Posted on

Factbox: Trump impeachment trial – What happens next?

(Reuters) – The U.S. House of Representatives will take up impeachment charges against President Donald Trump next week after the House Judiciary Committee on Friday recommended two charges, abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, to the full chamber.

U.S. President Donald Trump talks to reporters as he meets with Paraguay’s President Mario Abdo Benitez in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S., December 13, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Here is what happened on Friday and likely will happen in coming days:

Friday, Dec. 13

The House Judiciary Committee passed two articles of impeachment after a bitter session and a vote on party lines.

Tuesday, Dec 17

The House Rules Committee will determine issues such as length of debate and when to vote on impeachment.

Likely Wednesday, Dec 18

House is expected to impeach Trump, the third impeachment in U.S. history. A debate and vote on party lines is expected. Some Democrats likely will defect, but not enough to endanger passage of the articles. Trump would remain in office, however, pending a trial in the Senate.

If the impeachment is approved, the House would selectlawmakers known as managers to present the case against Trump ata Senate trial. House Democrats say most of the managers arelikely to come from the Judiciary Committee, and possibly fromthe Intelligence Committee that led the investigation. The high-profile job is expected to be highly sought.

Early January

Trump would face a trial in the Senate to determine whetherhe should be convicted and ousted from office. Senate Leader Mitch McConnell expects to take it up as soon as the lawmakers reconvene in January. The Senate is controlled by Trump’s fellow Republicans, who have largely defended the president. A two-thirds majority of those present and voting in the 100-member chamber would be needed to convict Trump.

U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts would preside over thetrial, House managers would present their case against Trump andthe president’s legal team would respond, with the senatorsacting as jurors. A trial could involve testimony from witnessesand a grueling schedule in which proceedings occur six days aweek for as many as six weeks.

McConnell has said the Senate could go with a shorter option by voting on the articles of impeachment after opening arguments, skipping the witnesses. But McConnell is still conferring with the White House on this.

Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Peter Henderson andPeter Cooney

Posted on

Ukraine: Can We Get That Meeting With Trump or Is Now a Bad Time?

WASHINGTON — Well, this is awkward.

Days after President Trump tweeted out a picture of himself enjoying a “very good” Oval Office meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s top diplomat, a Ukrainian official told a roomful of D.C. journalists that his own president is still hoping for his own meeting at the White House.

But there’s no date yet. And that’s despite the fact that Trump’s literally about to get impeached in part for withholding just such a meeting this past summer, while allegedly trying to trade it for an announcement of investigations into the Bidens.

For Ukraine, the stakes are a lot higher than just some quality time in the White House with Trump. The continued effort to score an Oval Office meeting despite all the political turmoil shows just how vital the gesture remains for Ukraine’s fledgling president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to demonstrate U.S. support for his country’s bloody conflict with Russia-backed separatists, in which 14,000 people have died since 2015.

READ: Impeachment is on

“We are working on organizing a full-fledged visit of President Zelensky to the United States,” Deputy Prime Minister Dmytro Kuleba told journalists Friday, between discussions with officials from Trump’s State Department and the White House this week.

A person familiar with the talks confirmed to VICE News that Kuleba’s recent conversations included discussions aimed at securing an Oval Office meeting for Zelensky, although securing a summit was not Kuleba’s primary focus in his conversations with the Trump administration, the person said. Kuleba told reporters that the talks were broadly aimed at improving relations between the U.S. and Ukraine.

Kuleba insisted the U.S.-Ukraine relationship remains “unshattered” by the impeachment drama.

Still, it’s not like Trump hasn’t got a moment to spare.

Even as Kuleba was speaking to journalists, Trump was holding a White House meeting with the President of Paraguay, Mario Abdo Benítez.

Zelensky met for the first time with Russian President Vladimir Putin this week in an attempt to negotiate a peace settlement in the brutal conflict centered in its eastern Donbas region.

But if Ukraine wanted Trump to meet with Zelensky to show its support, instead, he did the opposite this week.

In what Ukrainian officials could easily interpret as an alarming signal, Trump instead met with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in the Oval Office, for the second time.

Trump even tweeted out a photograph of that meeting with Russia’s top diplomat, which he described as “very good” — even as Ukraine scrambles to arrange a similar photo-op for their own boss.

Democrats accuse Trump of withholding both a White House meeting with Zelensky and, temporarily, vital military assistance funds while pressuring Ukraine to announce an investigation of Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

President Trump’s private attorney Rudy Giuliani made little secret of his own attempts to press Ukraine to launch just such a probe earlier this year. Giuliani returned to Ukraine this month to continue his efforts to dig up dirt on Biden, a move that even Republican fundraiser and Trump supporter Dan Eberhart called “brazen on a galactic level.”

Kuleba said no one he met in Washington this week, from either Congress or the administration, mentioned Biden or Giuliani.

Cover: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Mario Abdo Benitez, Paraguay’s president, not pictured, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Dec. 13, 2019. (Photo: Oliver Contreras/SIPA USA/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Posted on

Key committee passes Trump impeachment charges

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

The hearing on Friday lasted on 10 minutes, but on Thursday debates went on for over 14 hours

The US House Judiciary Committee has approved two impeachment charges against President Donald Trump, moving the process towards a full House vote.

