Montana’s U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte on Thursday voted against a resolution laying out the rules for the more public phase of the impeachment process, joining all House Republicans and two Democrats in opposition on a vote that sharply divided the chamber.
The resolution passed 232-169, and marked just the third time in U.S. history that the House has voted on an impeachment inquiry.
Gianforte, in a statement after the vote, repeated his previous stance that the impeachment process is not valid.
“I voted today with Republicans and Democrats to oppose Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff’s partisan efforts to impeach President Trump,” Gianforte said in the statement. “Pelosi and Schiff continue their sham process to overturn the results of the 2016 election. The American people deserve to know what Pelosi and Schiff are doing behind closed doors, but their resolution does nothing to guarantee transparency, make transcripts available, or allow the president to defend himself.”
Republicans have been sharply critical of the impeachment process to date, saying it has not been transparent or given the president a chance to defend himself. House Committees have been holding closed-door hearings where members of both parties have heard testimony.
The resolution that passed Thursday means the House Intelligence Committee hold will one or more public hearings. The committee then will produce a report detailing its findings and send that report, along with transcripts from previous closed-door hearings and other evidence, to the House Judiciary Committee.
The Judiciary Committee is the one that would decide on recommending articles of impeachment, which would then go to a vote of the full House. It also has the ability to ask to hear from witnesses. Once the process reaches this point, Trump’s legal team may participate, including requesting and cross-examining witnesses, as well as offering a formal defense.
If the president tries to block witnesses or other information from the committees tasked with impeachment investigations, Trump's lawyers can be prevented from cross-examination.
Republicans on both committees have the power to subpoena documents and witnesses, but Democrats, as the majority party, can block them. This has been the case in past impeachment inquiries.
On Thursday Democrats said the rules bring transparency and openness to the process. In a floor speech before the vote, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, said the vote was about truth.
“Every member should support the American people hearing the facts for themselves," Pelosi said.
Rep. Tom Cole, R-OK, ranking member on the Rules Committee, criticized that the process left "important factors like the right to counsel to the whim of a committee chair."
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"If this is truly a bipartisan process, why, then, is the minority subject to such restrictions on its ability to participate while the majority is certainly not?" Cole said.
If the House votes to impeach Trump, the process moves to a trial held in the Senate.
Montana Republican U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, like Gianforte and other Republicans, continued to reject the impeachment inquiry Thursday.
“Today’s vote in the House does nothing but solidify the Democrat witch hunt against President Trump,” Daines said in a statement. “This investigation remains in the hands of Adam Schiff and House Democrats who’ve had their minds made up about impeaching the president since before this investigation began. While House Democrats are focused on another attempt to overturn the 2016 election, I’m focused on working for Montana on important issues like lowering the costs of prescription drugs and finalizing important trade agreements.”
Montana’s senior U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, the only Democrat in the state’s congressional delegation, said Thursday through a spokeswoman he believes the rules will open the process to the public.
“The American people expect transparency from their government, and he believes we need a full accounting of exactly what happened, which the House is now formally undertaking,” said Sarah Feldman. “He believes both Republicans and Democrats need to put politics aside and take their constitutional duty seriously and the follow the facts wherever they lead."
The impeachment process comes after a whistle-blower raised concerns over allegations that Trump pressured the Ukrainian president to investigate former Vice President and current Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden's son and his work in Ukraine. The claim is that Trump withheld U.S. aid as a form of quid pro quo.
In requests for comments from Montana’s congressional delegation asking Thursday if they thought the president’s actions in regards to Ukraine have been proper, Tester’s spokeswoman said the senator "is very disturbed by the allegations that President Trump pressured the leader of a foreign country to investigate his political opponents.”
Julia Doyle, a spokeswoman for Daines, said “On Ukraine, the question you should be asking is should the Democrats be trying to overturn an election on the basis of an orchestrated, closed-door impeachment process that is manufactured to produce a predetermined guilty verdict. No. They’ve thrown 100 years of precedent out the window. They’ve been obsessed with impeachment since before Trump was sworn into office.”
A spokesperson for Gianforte pointed to the congressman's statement and earlier comments in the press. On Oct. 17, Gianforte told the Billings Gazette that he found nothing wrong with a summary of Trump's call with the Ukrainian president.
Earlier this week, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council told House investigators that he made attempts but was not successful in trying to edit the transcript of the call, saying while some of his changes were made, others related to omissions of words and phrases he found critical were not. He did not provide a reason for why he thought the edits were not made.
Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman said left out of the transcript was part of the call where Trump claimed there were recordings of Biden talking about corruption in Ukraine and a segment about the Ukrainian president specifically mentioning the energy company where Biden's son worked.