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Impeachment news roundup: Dec. 10

Democrats went without impeachment article from Mueller investigation

House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler announces the charges against President Donald Trump as, from left, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and chairmen Maxine Waters, Richard Neal and Adam Schiff listen. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler announces the charges against President Donald Trump as, from left, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and chairmen Maxine Waters, Richard Neal and Adam Schiff listen. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

House Republicans are raising issue with the lack of an impeachment hearing with minority witnesses, as GOP members of the Judiciary Committee have repeatedly requested.

“We will avail ourselves of every parliamentary tool available to us in committees and the House floor in order to highlight your inaction,” they wrote in a letter Tuesday.

The letter to Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler was signed by Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Minority Whip Steve Scalise, House Freedom Caucus Chairman Andy Biggs and others.

Democrats showed signs of unity Tuesday after Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the committee chairs announced the plan to proceed with just two articles of impeachment.

Pelosi declined to explain why Democrats opted not to pursue an obstruction of justice article of impeachment encompassing the special counsel’s findings.

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“It’s no use talking about what isn’t. This is what is,” she said Tuesday Morning at Politico’s Women Rule Summit.

Yet, Pelosi invoked the appointment of Robert S. Mueller to lead the special counsel investigation as the start of the impeachment process when defending claims that Democrats have rushed the process.

“Speed? It’s been going on for 22 months, two and a half years actually,” she said.

“It’s not about speed,” Pelosi added. “It’s about urgency. … If we did not hold him accountable, he would continue to undermine our election. Nothing less is at stake than the central point of our democracy – a free and fair election.” 

Pelosi described her relationship with Trump as “professional” but acknowledged impeachment has caused a rift.

“I try to be cooperative when I can. But I honor the Constitution when I must. That has an impact on the relationship, you might say,” she said.

Here is the latest on the impeachment inquiry:

Trump-Lavrov: Amid the impeachment drama and Democrats’ allegations Trump’s interest in Ukraine is linked to a perceived affinity for Russia, the president tweeted a picture of that country’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, behind the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office.

President Trump, who spoke as he left the White House for a Pennsylvania rally, called House Democrats’ impeachment articles “very weak.” He described the opposition party the same way, saying a deal on USMCA is the “silver lining of impeachment.”

“I can’t imagine” House Democrats would vote in favor of the impeachment articles, Trump said because “they have analyzed” his call with Ukraine’s President and said there was nothing inappropriate. He did not say who “they” are.

No amendments: Judiciary ranking member Doug Collins told reporters Republicans are unlikely to offer substantive amendments to Democrats’ articles of impeachment.

The articles are “very poorly [written]. They’re very vague,” the Georgia Republican said. “There’s no way you can fix bad [articles] and we’re not going to because we don’t believe he should be impeached, we don’t believe he should be censured. I think you’ll see amendments that will allow for further debate and further comment and I think that’s what you’ll see most of.”

Kitchen sink: California Rep. Jared Huffman, a self-described member of the “kitchen sink caucus,” said he wanted to impeach Trump “for a long list of misconduct” but acknowledged the two articles focused on Ukraine are “holding the common denominator.” 

“The Ukraine scandal is really the one that brought the overwhelming majority of the caucus to consensus on this, so I think it’s a strategic decision,” he said. “It’s about focus and discipline and trying to hold everybody together as much as possible. So I can accept that. I’m not thrilled, but I think we continue to work on accountability on other fronts for these other actions.”

That accountability could come in the form of ongoing congressional investigations, as well as charges that could be brought forward in the criminal justice system after Trump leaves office, Huffman said.

Some Democrats argued for including findings from the report of former special counsel Robert Mueller into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. But other Democrats said that a separate article on those allegations wasn’t necessary.

“You will see that the pattern of conduct is reflected in the articles, that he’s done this before, inviting Russia in the past to help him cheat. He’s doing it right now,” Judiciary and Intelligence member Rep. Eric Swalwell said.

Several Judiciary Democrats cited the fact that the articles will establish a pattern of conduct as they expressed their comfort with the decision to only markup two articles. “Let us not forgot that abuse of power and obstruction of Congress are two of the highest forms of high crimes and misdemeanors,” Florida Rep. Val Demings said.

In the Senate: Trump wants a Senate impeachment trial “sooner rather than later,” Principal Deputy White House Press Secretary J. Hogan Gidley said. “But … what form that takes, time will tell,” he told reporters, saying White House officials and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office are in “constant contact” about the shape of a likely trial.

“This president wants members of his administration to cooperate,” but only if Democrats set up a “fair” process, Gidley said.

He would not commit to White House officials like acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former national security adviser John Bolton testifying during any possible Senate proceeding, however.

