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Fri. 10:27 a.m.: House panel approves 2 Trump impeachment charges

Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, speaks during a House Judiciary Committee markup of the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump Thursday on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Impeachment charges against President Donald Trump went to the full House this morning, following approval by the House Judiciary Committee.

The House is expected to take up the two articles of impeachment next week.

The abuse of power charge stems from Trump’s July phone call with the Ukraine president in the lawmakers accused Trump of pressuring the Ukrainian president to announce an investigation of Democrats or he would withholding U.S. aid. The obstruction charge involves Trump’s blocking of House efforts to investigate his actions.

Trump has denied wrongdoing, and has stated multiple times that there was no quid pro quo pressure applied to Ukraine.

The vote in the House panel was split along party lines, with 23 Democrats voting in favor and 17 Republicans opposed.

The vote was taken this morning after the committee abruptly shut down a 14-hour session late Thursday following a marathon slog through Republican amendments aimed at killing the charges.

But the sudden turn late Thursday punctuated the deep split in the Congress, and the nation, over impeaching the Republican president. The committee, made up of some of the most strident lawmakers, clashed all day and into the night.

“It is now very late at night,” Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said after presiding over the two-day session. “I want the members on both sides of the aisle to think about what has happened over these past two days and to search their consciences before they cast their final votes.”

Trump is accused, in the first article, of abusing his presidential power by asking Ukraine to investigate his 2020 rival Joe Biden while holding military aid as leverage, and, in the second, of obstructing Congress by blocking the House’s efforts to probe his actions.

The Republicans on the panel, blindsided by the move, were livid. When Nadler announced that the committee wouldn’t vote until this morning, gasps were heard at the dais, and Republicans immediately started yelling “unbelievable” and “they just want to be on TV.” Congress is set to be out of session on this, and many lawmakers had other plans, some outside Washington.

“This is the kangaroo court that we’re talking about” stormed Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, the top Republican on the panel, who said he had not been consulted on the decision. “They do not care about rules, they have one thing, their hatred of Donald Trump. “

Early this morning, Trump took to Twitter to praise the panel’s Republicans, saying “they were fantastic yesterday.”

“The Dems have no case at all, but the unity & sheer brilliance of these Republican warriors, all of them, was a beautiful sight to see,” he tweeted. “Dems had no answers and wanted out!”

Trump is only the fourth U.S. president to face impeachment proceedings and the first to be running for reelection at the same time. The outcome of the eventual House votes pose potentially serious political consequences for both parties ahead of the 2020 elections, with Americans deeply divided over whether the president indeed conducted impeachable acts and if it should be up to Congress, or the voters, to decide whether he should remain in office.

The president insists he did nothing wrong and blasts the Democrats’ effort daily as a sham and harmful to America. Republican allies seem unwavering in their opposition to expelling Trump, and he claims to be looking ahead to swift acquittal in a Senate trial.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi sounded confident Thursday that Democrats, who once tried to avoid a solely partisan effort, will have the votes to impeach the president without Republican support when the full House votes. But she said it was up to individual lawmakers to weigh the evidence.

“The fact is we take an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,” Pelosi told reporters. “No one is above the law; the president will be held accountable for his abuse of power and for his obstruction of Congress.”

The president has refused to participate in the proceedings, tweeting criticisms as he did Thursday from the sidelines, mocking the charges against him in the House’s nine-page resolution as “impeachment light.” But Pelosi said the president was wrong and the case against him is deeply grounded.

Democrats contend that Trump has engaged in a pattern of misconduct toward Russia dating back to the 2016 election campaign that special counsel Robert Mueller investigated. And they say his dealings with Ukraine have benefited its aggressive neighbor Russia, not the U.S., and he must be prevented from “corrupting” U.S. elections again and cheating his way to a second term next year.

“It is urgent,” Pelosi said.

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said late Thursday on Fox News, “There is zero chance the president will be removed from office.” He said he was hoping to have no GOP defections in the Senate trial next year.

The Judiciary Committee session drew out over two days, much of time spent in fights over amendments.

First up was an amendment from GOP Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, who tried to delete the first charge against Trump. “This amendment strikes article one because article one ignores the truth,” he declared.

Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., argued there was “overwhelming evidence” that the president with his lawyer Rudy Giuliani, in pushing Ukraine to investigate rival Biden, was engaged in an abuse of power “to corrupt American elections.”

Debate on that one amendment lasted for hours before it was defeated, 23-17, on a party line vote. Others like it followed.

Republicans say Democrats are impeaching the president because they can’t beat him in 2020. Democrats warn Americans can’t wait for the next election because they worry what Trump will try next.

The House is expected to vote on the articles next week, in the days before Christmas. That would send the impeachment effort to the Senate for a 2020 trial.

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