The articles, backed by Democrats and opposed by Republicans, are expected to be voted on by the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives next week.

Mr Trump is the fourth US president in history to face impeachment.

Speaking to reporters at the White House, he again dismissed the process as a “sham” and a “hoax”.

Friday’s hearing lasted just over ten minutes before the two articles of impeachment – abuse of power and obstructing Congress – were passed by 23 votes to 17.

The vote had been expected on Thursday but was delayed after more than 14 hours of rancorous debate. Republicans criticised that decision by Democratic Party Chairman Jerry Nadler, accusing him of pushing back the vote to ensure more TV coverage.

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

Democratic Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal held up a copy of the US constitution as she voted

In the abuse of power article, Mr Trump is accused of soliciting a foreign country to help him politically by trying to force Ukraine to launch a corruption investigation into his political rival Joe Biden, a leading Democratic presidential contender.

He is also accused of obstructing Congress by failing to co-operate with the House investigation.

Leading Democrats agreed the articles of impeachment described over nine pages. They say that Mr Trump “betrayed the nation” by acting “corruptly”.

Mr Nadler made a brief statement to reporters after the vote, calling it a “solemn and sad day” and pledged that the House of Representatives would “act expeditiously”.

But Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz said: “For Democrats, impeachment is their drug.”

What is the latest from the White House?

Speaking from the White House Oval Office alongside the president of Paraguay, Mr Trump called the impeachment process “a witch hunt”, “a sham” and “a hoax”.

He said Democrats were “trivialising impeachment” adding that they are “making absolute fools out of themselves”.

“It’s a sad thing for this country, but seems to be very good for me politically,” he added.

The march toward impeachment in the House of Representatives has hit the mark reached by Richard Nixon in 1974. Hearings have been conducted, speeches given and articles of impeachment approved by the Judiciary Committee.

All that stands between Trump and a Senate trial are two votes by the full House of Representatives – one vote on each article of impeachment.

Nixon, of course, avoided the near certainty of impeachment and Senate removal by resigning. This time around, the president and his supporters are digging in for a protracted fight.

The coming showdown in the House is destined to be a partisan affair – as everything, these days, seems to be. Republicans, their ranks thinned by electoral defeat, will remain united. While some Democrats may waver, it won’t be enough to stop the seemingly inevitable.

Democrats will frame this as a sad, but necessary, step to contain a rogue president. Mr Trump will suggest it is the latest effort by the powers of the status quo to block his populist groundswell.

As the calendar flips to 2020 and a November general election, the day approaches when American voters can directly render their verdict – on the Trump presidency and the Democrats who have sought to end it.

What will happen next week in the House?

A handful of Democrats in swing districts remain unsure how they will vote on impeachment when it comes to next week’s debate, but Democrats have a 36-seat lead over Republicans in the House so passage is still expected to go ahead.

Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday they would not whip the historic vote, allowing members to make their own personal choice.

What will happen in the Senate?

The Senate is expected to hold a trial next month on the charges and acquit the president. Republicans who hold sway in the chamber appear to favour a quick vote, limiting political fanfare.

Mr Trump has indicated he would like to see witnesses called such as Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, who worked for a Ukrainian gas firm that the US president wanted investigated.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionHow US law professors teach impeachment

On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Fox News that there was “zero chance” that Mr Trump would be removed from office by senate lawmakers.

He added that Republican senators would be working very closely with White House lawyers to plot a legal strategy.

“Everything I do during this, I’m co-ordinating with the White House counsel,” he said. “There will be no difference between the president’s position and our position as to how to handle this.”

Posted on

House Judiciary Committee Approves Articles of Impeachment

The House Judiciary Committee on Friday voted to adopt two articles of impeachment against President Trump – capping a contentious three-day session that Republicans panned as a “kangaroo court” and teeing up a historic floor vote right before the holiday break.

The committee adopted both articles, alleging abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, on a party-line vote of 23-17. A final roll call in the full House is expected next week, which could trigger a Senate trial in the new year just as presidential primaries are set to get underway.

Continue reading the full article at Fox News.

Posted on

Democrats Propose to Impeach Trump on 2 Charges

After a two-month investigation, House Democrats announced Tuesday that they have drafted articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump on broad charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. 

The vague “abuse of power” charge comes after hours of hearings in which House Democrats used criminal terms such as “bribery” and “extortion” to describe Trump’s July 25 phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

During the call, the two leaders talked about Trump’s interest in investigating Ukraine’s alleged meddling in the 2016 presidential election as well as the Ukraine-related actions of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, who had a lucrative position on the board of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma. 

Apparently unknown to Zelenskyy at the time, Trump had put a hold on $391 million of military aid to Ukraine that he would not release until September.

At a morning press conference Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was flanked by the chairmen of six House committees that played some role in the impeachment investigation. 

Joining Pelosi were House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif.; Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y.; Financial Services Chairwoman Maxine Waters, D-Calif.; Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y.; Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass.; and Oversight and Reform Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y. 

“He has given us no choice,” said Schiff, who has been Pelosi’s point man during most of the impeachment inquiry. “To do nothing would make ourselves complicit in the president’s abuse of his high office.”

