House committee plans to intensify Trump impeachment probe

WASHINGTON, Sept 12 (Reuters) – The Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee is expected to intensify its investigation of Republican President Donald Trump on Thursday, as lawmakers edge closer to deciding whether to recommend his impeachment.

The 41-member panel has scheduled an 8 a.m. EDT (1200 GMT) meeting to vote on a resolution allowing it to designate hearings as impeachment proceedings, subject witnesses to more aggressive questioning and quicken the pace of an investigation that is expanding into areas that could prove politically explosive for both Trump and Congress.

A more aggressive probe could add pressure on House Democratic leaders including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has resisted impeachment as a politically risky step for moderate Democratic freshmen from swing districts where ousting Trump is an unpopular idea.

Republicans oppose the committee’s impeachment efforts. But with Democrats outnumbering Republicans on the committee by 24-17, aides say approval along party lines is all but certain.

Committee Democrats are already planning to use the new tactics that allow an hour of questioning by committee lawyers on one of Trump’s closest confidants – former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski – who is due to appear before the panel next Tuesday for what may be a contentious hearing.

RELATED: Corey Lewandowski, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager

8 PHOTOSCorey Lewandowski, Donald Trump's former campaign managerSee GalleryCorey Lewandowski, Donald Trump's former campaign managerPALM BEACH, FL – MARCH 11:Corey Lewandowski campaign manager for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks with the media before former presidential candidate Ben Carson gives his endorsement to Mr. Trump at the Mar-A-Lago Club on March 11, 2016 in Palm Beach, Florida. Presidential candidates continue to campaign before Florida’s March 15th primary day.(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)Donald Trump, president and chief executive of Trump Organization Inc. and 2016 Republican presidential candidate, center, pauses while speaking during a news conference with his son Eric Trump, right, and Corey Lewandowski, campaign manager for Trump, left, at the Mar-A-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., on Tuesday, March 15, 2016. Billionaire Trump fell short of his goal of winning the two key states he needed to clear most of the Republican presidential field, securing a huge victory in Florida to knock out Senator Marco Rubio while losing Ohio to Governor John Kasich. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images Corey Lewandowski, campaign manager for 2016 Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, speaks to members of the media before a news conference at the Mar-A-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., on Friday, March 11, 2016. Ben Carson, who recently ended his quest for Republican presidential nomination, endorsed his onetime rival Donald Trump Friday striking a blow to presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz, who had courted Carson because they appeal to many of the same religious-minded voters. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images Corey Lewandowski, campaign manager for Donald Trump’s 2016 Republican presidential campaign, speaks on the telephone while at his desk inside the Trump campaign headquarters located in Trump Tower in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2015. The billionaire front-runner for the Republican nomination continues his momentum this fall by preparing media ads and holding public appearance throughout the country. Photographer: Ali Elkin/Bloomberg via Getty Images Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump’s campaign manager Corey Lewandowski (C) is seen allegedly grabbing the arm of reporter Michelle Fields in this still frame from video taken March 8, 2016 and released by the Jupiter (Florida) Police Department March 29, 2016.Lewandowski, 42, was arrested in Florida on Tuesday and charged with battery, police records show.REUTERS/Jupiter Police Department/Handout via ReutersTHIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNSRepublican Presidential candidate Donald Trump’s campaign manager Corey Lewandowski (C) is seen allegedly grabbing the arm of reporter Michelle Fields in this still frame from video taken March 8, 2016 and released by the Jupiter (Florida) Police Department March 29, 2016.Lewandowski, 42, was arrested in Florida on Tuesday and charged with battery, police records show.REUTERS/Jupiter Police Department/Handout via ReutersFOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNSCorey Lewandowski (R) campaign manager for Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump (C) reaches between Trump and a U.S. Secret Service agent (2nd R) towards Breitbart News reporter Michelle Fields (L) after a news conference held at Trump’s National Golf Club in Jupiter, Florida, March 8, 2016. Lewandowski, 42, was arrested in Florida on Tuesday and charged with battery for his interaction with Fields at the event, police records show. Picture taken March 8, 2016.REUTERS/Joe Skipper/Files TPX IMAGES OF THE DAYJUPITER, FLORIDA – MARCH 29:A police car sits outside the police department on March 29, 2016 in Jupiter, Florida. Donald Trump’s campaign manager Corey Lewandowski has been charged with simple battery after allegedly grabbing a reporter by the arm at a campaign event. (Photo by Mychal Watts/Getty Images)Up Next

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Democrats on the committee say the resolution will enhance their ability to assemble allegations known as “articles of impeachment” against Trump. They expect Lewandowski’s testimony will help lay out a charge of obstruction of justice. But they are also pursuing allegations of campaign finance violations, witness tampering and unlawful self-enrichment through his business ventures.

“This signals very, very strongly what the American people need to know: we are investigating to determine what articles of impeachment we should bring up,” said Representative Madeleine Dean, a House Judiciary Democrat.

“In plain sight, this president is violating the Constitution day after day after day. Behind closed doors, he’s obstructing justice,” she said.

A committee vote to approve articles of impeachment would send the resolution to the full House. If approved by the chamber, the Republican-controlled Senate would be left to hold a trial and consider the president’s ouster.

A Reuters head count shows that 135 House Democrats back an impeachment inquiry. While that is a majority of the caucus, the number is well short of the 218 votes needed to pass a resolution.

Only two American presidents have been impeached by the House: Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1999. Neither was convicted by the Senate.

Former President Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 after the House Judiciary Committee approved articles of impeachment against him, but before the full House voted on the matter. (Reporting by David Morgan Editing by Bill Berkrot)

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