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Seated On Key House Committees, Welch Calls For 'Focused' Impeachment Inquiry

Rep. Peter Welch seated at a Capitol Hill committee meeting
Andrew Harnik
Associated Press File
During a House Intelligence Committee hearing on Sept. 26, Rep. Peter Welch questioned Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire.

A number of House committees this week are ramping up their investigation into possible impeachable activities by President Donald Trump. As one of the three members of the House to serve on both the Intelligence and Oversight committees, Vermont Rep. Peter Welch is involved in the impeachment inquiry.

As this unfolds, Welch is urging his colleagues to keep the probe narrowly focused on efforts by the administration to convince the president of Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

Some members of the House Democratic caucus want to expand the agendas of these committees to include past connections with Russia to influence the outcome of the 2016 election. Welch disagrees with that approach and said he wants to keep the focus squarely on efforts by Trump to ask the government of Ukraine to investigate Biden.

"I think to be focused and to be clear and to highlight what are the most understandable breaches of power by the president is the most effective way to present the case," Welch said on Vermont Edition last week.

More from Vermont EditionRep. Peter Welch Talks Whistleblower And Impeachment Proceedings [Oct. 3]

Welch said there's new evidence that clearly demonstrates that there were multiple efforts by members of the Trump administration to request the Biden investigation.

"What it indicates is evidence that it was a widespread and ongoing effort," Welch said. "In other words the president was making it clear to his subordinates that he wanted the Ukraine to open this investigation."

The House Intelligence Committee has issued subpoenas to the White House for additional information and to have some members of the administration testify in this case.

The Trump administration has initially refused to comply with the subpoenas and the case may have to be settled in court. Welch said these tactics of the Trump administration might actually constitute an additional article of impeachment.

"What the president's approach has been is to just say no — no documents, no response to any subpoenas, no production of witnesses — and they're continuing to go into that mode," Welch said. "And in fact I think in the Oversight Committee, on which I serve, that may be a basis for an article [of impeachment]."

"I think to be focused and to be clear and to highlight what are the most understandable breaches of power by the president is the most effective way to present the case." — Rep. Peter Welch

According to Welch, it's likely that the Intelligence Committee will call the whistleblower in this case to testify if the safety and security of that person can be assured. However Welch said he doesn't think that this testimony is needed to charge the president with an article of impeachment.

"At this point," Welch said, "the whistleblower is largely irrelevant. ... The whistleblower's credibility has been confirmed by the readout of that call with the president of Ukraine where the president [Trump] himself is confirming that he made a request for a favor."

More from NPR — "Impeachment 101: How It All Works" [Sept. 27]

Welch said he thinks the House committees currently have all the evidence they need to successfully impeach Trump.

"How in the world do we have a president that is inviting foreign powers to get involved in our elections? Especially after 2016 when so much damage was done. ... If you want to talk smoking gun, that's it," Welch said.

House leaders are hoping to have the full chamber vote on any potential articles of impeachment by Thanksgiving. If that happens, the Senate would then hold an impeachment trial.

Bob Kinzel has been covering the Vermont Statehouse since 1981 — longer than any continuously serving member of the Legislature. With his wealth of institutional knowledge, he answers your questions on our series, "Ask Bob."
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