Nadler accused Trump of betraying the public trust. 

“The first article is for abuse of power. It is an impeachable offense for the president to exercise the powers of his public office to obtain an improper personal benefit, while ignoring or injuring the national interest,” Nadler said. 

“This gives rise to the second article of impeachment for obstruction of Congress,” he added. “Here, too, we see a familiar pattern in President Trump’s misconduct. A president who declares himself above accountability, above the American people, and above Congress’ power of impeachment—which is meant to protect against threats to our democratic institutions—is a president who sees himself as above the law.”     

Trump quickly launched tweets slamming the Democrats’ impeachment push. 

The House Judiciary Committee is expected to vote on the articles of impeachment by the end of the week, and the full Democrat-controlled House of Representatives likely will vote next week. 

If the House approves one or both articles, the process then would move to the Republican-controlled Senate for a trial, after which Trump could not be removed from office unless 67 senators vote to do so. 

The charge of obstruction of Congress is based on Trump’s refusal to comply with impeachment-related subpoenas from Congress. The clash between the executive and legislative branch has not yet been adjudicated in court. 

The charge of abuse of power has a history. 

In 1998, the House Judiciary Committee approved four articles of impeachment against President Bill Clinton, including one article for abuse of power. However, the full House approved only two of those impeachment articles, rejecting the abuse of power article.

In 1974, the House Judiciary Committee approved articles of impeachment against President Richard Nixon for abuse of power, obstruction of justice, and obstruction of Congress. Nixon resigned before the full House voted on the articles.

Posted on

Rattling Republicans, U.S. House committee delays impeachment vote to Friday

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democrats delayed an impeachment vote by a U.S. House Committee just before midnight, incensing Republicans and setting up a Friday showdown over President Donald Trump’s future.

The committee had been expected to approve two articles of impeachment late on Thursday, setting up a vote by the Democratic-controlled House next week that is expected to make Trump the third president in U.S. history to be impeached.

Instead, as the clock ticked toward midnight, Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler sent lawmakers home for the night and said members would return to vote Friday at 10 a.m. ET (1500 GMT).

Asked why the votes did not occur late Thursday, House Judiciary Democrat Mary Gay Scanlon said “the American people deserve to see the vote.”

The scheduling appeared to have nothing to do with the substance of the impeachment fight nor was it a sign that Democrats lacked the needed votes. But it outraged Republican leaders, who said afterward many had been planning travel home on Friday and would now have to reset their schedules.

Doug Collins, the top Republican on the panel, appeared shocked by the announcement and immediately reacted with anger, saying the rescheduling was done so Democrats could hold their vote when more voters would be watching on television.

“This was the most bush league thing I have seen, forever,” Collins told reporters. “This committee is more concerned about getting on TV in the morning than it was finishing its job tonight and letting the members go home. Words cannot describe how inappropriate this was.”

Democrats had expected to wrap up the hearing early in the evening, but Republicans, led by Collins, proposed a series of amendments that had no hope of passage.

Republicans offered hours of remarks on their amendments, frequently repeating the same prepared commentary and often veering into other topics that ranged from natural gas drilling to the state of the economy.

The committee’s debate began Wednesday evening.

Much of the impeachment focus has been on a July 25 phone call in which Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter, who was on the board of a Ukrainian gas company. That is the basis for a charge by Democrats that Trump abused power.

Trump has also instructed current and former members of his administration not to testify or produce documents, leading senior officials like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to defy House subpoenas. Democrats say that behavior constitutes obstruction of Congress, forming the basis of the other impeachment charge.

Trump denies any wrongdoing and has condemned the impeachment inquiry as unfair. His Republican allies in Congress argue that there is no direct evidence of misconduct and that Democrats have conducted an improper process that did not give the president an opportunity to mount his own defense.

Slideshow (4 Images)

If the House impeaches Trump, who is charged with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, he would then go on trial in the Senate. The Republican-led chamber is unlikely to vote to find the president guilty and remove him from office.

Republicans on the committee said that there were no crimes alleged in the impeachment articles and that “abuse of power” had become a catch-all for Democratic complaints about Trump.

“This notion of abuse of power is the lowest of low-energy impeachment theories,” said Republican Representative Matt Gaetz.

Reporting by David Morgan and Ginger Gibson; Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Peter Cooney and Gerry Doyle

Posted on

The House Judiciary Committee Talks the Trump Impeachment to Death

The House Judiciary Committee is poised to approve House Resolution 755, a measure “impeaching Donald John Trump for high crimes and misdemeanors,” early on Friday morning. After a long, acrimonious Republican defense of the President spanning two days and nearly eighteen hours, much of it a fact checker’s nightmare of half-truths and Trumpian talking points, the vote to proceed looked to be both predictably party line and mostly on schedule, insuring that next week the full House will vote to impeach the President and still have time to go home for Christmas.

Impeachment is now essentially preordained, but there is still a process to observe, and Democrats swiftly marched through it this week. On Tuesday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her House-committee chairs presented two articles of impeachment, both focussed on Trump’s hijacking of American policy toward Ukraine for his own political ends. The first charges that Trump abused the power of his office by pressuring Ukraine to announce two investigations for Trump’s personal benefit, the second that he obstructed Congress with what Pelosi called “unprecedented, categorical, and indiscriminate defiance” of the House, during its inquiry into the Ukraine affair. It was a “solemn day,” Pelosi said. “The President’s continuing abuse of power has left us no choice.”

