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Everything has changed with impeachment. But nothing really has.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi after reading a statement announcing a formal impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. | Andrew Harnik/AP Photo

Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s historic announcement on Tuesday that the House will launch a formal impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump reflects a growing sentiment among Democrats that Trump has abused his power at the highest levels.

In a closed-door meeting earlier in the day, Pelosi described to Democrats what would happen next: The six House panels investigating Trump would compile evidence against him and share it with the House Judiciary Committee, which would then decide whether to recommend articles of impeachment to the full House.

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There is just one problem: All of that had already been in motion since July.

“There was no discussion of any structural changes,” Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said. “It was all about what the president has done.”

Indeed, the White House’s refusal to turn over a whistleblower complaint that reportedly outlines Trump’s efforts to solicit foreign interference in the 2020 presidential election by pressuring Ukraine’s president to investigate Joe Biden and his son jolted an impeachment effort that some had declared dead. But two months ago, the Judiciary Committee announced an “impeachment investigation” — and Pelosi blessed it in legal documents filed in Democrats’ effort to obtain evidence against Trump.

Exiting the caucus meeting, several Democrats struggled to articulate what Pelosi’s pronouncement would mean for the actual mechanics of impeachment proceedings. Others said everything was functionally the same.

Judiciary Committee Democrats described Pelosi’s announcement as a powerful endorsement of a process already underway.

“She has thrown the weight of her office and the caucus behind this,” said Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Pa.), the vice chairwoman of the Judiciary panel. “Maybe it will remove some of the questions about whether or not we’ve been engaged in an impeachment investigation for the last few months.”

Other lawmakers noted that she left lawmakers without a time frame for action, frustrating Democrats who had hoped her backing would include an urgent push to bring articles of impeachment to the House floor.

“No, I do not see structural changes,” said Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.), one of just three lawmakers who sit on both the Judiciary and Intelligence committees.

Pelosi’s pronouncement was undoubtedly a historic escalation for a House speaker who has strenuously avoided uttering the word “impeachment” in public. With her muscle behind the process, it is more likely than ever that articles of impeachment will head to the full House for a vote. But aside from a political shift, the actual process of crafting articles remains the same.

In late July, the Judiciary Committee entered a new phase when it began referring to its various Trump probes as an “impeachment investigation” in court filings. Pelosi signed off on those court filings — and members of the committee took it as an explicit blessing by the speaker.

According to multiple sources, lawmakers were not given a deadline on Tuesday for when the committee leaders must turn over their materials to the Judiciary Committee. Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), the chairman of that panel, stated last month that he was aiming to decide by the end of the year whether to recommend articles of impeachment to the full House.

Similarly, Nadler asked four committee chiefs last month to share documents and other relevant information for his panel’s ongoing impeachment investigation — a call Pelosi echoed Tuesday.

The revelation that the Trump administration was withholding the whistleblower complaint from the congressional intelligence committees heightened the urgency to formalize the House’s impeachment process — one that had been mired in a series of strategic and messaging mishaps over the past few weeks.

“We just don’t have the time anymore to allow those issues to be resolved through the normal court process,” said Demings, who announced on Tuesday that she supports impeaching Trump.

In the coming days, Democrats will ramp up their oversight efforts as they seek to learn more about the whistleblower’s allegations. The White House indicated it could release the complaint and the inspector general’s report to the congressional intelligence committees by the end of the week.

Democrats are preparing to grill acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire when he appears before the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday. Maguire has refused to turn over the full whistleblower complaint — which the intelligence community’s inspector general dubbed “urgent” — apparently because of objections from the Justice Department. Democrats also hope to get to the bottom of allegations that Trump sought to freeze hundreds of millions of dollars in military assistance to Ukraine to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Politically, Pelosi’s full embrace of an impeachment inquiry represents a reset of sorts after the Judiciary Committee’s struggles to sustain momentum behind its investigation, which has centered on former special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

“There’s a different energy,” said Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), a member of the Intelligence Committee. “There will be much more resources and effort toward that end. I also think there’s a dramatic difference tactically in courts when you have an impeachment inquiry with the full body behind it.”

Moderate Democrats have grumbled about Nadler, and some lawmakers — including Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.), co-chairwoman of the Blue Dog Coalition — demanded that the impeachment process be snatched from his committee and handed to a select committee.

Pelosi ignored that request Tuesday in favor of the ongoing process, though aides and some Democrats said the suggestion isn’t off the table.

There are no immediate plans to hold a vote on the House floor to endorse the impeachment inquiry, according to lawmakers and aides. But Republicans have been arguing for months that Democrats’ impeachment inquiry is a “sham” because, they say, it requires a House vote.

“Speaker Pelosi’s decree changes absolutely nothing,” said Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee. “As I have been telling Chairman Nadler for weeks, merely claiming the House is conducting an impeachment inquiry doesn’t make it so. Until the full House votes to authorize an inquiry, nobody is conducting a formal inquiry.”

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