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Democrats speak out about impeachment as House inquiry ramps up

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Image: House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff listens to testimo
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff listens to testimony during a hearing on Capitol Hill on June 13, 2019. -
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Democrats on Sunday addressed the mounting confusion over the House impeachment probe following a key vote in the House Judiciary Committee this week, which came as lawmakers delivered mixed messages on the panel's high-profile inquiry.

"I don't think there should be any confusion," Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., told "Fox News Sunday." "The Judiciary Committee has been engaged in the work of our committee to determine whether or not to recommend articles of impeachment to the full House. We're looking at obstruction of justice, abuse of power, corruption broadly. We've engaged in hearings, we're going to continue to bring witnesses before the committee, compel the production of documents to make clear no one in this country is above the law."

Cicilline, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, said the panel will "follow the facts" and "at the conclusion, make a recommendation."

On Thursday, the Judiciary Committee passed a resolution along party lines setting procedures and rules for future impeachment investigation hearings. At the time, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler said some people called the process "an impeachment inquiry" while others call it "an impeachment investigation."

"There is no legal difference between these terms, and I no longer care to argue about the nomenclature," he said.

Lawmakers are split on whether the investigation counts as an impeachment probe without a House vote authorizing it as such. Nadler contends that it can be designated as an impeachment investigation simply because they are considering articles of impeachment. That distinction could play a role in the committee's ability to obtain grand jury information from special counsel Robert Mueller's probe.

While there is no deadline for recommending articles of impeachment, Democratic aides have signaled that the goal is to come to a decision by the end of the year. More than half of House Democrats favor an impeachment probe.

In an interview with CBS's "Face the Nation" on Sunday, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., was asked if he could clarify whether or not an impeachment investigation is taking place, as opposed to standard committee oversight.

"Yes, we're doing an investigation that will ultimately determine whether the president should be impeached," he said, adding, "There's certainly an investigation underway."

"Now, this is about more than just message," he added. "There are some of our members who are ready to vote to impeach and remove the president tomorrow. And there are some who believe that we should not impeach him because it will be a failed exercise in the Senate. But the vast majority of our caucus, including our leadership, is of the view that we should do the investigation before we determine whether the president should be impeached. That's the category that I fit in and that's the work that we're doing."

Elsewhere on "Face the Nation," Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., said "it wasn't if we were going to impeach, it's when we were going to impeach, and I think it is okay for some people to have hesitations, for other people to catch up to where some of us have been for a really long time."

Omar said "decisions are being made" as more than half of Democrats support an inquiry.

"This is why they took the vote to begin the investigation," she said, "and I really feel confident that they are in the process of getting everybody else who is still lagging to come along."