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Congressional Access to Information in an Impeachment Investigation

CRS Report via LC – Congressional Access to Information in an Impeachment Investigation, October 25, 2019 – “Committee investigations in the House of Representatives can serve several objectives. Most often, an investigation seeks to gather information either to review past legislation or develop future legislation, or to enable a committee to conduct oversight of another branch of government. These inquiries may be called legislative investigations because their legal authority derives implicitly from the House’s general legislative power. Much more rarely, a House committee may carry out an investigation to determine whether there are grounds to impeach a federal official—a form of inquiry known as an impeachment investigation. While the labels “legislative investigation” and “impeachment investigation” provide some context to the objective or purpose of a House inquiry, an investigation may not always fall neatly into one of these categories. This ambiguity has been a topic of interest to many during the various ongoing House committee investigations concerning President Trump. On September 24, 2019, Speaker Pelosi announced that these investigations constitute an “official impeachment inquiry.” Although these committee investigations into allegations of presidential misconduct are proceeding, in the Speaker’s words, under the “umbrella of [an] impeachment inquiry,” most appear to blend lawmaking, oversight, and impeachment purposes. However an investigation is labeled, because the Constitution provides the House with the “sole Power of Impeachment,” implementation of the impeachment power, including any ancillary investigative powers, would appear textually committed to the discretion of the House. Yet the House has not established a single, uniform approach to starting impeachment investigations….As a result, while an impeachment investigation may very well increase the House’s access to information, House committees may have substantial authority to obtain the information they seek even without reliance on the impeachment power…”

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