The impeachment hearings for former President Donald Trump have been marred by partisan rancor, a lack of transparency and a lack a clear timeline for when a final vote could be taken.
It’s the latest in a series of scandals that have shaken American politics and forced Trump to go into hiding.
The hearing, set for September 25, is one of three in the US Congress that are set to begin next week.
This is the second one, on September 25th, in the Senate.
But that’s because Trump is scheduled to go to his ranch in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, on Tuesday, and the first two are due to start on Thursday.
The three hearings, set to last about a week, have been beset by partisan gridlock, with Republicans in Congress refusing to cooperate with the Senate, and Democrats trying to block the proceedings, which have been postponed twice.
So why is Congress continuing with the hearings?
Because it’s a procedural matter, rather than an investigation into the actions of the president, says the Republican majority in Congress, led by the powerful minority leader, Mitch McConnell.
But there are a number of reasons why Congress is not doing it as a political matter.
First, Republicans are worried that the Senate will do its job and convict Trump, and then the president will be impeached, which they see as a threat to the party’s political future.
And they believe it will hurt Trump politically, too.
So they’re going to push the hearings to a later date.
The second reason is that the hearings are a way to make sure that Trump is held accountable for his actions.
The Senate has not done that in the past, and there are legitimate questions about Trump’s conduct, according to experts.
“There are a lot of reasons, for example, why there’s been no congressional investigation into Trump’s campaign and Russia, which has been the biggest issue for him,” says Richard Painter, a professor at the University of Minnesota Law School.
The third reason is to avoid the perception that Trump’s office is being investigated by the Justice Department or special counsel Robert Mueller.
And that, experts say, will make it harder for the president to avoid impeachment.
“This is a way of making sure that if there is an investigation, they’re doing a thorough and objective investigation of what happened, and not just going after him,” Painter says.
Republicans in the House of Representatives, meanwhile, are also using the hearings as a way for them to try to block Trump from leaving office.
“It’s just going to be very difficult for us to get anything done in the coming months,” says Rep. Joe Barton, a Texas Republican.
“We need a serious conversation, and I don’t think we’ll get it unless the president comes clean about all the things that he’s done in office.”
A House vote on impeachment?
Republican lawmakers say that’s unlikely.
“I don’t see any credible evidence of any wrongdoing by the president in any way,” says Republican Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma, a member of the House Committee on Rules.
Cole says that if he had a vote, he would vote against the motion to proceed and instead introduce a resolution calling on the House to take up impeachment proceedings against the president.
He says that even if Trump were found guilty of a crime, he wouldn’t face criminal charges.
“The idea that Trump could be indicted for any kind of crimes is laughable,” Cole says.
But he says he has not ruled out the possibility that the president could be impeachably charged.
The Democrats have been more outspoken in their support of the hearings, arguing that it would make it more difficult for Trump to leave office.
The Democratic House Judiciary Committee has pushed back against the Republican objections.
“No matter what you think about the merits of impeachment, impeachment is a very serious matter that requires the support of a broad range of voices and opinions from the American people,” said House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California.
“And the House will continue to work on this important issue.”
A bill to impeach Trump?
The prospect of impeachment has also divided Democrats and Republicans in both the House and the Senate into two camps.
The House Democrats say they are pushing for a bill that would set up a panel of outside lawyers to investigate Trump’s crimes, while Republicans say they will wait for the Senate to act.
Democrats and conservatives are also working to get a bipartisan bill passed in the Republican-controlled Senate, but it’s unclear whether they have enough support to pass it.
The Trump White House, however, says that it is opposed to impeachment proceedings and says that the Republicans are just trying to politicize the process.
“While I disagree with their tactics, it’s not my position to support impeaching a president who has not been found guilty,” White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said in a statement.
“He is entitled to due process under the law, and this process has already begun.”