As she spoke, it was hard not to be reminded of Sam Rayburn, the legendary House Speaker for whom the room in which she stood is named. Rayburn knew well that the House’s most solemn moments were not necessarily its most consequential. “Too many critics mistake the deliberations of Congress for its decisions,” he famously said. Rayburn’s point was certainly applicable this week to the Judiciary Committee’s two-day markup of the articles, which began with hours of prime-time speeches on Wednesday night and continued all day and late into the night Thursday, with a series of angry parliamentary complaints and poison-pill amendments from Republicans that slowed the process but did not stop it or alter the outcome. Impeaching a President, it turns out, takes a lot of talking. Democrats emphasized the historic gravity of the process and the seriousness of Trump’s demand that a foreign power intervene in the upcoming U.S. election. Republicans skewed toward aggrieved outrage and high-decibel complaint. There was a lot of shouting. No one persuaded anyone. Not a single meaningful amendment passed. The deliberations, in other words, were anything but deliberative; they were also mostly beside the point, given the foregone conclusion.

Outside the hearing room, the chatter was not so much about the ponderous flood of words in the Judiciary Committee but about what would happen in a Senate trial now that the full House is expected to approve the articles next Wednesday. A shadow-boxing contest of sorts broke out into the open between the White House and the Senate Republican leadership over how extensive a proceeding to hold in the Senate, in January, what with acquittal its seemingly inevitable outcome. In an array of competing leaks and tweets, senators from his own party sought to persuade the President that his desire for a lengthy public trial, complete with witnesses he wants to call—such as the former Vice-President Joe Biden and his son Hunter—would be politically disastrous. “Mutually assured destruction,” the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, called it, in a private meeting with his caucus. The comment was soon relayed to the Washington Post. By Thursday, Trump was said to be open to McConnell’s argument—and McConnell was going on Fox News with Sean Hannity to promise there will be “total coördination” with the White House—but, then again, no one is sure where Trump will end up. What Trump really wants, of course, is vindication that he will never fully get. He wants not to be the fourth President in the history of the United States faced with impeachment articles passed by the Judiciary Committee. He wants not to have this asterisk permanently attached to his record, as Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton have before him. But it is too late for him to avoid it.

Instead, the President has taken to live-tweeting his own impeachment. On Sunday, he broke his single-day record for tweeting during his Presidency, sending out a hundred and five tweets, many of them concerning the “witch hunt” that will permanently mark history’s account of his tenure. On Thursday, he easily surpassed the record he had set four days prior—hitting ninety tweets before noon—as he watched the televised markup of the articles. It was a “phony hearing,” he complained. He was furious that two Democratic congresswomen “decided to LIE in order to make a fraudulent point!” It was all “very sad.”

Shortly after ten o’clock on Tuesday night, I spoke with Representative Jamie Raskin, one of the more active Democrats on the Judiciary Committee, given his particularly relevant background as a constitutional-law professor. History was weighing on him. “I have to go and write my Barbara Jordan speech,” he told me. Raskin and other members had been reviewing Jordan’s famous July 25, 1974, address to the Judiciary Committee as it debated the articles of impeachment against Nixon—a stirring speech that made her famous as the conscience of Congress. But Raskin told me that, as he had read the Watergate-era Judiciary speeches, he also had been inspired by the words of Republicans on the committee, such as the Maryland congressman Larry Hogan, who voted against a Republican President, citing the need to put country over party. “That really moved me,” he said.

It was wishful thinking, of course: there are no Larry Hogans in the House in 2019, although there are many would-be Barbara Jordans who channelled her in their own eloquent speeches. The Judiciary Committee consists of forty-one of the House’s most partisan members, and I was fascinated to see how they would rise to the challenge of conducting hours and hours of debate while knowing full well that they would not persuade anyone. Raskin told me that he was under no illusions, which is why Hogan’s speech resonated with him so much. “I feel the evidence is overwhelming, unrefuted, and incontrovertible. I feel our constitutional argument is airtight,” Raskin said. “But I still feel as if we have not broken through the ideological sound barrier that connects to the half of America that is watching Fox News and thinks vaguely that Donald Trump is draining the swamp rather than swimming in it.”

The ideological sound barrier would remain intact. When the committee convened at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, it was the start of three and a half hours of members talking past one another. Raskin, Jerry Nadler, the committee’s chair, and others directly appealed to Republicans to follow Hogan’s example. “History will look back on our actions here today,” Nadler said. Zoe Lofgren, a Democrat from California who served on the committee when its Republican majority voted to impeach Clinton, and who was a young Judiciary staffer during the Nixon impeachment, recalled Hogan and his fellow-Republican Caldwell Butler as she urged her colleagues to follow their example and “vote their conscience.” David Cicilline, a Democrat from Rhode Island, practically begged them to do so. “Wake up,” he said. “Stop worrying about being primaried. . . . Reach deep within yourselves to find the courage to do what the evidence requires and the Constitution demands—to put our country above your party.”