What’s in the articles?: The articles of impeachment released Tuesday by House Judiciary state that Trump obstructed Congress when he, “without lawful cause or excuse,” directed agencies, offices and officials within the executive branch to not comply with subpoenas issued by Congress in the inquiry into his dealings with Ukraine.

“President Trump thus interposed the powers of the Presidency against the lawful subpoenas of the House of Representatives, and assumed to himself functions and judgments necessary to the exercise of the ‘sole Power of Impeachment’ vested by the Constitution in the House of Representatives,” the articles say.

Timetable: House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said the House will consider the two articles of impeachment before leaving for the Christmas break but did not specify which day they would be on the floor. The Maryland Democrat described the evidence against Trump as “overwhelming.”

Republicans “don’t have evidence to rebut either the assertion of abuse of power or obstruction of Congress,” Hoyer said, describing their effort to hide behind process as indicative of their inability to defend Trump against the charges.

“If you have neither the facts nor the law, you pound on the table,” he said.

Hoyer acknowledged there’s likely to be only a single day of floor debate on the articles of impeachment because of all the bills the House needs to pass before the end of the year. If appropriations bills are ready, they’ll move before articles of impeachment because the priority is to get those to the Senate and passed through both chambers before the Dec. 20 funding deadline, Hoyer said.

Throwdown: The White House challenged Democrats to defeat the president during a likely Senate trial, with White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham saying in a statement that the announcement of two impeachment articles “does not hurt the President, it hurts the American people, who expect their elected officials to work on their behalf to strengthen our Nation.”

“The President will address these false charges in the Senate and expects to be fully exonerated, because he did nothing wrong,” Grisham said of Trump. “Ultimately, Speaker Pelosi and House Democrats will have to answer to their constituents for manufacturing an impeachment inquiry and forcing unfounded accusations down the throats of the American people.”

She also again described the president as continuing to focus on his day-to-day policy work — even as he live-tweeted House Democrats’ impeachment articles rollout.

“Today, and every day, the President will continue to work on behalf of this country and will not be deterred by the rank partisan political acts of the Democrat Party,” Grisham said.

Trump responds: Trump’s Twitter account continued to be his primary defense strategy as he called charges made by House Democrats “ridiculous.”

House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold “Nadler just said that I ‘pressured Ukraine to interfere in our 2020 Election,’” Trump tweeted. “Ridiculous, and he knows that is not true. Both the President & Foreign Minister of Ukraine said, many times, that there ‘WAS NO PRESSURE.’ Nadler and the Dems know this, but refuse to acknowledge!”

Trump next lashed out at Schiff for his embellished version of the White House readout of the Ukraine call that he read at an early impeachment hearing.

“He’ll eventually have to answer for this!” the president tweeted.

Trump campaign responds: The Trump-Pence 2020 campaign accused House Democrats of orchestrating “political theater” with their impeachment articles.

“For months, Nancy Pelosi said she wouldn’t move forward on impeachment because it was too divisive and it needed bipartisan support. Well, it is divisive and only the Democrats are pushing it, but she’s doing it anyway,” campaign manager Brad Parscale said in a statement.

“Americans don’t agree with this rank partisanship, but Democrats are putting on this political theater because they don’t have a viable candidate for 2020 and they know it,” he said.

Preemptive strike: The White House tried to preempt House Democrats’ release of the articles as spokeswoman Grisham tweeted the move is part of the opposition party’s “weaponizing impeachment to try & undermine @realDonaldTrump, who has done nothing but fulfill the promises he ran on & fight for our country.”

Trump weighed in later, touting his successes and calling Democrats’ efforts “sheer Political Madness!”

Post-report strike: Trump lashed out at FBI Director Christopher Wray for aiding in an inspector general’s finding that the Justice Department had ample grounds to probe his 2016 campaign.

“I don’t know what report current Director of the FBI Christopher Wray was reading, but it sure wasn’t the one given to me,” Trump tweeted Tuesday morning. With that kind of attitude, he will never be able to fix the FBI, which is badly broken despite having some of the greatest men & women working there!”

Monday’s hearing: The Judiciary Committee hearing had the feel of a series of closing arguments by lawyers for the Judiciary and Intelligence committees, recapping the more than two months of hearings and depositions that centered around Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in which he appeared to pressure the Ukrainian leader to investigate political rivals in return for releasing a $390 million aid package to the country.

Barry Berke and Daniel Goldman, Democratic counsels for the Judiciary and Intelligence committees, respectively, made their party’s case that Trump leaned on Ukraine to help his 2020 reelection bid.

Stephen Castor, the GOP counsel for the Judiciary and Intelligence committees, argued that the White House had legitimate reason to stall aid to Ukraine, which that country eventually received without announcing an investigation into the Bidens.

He also said the White House did not obstruct Congress, noting that Trump released a transcript of his call with Zelenskiy. The White House released a summary of the call, but not the full transcript.

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