for weeks.

The inspector general who handled that complaint, Michael Atkinson, is slated to testify to the intelligence panel behind closed doors on Oct. 4, according to a person familiar with the committee who was spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

Lawmakers on the intelligence panel said Friday that they also want to speak to White House aides who were present for the call and to Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal lawyer, who urged the investigations.

Democrats say they hope to finish the investigation in a matter of weeks — perhaps even before Thanksgiving.

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ARTICLES OF IMPEACHMENT

Once the committees have finished their own investigations, the intelligence panel and others will submit their findings to the House Judiciary Committee, which oversees the impeachment process.

Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a Democratic member of the Judiciary panel, said that the intelligence panel will be the "star of the show" as it probes Trump's activities related to Ukraine. Articles of impeachment would be drafted by the Judiciary Committee and, if adopted, sent to the House floor.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler has said he wants resolution on impeachment by the end of the year. Jayapal said that deadline "absolutely" stands, and that the plan is to be done before January, or "perhaps sooner."

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REPUBLICAN RESISTANCE

Republicans have focused their ire about impeachment on the Democrats, criticizing the probes as a rerun of a two-year investigation into Russian election interference in the 2016 election.

California Rep. Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the intelligence panel, said Thursday that Democrats "don't want answers, they want a public spectacle."

"They have been trying to reverse the results of the 2016 election since President Trump took office," said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.

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SLOWER SENATE

If the House votes to approve charges against Trump, the Republican-led Senate would then hold a trial.

Some Senate Republicans have expressed concerns about Trump's interactions with Ukraine, but there are few signs that there would be enough discontent to convict the president, who still has strong support in the GOP ranks. If Trump were impeached, it would take a two-thirds vote in the Senate to convict him and remove him from office.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr has said his committee will investigate the Ukraine matter but "don't expect us to move at light speed — that will probably happen in the House."

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A NOD TO HISTORY

Trump would join a rare group if the House moves forward toward impeachment. Only two presidents have been impeached: Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998. Both won acquittal in the Senate.

Richard Nixon, who faced impeachment proceedings, resigned from office in 1974.

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Associated Press writer Lisa Mascaro contributed to this report.