The subsequent barrage from Republicans suggested that they were in no mood for patronizing lectures about a G.O.P. that no longer exists. James Sensenbrenner, of Wisconsin, called the Trump impeachment “the weakest case in history.” Steve Chabot, of Ohio, said it was “the most tragic mockery of justice in the history of this nation.” Debbie Lesko, of Arizona, said it was “the most corrupt, rigged railroad job I’ve ever seen in my entire life.” And Matt Gaetz, of Florida, one of Trump’s most vociferous defenders on TV, called it a “hot-garbage impeachment,” concluding that the Ukraine allegations are together nothing more than the “sloppy, straight-to-DVD Ukrainian sequel to the failed Russia hoax.”

It was clear, though, that much of the outrage that Republicans expressed was not so much on Trump’s behalf as on their own. They objected to the House Judiciary Committee losing out to the Intelligence Committee in taking the lead in investigating the Ukraine allegations. They complained about the lack of “fact witnesses” before their panel, the Democrats’ choice of legal experts as witnesses, and the general “death knell for minority rights,” which was the phrase used by the panel’s ranking Republican member, Doug Collins, of Georgia. When the markup reconvened, on Thursday morning, Collins introduced a motion to hold a separate, full-day hearing with Republican witnesses. It failed on a party-line, twenty-three-to-seventeen vote. So did all of the other proposed amendments that followed.

I listened closely throughout the entire two days and did not hear Collins or any of the other Republicans claim, as Trump has urged them to, that the President had a “perfect” phone call with the Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky. Or that Trump did not seek the investigations that he had specifically mentioned in the White House’s own publicly released record of the call. Instead, Trump’s defenders complained that the articles did not charge Trump with an actual crime, such as bribery, but accused him of abuse of power, which is not specified in the Constitution and therefore should not count as an impeachable “high crime and misdemeanor.” Some of their arguments were notably implausible, such as the contention that the President was a noble anti-corruption fighter seeking to get Ukraine to clean up its act. Or that his scheme to pressure Zelensky to investigate Biden, his possible 2020 opponent, and to outsource the matter to his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, was a mere matter of foreign-policy preference.

But, as the hours wore on, there were the glimmers of a Trump defense that we may soon hear more of, in the Senate trial. Questions were raised, for example, about the credibility of a key witness, Trump’s Ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, who, as the Colorado Republican Ken Buck pointed out, offered more than three hundred “I don’t recall”s and other such statements in his deposition and who later revised his testimony after other witnesses contradicted him. Republicans also homed in on the fact that Trump, although he withheld nearly four hundred million dollars in aid to Ukraine, eventually released most of it, in September. Democrats have pointed out that Trump did so only after Congress had begun investigating the hold, but Republicans noted that the Democrats had not produced any witness who could directly testify to the President’s linkage between the aid and his demand for investigations—beyond the “presumption,” as Sondland put it in his testimony, that “two plus two” does, indeed, equal four.

By the end of the long ordeal, Democrats were the ones who sounded more and more outraged. They called the Republican arguments absurd, ridiculous, stunning. “The idea of Donald Trump leading an anti-corruption effort is like Kim Jong Un leading a human-rights effort. It’s just not credible,” Cicilline said. When, late on Thursday, the G.O.P. side put forward a motion to strike the entire second article of impeachment, which charges obstruction of Congress, Nadler seemed incredulous. Trump’s blanket refusal to coöperate with Congress was “an assertion of tyrannical power,” he exclaimed. What did the Republicans want? A dictator?

There was a moment during Wednesday night’s talkathon when Buck taunted his Democratic colleagues for proceeding with impeachment despite what he said would be the disastrous political consequences. “Say goodbye to your majority status,” he said, “and please join us in January, 2021, when President Trump is inaugurated again.” Other Republicans echoed him, reflecting the capital’s current conventional wisdom that the President, although he remains disliked and distrusted by a majority of the country, is not only going to emerge from impeachment with a largely unified Republican vote to acquit him but also strengthened for his reëlection campaign.

And, who knows—that may well be a correct assumption. Many Democrats allow that it is possible. The President himself may be an angry, defensive binge-tweeter holed up in the Oval Office watching the impeachment hearings. But his campaign is taking the line that he is stronger than ever, and, indeed, that he is guaranteed victory in 2020.

After Pelosi and her committee chairs introduced the articles of impeachment, on Tuesday, Trump’s campaign “war room” tweeted out a video clip of Trump’s face superimposed onto the body of the Marvel Comics supervillain Thanos, a genocidal warrior who aims to use his power to destroy half of all life in the universe. “House Democrats can push their sham impeachment all they want,” the tweet read. “President Trump’s reelection is inevitable.” It was truly bizarre: What American President would willingly compare himself to a mass-murdering psychopath? But, unintentionally, perhaps, it suggested the perils of pretending to know what is going to happen—in politics or in the movies—before it actually happens. In the “Avengers” film from which the Trump campaign drew its cheesy clip, Thanos proclaims his “inevitable” victory and attempts to snap his fingers and enact his will, only to be wiped out by Iron Man immediately afterward. So much for that conventional wisdom, at least.

