House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) said during a CNN interview that his panel is involved in "formal impeachment proceedings" investigating President Donald Trump, marking the first public announcement of such an inquiry by the committee.
House Democrats have been divided on whether to impeach President Trump. Nadler has been pushing for it, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has been hesitant to move forward. But the decision to pursue a formal impeachment inquiry means a decision on the issue is likely to come within the next several months.
"This is formal impeachment proceedings," Nadler told CNN. "We are investigating all the evidence, gathering the evidence. And we will [at the] conclusion of this — hopefully by the end of the year — vote to vote articles of impeachment to the House floor. Or we won't. That's a decision that we'll have to make. But that's exactly the process we're in right now."
What does this mean?
This does not mean Democrats are impeaching the president — yet. As of right now, just over half of House Democrats are known to be in favor of impeachment.
What it does mean is Nadler's committee is using this higher semantic standard of a "formal" impeachment inquiry as justification to the courts to gain additional access to evidence and witnesses, including grand jury evidence from former special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation and testimony from former White House counsel Don McGahn, who has to this point defied a subpoena from the judiciary committee.
The timeline set by Nadler for a vote on articles of impeachment pushes things forward into 2020, when the Democratic presidential primary will be in its most crucial stages.
While support for impeachment has been gradually increasing among Democratic lawmakers, it's unclear whether the escalated investigations by Nadler's committee will uncover information that would convince enough of them that a vote articles of impeachment could pass.
"The fact is, we are doing an investigation. We are investigating the facts, investigating the evidence," Nadler said. "We are going into court to get witnesses all with a view toward deciding and recommending to the House whether to impeach the president."