By: Gabrielle Wanneh and Dan Novack, Captial News Service
WASHINGTON – The nation’s capital and the late Elijah Cummings’s hometown of Baltimore are observing three days of commemorations of his life this week, slightly slowing the House impeachment inquiry.
But Cummings’s oversight panel intends to carry on his work, Acting Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-New York, said.
“The work of the Committee on Oversight and Reform will continue uninterrupted despite our heavy hearts – as Chairman Cummings would have wanted,” Maloney said in a statement Monday. “We will continue to pursue the impeachment inquiry with vigor in support of the investigation led by the Intelligence Committee.”
House investigators scheduled just two interviews this week: William Taylor, the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine testified behind closed doors Tuesday, and Laura Cooper, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Ukraine, Russia and the Balkans, is set to appear Wednesday.
Cooper is a career public servant who investigators hope will shed light on the decision by the Trump administration to withhold military aid from Ukraine. White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said Thursday the aid was held back to persuade Ukraine to investigate the 2016 presidential election and advance President Donald Trump’s political aims.
Mulvaney tried to walk back that statement over the weekend.
In a series of text messages released to the public, Taylor wrote to Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland Aug. 17, “I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.” Taylor confirmed in his testimony Tuesday that he was told by administration officials the military aid was dependent on public assurances from Ukraine that it would investigate the Bidens, according to reporting from multiple news outlets.
Earlier in the day, Trump described the impeachment proceedings as a “lynching,” prompting sharp rebukes from both parties for using incendiary language to compare a constitutional proceeding to a racist act of terrorism.
“For the President to liken impeachment to the extreme brutality, shame, and tragedy of lynchings is offensive and shameful,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, said in a tweet.
Several depositions related to the impeachment probe have been delayed to accommodate three days honoring Cummings.
Morgan State University is scheduled to hold a public viewing and community celebration for Cummings Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Murphy Fine Arts Center, followed by a tribute service from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Among those scheduled to speak at the service are former Maryland Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski; Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Towson; Baltimore Mayor Barnard “Jack” Young; former Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake; Maryland House of Delegates Speaker Adrienne Jones and Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller.
On Thursday, the flag-draped coffin of the lawmaker will lie in the United States Capitol’s National Statuary Hall and Cummings will be remembered with speeches by congressional leaders, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California; Hoyer; Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Maryland; Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky; and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York.
Cummings’s coffin will rest on the same catafalque that was used for the funeral of President Abraham Lincoln after his assassination in 1865 and has been used in many other official funerals since that time.
Cummings is the first black elected official and only one of three black individuals to receive the honor of lying in state in Statuary Hall. The ceremony will be open to members of Congress, the Cummings family and invited guests.
A public viewing will take place Wednesday from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m., with visitors entering through the Capitol Visitor Center.
Cummings’s funeral is scheduled for 8 a.m Friday at the New Psalmist Baptist Church in Baltimore.