Posted on

Senate Republicans resist calls for a drawn-out Trump trial

Republican leaders appear determined to conduct a relatively brief impeachment trial of President Trump in the Senate next month, possibly without calling witnesses, overruling the president’s push for a weeks-long spectacle to seek political retribution against Democrats.

The internal tussle pits Trump’s delight in a bare-knuckle public fight versus the backroom style of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has utilized intricate Senate procedures for decades to advance Republican goals.

“At this moment, almost nobody thinks there is advantage to a long, drawn-out process — except the president,” said one Senate Republican who was granted anonymity to speak candidly.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a close Trump ally, said he has told “the whole world” — including the White House — that he doesn’t believe a lengthy Senate trial is a good idea.

“The whole thing is a sham,” he said. “I’m ready to end it as quickly as possible.”

White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and legislative affairs director Eric Ueland held closed-door meetings Thursday with senior Republicans on Capitol Hill to discuss the trial and other issues as the House Judiciary Committee held a contentious daylong hearing to consider two articles of impeachment against the president.

The Democratic-led House is expected to impeach the president, possibly on Wednesday, on a nearly party-line vote. The Republican-led Senate will then hold a trial. Democrats are not expected to muster the two-thirds support needed to remove the president from office.

Once the trial starts, current Senate Republican strategy would allow both House Democrats and the president’s lawyers to present their cases before any witnesses are called to testify about the president’s actions toward Ukraine and his alleged efforts to obstruct Congress.

At that point, the Senate would determine whether they want to continue the trial by calling witnesses.

But Republicans are skeptical of the benefit of calling fact witnesses. If they do, they say, they will allow Democrats to call their own witnesses.

Trump has suggested he would like to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and other Democrats, the targets of his pressure campaign with Ukraine.

McConnell and other Republicans caution that Democrats may call witnesses including current and former senior administration officials who have defied House subpoenas, such as Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security advisor John Bolton.

The Republicans have warned Trump that such witnesses could provide damaging testimony on the president that would upend the Senate proceedings and risk the winning hand Republicans now appear to hold in the Senate.

“With only two articles of impeachment, it’s pretty clear what we’re looking at. There’s not like there’s a lot of additional information that’s out there,” said Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla).

People close to the White House say Trump, who has been eager to call witnesses, has yet to make a final decision on whether to challenge McConnell’s strategy, but is likely to give in.

“Let’s face it: Mitch is not a guy to be bossed around and it’s ultimately up to him,” said one political advisor close to the White House who requested anonymity to discuss the deliberations. McConnell would “certainly give it a polite listen” but will make the final call, the advisor added.

McConnell said Thursday night on Fox News that he would defer to Trump’s attorneys but made clear that he would prefer a shorter process.

“I’m going to take my cues from the president’s lawyers,” McConnell told opinion host Sean Hannity, who frequently confers with the president and also said he is inclined to support a shorter trial. “If you know you have the votes and you’ve listened to the arguments on both sides and believe the case is so slim, so weak, that you have the votes to end it, that might be what the president’s lawyers would prefer.”

While Trump’s GOP support remains solid, Senate Republicans have been willing at times to stand up to his decisions and try to talk him out of what they consider bad strategy.

Earlier this year, when the president demanded a new attempt to repeal Obamacare, McConnell refused. Democrats retook the House in 2018 in part because they campaigned on protecting the Affordable Care Act.

Trump’s repeated threats to impose new tariffs on Mexico, among other targets, were talked down over lunches at the White House. Congress also passed a resolution condemning Saudi Arabia, which Trump has embraced, for the slaying of a U.S.-based Saudi journalist.

Trump’s hope for a drawn-out trial appears likely to end the same way. While no decision has been made, Senate Republicans are looking at one to two weeks, compared with the five-week trial of President Clinton in 1999 that ended in his acquittal.

Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, said in a text message that Trump had yet to settle on a final position, echoing others around the president. Giuliani’s controversial work in Ukraine has been at the center of the impeachment probe.

White House spokesman Hogan Gidley suggested Trump would be flexible.

“The president has done nothing wrong, and the House should stop this ridiculous illegitimate impeachment sham, but he is absolutely ready for anything in the Senate,” Gidley said Thursday.

Senate Republicans note that Trump already has shown indecision, suggesting he is not committed to a particular strategy.

Several weeks ago, Trump suggested the Senate should hold a quick vote to acquit him before opening arguments were even delivered. Senate Republicans convinced him they could not dismiss an impeachment case so lightly.

More recently, he has mused publicly about calling witnesses who could turn the table on Democrats. In tweets, he urged the House to impeach him quickly “so we can have a fair trial” in the Senate.

“We will have Schiff, the Bidens, Pelosi and many more testify, and will reveal, for the first time, how corrupt our system really is,” he tweeted.

Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank) spearheaded the initial impeachment hearings in the House Intelligence Committee. Biden and his son Hunter were the focus of Trump’s demands in Ukraine. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco has been the Democrats’ strategic leader.

Allies say Trump sees a long public show as the best way to turn the impeachment in his favor as he campaigns for reelection. Some conservative media figures have urged him to fight back in public.

“If they don’t fight back hard on this one and make it hurt these deep state operatives, they’re just going to do it again,” said Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union.

