Judiciary Panel Heads Toward Vote on Trump’s Impeachment
(Bloomberg) -- The House Judiciary Committee is set to finish debating articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump on Thursday with a likely party-line vote to send the resolution to the floor of the House.
The committee opened formal debate Wednesday night on whether to impeach Trump with a back-and-forth volley of speeches over almost four hours that largely echoed the partisan rancor that’s consumed Washington since the Ukraine investigation began.
The debate was a prelude to a Thursday morning session where the Democratic majority on the panel is expected to beat back a flurry of Republican amendments before sending the impeachment articles to the full House for a vote next week.
“Over the past 94 days since the House investigation began -- indeed, over the past three years -- one indisputable truth has emerged: If we do not respond to President Trump’s abuses of power, the abuses will continue,” Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler said as he opened the hearing.
Georgia Representative Doug Collins, the top Republican on Judiciary, said the Democratic drive to impeach Trump is based on “vague statements” from witnesses and no evidence.
“The real legacy of this impeachment hearing will not be the removal of Donald Trump as president,” he said. “The real legacy will be the institutional damage to this institution.”
The nine-page impeachment resolution accuses Trump of “corruptly soliciting” Ukraine to aid his re-election campaign and then directing an “unprecedented, categorical, and indiscriminate” effort to block a congressional investigation.
The full House, where Democrats have the majority, is expected to take a historic vote that would make Trump only the third American president to be impeached. The Senate will hold the trial, probably starting in early to mid-January. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, has said he’s confident that the chamber will acquit the president.
Nadler, a New York Democrat, said Trump’s requests to Ukraine’s president for investigations of former Vice President Joe Biden and the 2016 election were “not legitimate requests” and ignored the U.S. national interest.
“President Trump both betrayed our national security and attempted to corrupt our elections,” Nadler added. “If our elections are corrupt, everything is corrupt.”
Once the House began investigating and requesting testimony and documents from the administration, “President Trump’s stonewall was complete, absolute, and without precedent in American history,” he said.
Representative Eric Swalwell of California said Trump was engaged in a “constitutional crime spree.”
Republicans countered that Democrats have showed no crime or misconduct by Trump meriting impeachment. They accused the House majority of pursuing impeachment because they can’t beat Trump at the ballot box.
Collins predicted Trump would prevail in the Senate and go on to win re-election next November. ”I do believe he will be president for five more years,” he said.
Florida Republican Representative Matt Gaetz said that “with no crime, no victim, House Democrats impeach because they have no agenda for America.”
Republicans will face this “with our heads held high,” he said, adding, “We’ll see you on the field in 2020.”
Several GOP lawmakers made it personal.
“It’s not just because they don’t like the president, they don’t like us,” Ohio Representative Jim Jordan said, adding that Democrats disdain “all of us in flyover country, all of us common folk in Ohio, Wisconsin, Tennessee and Texas.”
Republicans repeatedly argued that the public doesn’t support impeaching the president and Democrats were committing political suicide by pursuing it.
“Well, I tell my colleagues, go ahead, vote to impeach President Trump tomorrow,” Republican Representative Ken Buck of Colorado said. “But when you walk out of this hearing, call your freshman colleagues and tell them they’re not coming back, and you hope they’ve had their fun. Say goodbye to your majority status and please join us in January of 2021 when President Trump is inaugurated again.”
Polls consistently show that while Trump’s approval ratings are mired at under 50%, the public is largely evenly divided on impeachment and that most people have made up their minds. A FiveThirtyEight average of polls shows 47% of Americans support impeaching Trump and removing him from office with 45.7% not backing that position.
But several Democrats urged Republicans to consider history and U.S. standing in the world.
“As a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, I regularly meet with heads of state and I often have to apologize for some embarrassing statement or tweet the president has made,” said Democratic Representative Karen Bass of California.
She said the Ukraine scandal has caused leaders of other countries to wonder where the U.S. stands on its past commitments and whether the presidency has been weakened or corrupted.
“The world is waiting to see if we hold ourselves to the democratic principles we tell others to hold,” she said.
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