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Explaining the impeachment inquiry into President Trump

The impeachment inquiry into President Trump has been the talk of the town for over a month, including at "The Takeout" podcast, but Americans may still be unclear about the origins of the probe or the logistics of the process.

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In a special edition of "The Takeout," chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett spoke with CBS News reporters about the impeachment process. Garrett spoke with Pentagon reporter David Martin, "Face the Nation" moderator Margaret Brennan, chief congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes, and legal and White House correspondent Paula Reid.

House Democrats launched the impeachment inquiry in September to investigate whether the White House withheld military aid to Ukraine unless Ukraine investigated former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, as well as an unproven conspiracy theory that Ukraine is in possession of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee.

Several current and former Trump administration officials have testified before the three committees conducting the impeachment inquiry, all behind closed doors. Republicans have criticized Democrats for not holding a formal vote to open the inquiry, and for holding closed, rather than open hearings. 

Democrats argue that they need closed hearings to gather information from witnesses before they hold opening hearings to the public.

Previous congressional investigations have included closed hearings, too, including the Watergate investigation and the impeachment inquiry into President Bill Clinton, Cordes noted. More recently, Republicans held closed hearings for the Benghazi investigation, arguing that "it's less drama, [they] get more information, and people behave much better when they are not performing for the public, they are just answering questions."

"Democrats say, 'Look, we don't have a special prosecutor here who is determining the facts ... We are doing the investigation, so we've got to do it behind closed doors,'" Cordes said. But she added that there is a "finite period of time" for closed hearings, and that the committees would likely begin releasing transcripts from depositions and holding public hearings in the coming weeks.

On Wednesday, House Republicans stormed the secure briefing room where depositions were being held in order to protest the closed hearings, and Senate Republicans have introduced a resolution condemning House Democrats for their investigation.

Cordes noted that Republicans openly oppose the process undertaken by Democrats — but not necessarily the substance of the inquiry.

"There is a cadre of Republicans who have insisted that they are listening to these depositions, and they see no evidence of a quid pro quo, but that is a small group of Republicans who are going to defend this president, no matter what. What I see more broadly, is Republicans retreating from defending the president on the facts," Cordes said.

For more of Major's conversation with David Martin, Margaret Brennan, Nancy Cordes and Paula Reid, download "The Takeout" podcast on  iTunesGooglePlaySpotify and Stitcher. New episodes are available every Friday morning. Also, you can watch "The Takeout" on CBSN Friday at 5pm, 9pm, and 12am ET and Saturday at 1pm, 9pm, and 12am ET. For a full archive of "The Takeout" episodes, visit www.takeoutpodcast.com. And you can listen to "The Takeout" on select CBS News Radio affiliates (check your local listings).  

For more of Major's conversation with Nancy Cordes, Margaret Brennan, Paula Reid and David Martin, download "The Takeout" podcast on  iTunesGooglePlaySpotify and Stitcher. New episodes are available every Friday morning. Also, you can watch "The Takeout" on CBSN Friday at 5pm, 9pm, and 12am ET and Saturday at 1pm, 9pm, and 12am ET. For a full archive of "The Takeout" episodes, visit www.takeoutpodcast.com. And you can listen to "The Takeout" on select CBS News Radio affiliates (check your local listings).  

Producers: Arden Farhi, Jamie Benson and Sara Cook
CBSN Production: Eric Soussanin and Grace Segers
Show email: TakeoutPodcast@cbsnews.com
Twitter: @TakeoutPodcast
Instagram: @TakeoutPodcast
Facebook: Facebook.com/TakeoutPodcast   

Grace Segers
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Grace Segers is a politics reporter for CBS News Digital.

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