Schiff hopes Senate Republicans will force the White House to turn over more evidence than his committee was able to obtain from the administration, which blocked his demands for documents.

“Senators have the power to vote to require production of all the documents that the administration has been withholding. And I think it will be very hard for them to take the position that they don’t want to see the evidence,” Schiff said in an interview.

In one sign that McConnell is likely to win out, he has drawn support from a longtime adversary.

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), one of Trump’s strongest defenders and closest advisors in Congress, who is often at odds with Senate Republicans, said he would back McConnell’s trial strategy.

“I know the president wants to call witnesses. I know that there are some [House Republicans] who want to call witnesses so the rest of the story can get out. Yet Leader McConnell understands his members and his senators better,” said Meadows. “If he wants a short process, I’ll support him in that.”

Times staff writer Sarah D. Wire contributed to this report.

Posted on

Watch live: House Judiciary resumes battle over Trump impeachment articles

After 14 hours of withering debate Thursday that reflected the nation’s political divide, the House Judiciary Committee was poised to approve articles of impeachment against President Trump on Friday.

In a surprise last-minute move, committee Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) abruptly concluded the hearing after 11 p.m. Eastern time and delayed a vote until the morning.

“It is now very late at night,” Nadler said, urging members “to search their consciences before we cast our final vote.”

Democrats said they didn’t want a middle-of-the-night vote on such a consequential issue, potentially robbing Republicans of the opportunity to accuse them of pushing through impeachment under the cover of darkness.

Republicans responded with outrage anyway, and ranking member Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) accused Nadler of running a “kangaroo court.”

“This committee is more concerned about getting on TV in the morning than it was finishing its job tonight and letting its members go home,” he said.

With no more GOP amendments expected to be proposed, the vote appears to be a foregone conclusion with Democrats in charge of the committee. They will finalize two articles — for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — related to Trump’s attempt to have Ukraine investigate his political enemies, a scheme Democrats described as a threat to democracy as the United States braces for another bitter election.

If the committee vote is approved Friday as expected, the full House would vote next week on whether to make Trump the third president in U.S. history to be impeached.

“We cannot tolerate a president subverting the fairness and integrity of our elections,” Nadler said.

No Republicans were expected to vote for the articles, and they accused Democrats of seeking payback against a president they weren’t able to beat at the ballot box — and fear will win reelection next year.

After weeks of investigations, public hearings and nightly sniping on cable news, Thursday’s hearing featured the most direct confrontation yet between members of Congress over whether Trump’s actions merit impeachment and removal from office.

Neither side appeared to gain new ground, each remaining firmly ensconced in partisan foxholes at opposite sides of the committee dais.



Republicans dragged out the proceedings by repeatedly floating amendments to eliminate or water down the impeachment articles, forcing lengthy debates that inevitably ended with Democrats swatting down the proposals. With no witnesses to question and little chance of substantive changes, the hearing took on the tone of people arguing politics at a bar, albeit with more flowery language and strict procedural rules.

Democrats maintained that they were reluctant to impeach Trump, but argued that Congress serves as the last line of defense against a presidency that they say has veered out of control.

“We will uphold our duty to charge the president with the crimes against the Constitution that he has committed,” Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Dublin) said, “using your taxpayer dollars, jeopardizing the integrity of your vote for a purely political purpose and a purely personal gain.”

Republicans said it is Democrats, not the president, who overstepped their authority in their push for impeachment. They said the case against Trump was the product not of careful investigation but intense hatred of the president and his supporters.

“You can make up all the stuff you want, but the facts are on the president’s side,” said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio). “They’ve always been on the president’s side.”

Democrats’ case against Trump focuses on his push for Ukraine to launch investigations that would help him politically. He pressed Ukraine to announce an investigation of Joe Biden, the former vice president who could be his Democratic opponent in next year’s election. Biden’s son Hunter had served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company. Trump also wanted Ukraine to investigate a debunked conspiracy theory involving the Eastern European country and the hacking of Democratic Party emails in 2016, an operation that was carried out by Russia.

Trump “betrayed the nation by abusing his high office to enlist a foreign power in corrupting democratic elections,” according to the articles of impeachment. He also “abused the powers of his high office” by directing administration officials to defy congressional subpoenas.

Republicans have repeatedly pointed out that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said publicly he wasn’t pressured by Trump. But Nadler noted that Trump was withholding nearly $400 million in security aid at the time he was pushing Zelensky to announce investigations.

”Of course he denies he was pressured,” Nadler said, “because he knows that if he didn’t deny that, there might be heavy consequences to pay.”

Several Democrats noted that Trump didn’t withhold congressionally approved aid to the Eastern European country in his first two years in office, and his attempts to have Ukraine investigate Biden began after polls showed the former vice president leading in a hypothetical election matchup.

“He released aid in 2017. He released aid in 2018. And suddenly he became concerned in 2019 right after Vice President Biden announced that he was going to run,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.).

Republicans continued to contend that Trump was correct to withhold aid because of concerns about corruption in Ukraine, even though the Pentagon had already certified to Congress that Ukraine had met the anti-corruption conditions needed to receive the money.

“There was a concern whether Mr. Zelensky was the real deal,” said Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), pointing to a memo justifying the hold released this week by the White House Office of Management and Budget.

Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Pa.) dismissed the memo, noting the timing of its release.

“Only now after articles of impeachment have been filed, only now, does the White House come up with an explanation? It’s way too little, it’s way too late,” she said.

Early in the day, the hearing threatened to become sharply personal. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) questioned how Hunter Biden received a spot on the board of a Ukrainian gas company despite his history of drug problems.

Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) responded by saying that “the pot calling the kettle black is not something we should do,” alluding to Gaetz’s 2008 arrest on suspicion of drunk driving.

Republicans often centered their defense on complaints about the impeachment process rather than insisting that Trump was blameless. They began Thursday by demanding the opportunity to hold their own hearing with their own witnesses, which Nadler described as a ploy to delay the proceedings. He suggested he would be open to such a hearing in the future — a concession that did nothing to placate his critics.

“For goodness’ sakes, we’re voting on this today,” Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.) said. “It’s no good to have a date in the future.”

Sometimes the debate turned toward the 1998 impeachment of President Clinton, a reminder of how that process remains an open wound in Washington.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose), who served on the committee during Clinton’s impeachment, said it was wrong for Republicans to suggest that Clinton had abused his power when he lied about a sexual affair, and then say that Trump had not abused his power when he prodded Ukraine to launch investigations that would benefit him politically.

“If it’s lying about sex, we could put Stormy Daniels’ case ahead of us,” said Lofgren, referring to Trump’s use of hush money to cover up his alleged affair with a porn star. “It’s not before us, and it should not be before us, because it is not an abuse of presidential power.”

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), one of the last House managers from the Clinton impeachment process who remains in Congress, disagreed.

“Bill Clinton lied to a grand jury. That is a crime,” he said. “This is not what is happening here.”

Assuming the full House votes next week to impeach Trump, as expected, the Senate would conduct a trial early in the new year. With Republicans in charge of the chamber, and a two-thirds vote required for conviction, it’s unlikely that Trump will be removed from office.

Posted on

Trump impeachment: House committee vote postponed after marathon debate

Image copyright

Image caption

Donald Trump is likely to become the third president to be impeached

The US House Judiciary Committee has postponed a vote on two impeachment charges against President Donald Trump to later on Friday.

The decision was taken by Democratic committee chairman Jerry Nadler, after two days of acrimonious debate.

Republicans attempted to stall the process, which they described as an illegitimate attack on Mr Trump.

The Democrat-run committee is expected to approve the charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

A full vote by the Democratic-run House would then follow next week, likely making Mr Trump the third US president to be impeached.

But the Senate, controlled by the president’s fellow Republicans, is not expected to remove him from office.

Mr Trump denies any wrongdoing. “No crime!” he wrote on Twitter early on Thursday.

Mr Nadler said the vote would not take place until 10:00 local time (15:00 GMT) on Friday. There are 41 members – 24 Democrats and 17 Republicans – on the judicial committee. They are expected to vote according to party affiliation.

What do the articles of impeachment say?

Mr Trump is accused of trying to force Ukraine to launch a corruption investigation into his political rival Joe Biden, a leading Democratic presidential contender; and of obstructing Congress by stonewalling the House investigation.

Leading Democrats agreed the language across nine pages detailing the charges against the president, which say that Mr Trump “betrayed the nation” by acting “corruptly”.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionHow US law professors teach impeachment

What was said in the debate?

Day two of the judiciary committee’s marathon session saw Jim Jordan, an Ohio Republican, attempt to have the first impeachment charge against Mr Trump removed. Mr Jordan’s amendment was rejected after hours of debate on a 23-17, party-line vote.

“This notion of abuse of power is the lowest of low-energy impeachment theories,” said Matt Gaetz, a Florida Republican and staunch defender of the president whose own proposed amendment was also defeated.

Democrat committee members rebuked Republicans for their fealty to Mr Trump.

“Is any one of my colleagues willing to say that it is ever OK for a president of the United States of America to invite foreign interference in our elections?” asked Pramila Jayapal, a Washington Democrat.

Mr Nadler’s decision late on Thursday to adjourn the vote enraged the Republican members.

What will happen next week in the House?

A handful of Democrats in swing districts remain unsure how they will vote on impeachment when it comes to next week’s debate, but Democrats have a 36-seat lead over Republicans in the House so passage is still expected to go ahead.

Democrats stepped back from including in the impeachment charges findings by Special Counsel Robert Mueller that Mr Trump may have obstructed the justice department’s inquiry into alleged Russian election meddling. The party’s lawmakers from more conservative districts have argued the focus should be limited to Ukraine.

Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday they would not whip the historic vote, allowing members to make their own personal choice.

What will happen in the Senate?

The Senate is expected to hold a trial next month on the charges and acquit the president. Republicans who hold sway in the chamber appear to favour a quick vote, limiting political fanfare.

Mr Trump has indicated he would like to see witnesses called such as Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, who worked for a Ukrainian gas firm that the US president wanted investigated.

Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, said on Wednesday no decision had yet been made over how to conduct the trial.

Analysts say the 100-seat chamber does not have the 67 votes needed to remove Mr Trump from office.

Learn more about the impeachment inquiry