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Impeachment news roundup: Dec. 12

Pelosi defends Democrats’ approach to impeachment

House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., left, and ranking member Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., interrupt one another during the House Judiciary Committee hearing on the impeachment articles against President Trump on Thursday. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)
House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., left, and ranking member Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., interrupt one another during the House Judiciary Committee hearing on the impeachment articles against President Trump on Thursday. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

As the House Judiciary Committee debated the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday again declined to explain to reporters why certain charges were left out of the articles.

On Tuesday she was dismissive when asked why Democrats did not include obstruction of justice as outlined in the special counsel report on its investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and Trump’s campaign. During her weekly news conference on Thursday, it was the exclusion of bribery she didn’t want to explain.

“The articles are what they are,” the speaker said. “They’re very powerful. They’re very strong. And they are a continuation of a pattern of misbehavior on the part of the president.”

While Pelosi declined to defend the charging decisions, she noted that the articles were drafted in coordination with the committee chairs that have investigated Trump and House attorneys.

“There’s no use having a discussion here,” she said of the decision to only charge Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of justice. “This is a discussion we will take to the floor of the Senate.”

Regarding the process of a Senate trial, Pelosi declined to reveal who she will choose to serve as impeachment managers to present the House’s case. Rather, she took the opportunity to criticize the Senate for not yet laying out its process as the House did. Pelosi failed to mention that the House did not pass procedures for its impeachment inquiry until over a month after it had been underway.

“We had hoped to get some signal from the Senate on that. We may or may not,” she said. “But we are prepared for whatever eventualities there are there. And when the times is right you’ll know who the people are.”

Here is the latest on the impeachment inquiry:

Know the rules: Rep. Mark Meadows told reporters that the dispute he was seen having with Judiciary Democratic staff during the panel’s markup of impeachment articles was the staff telling him the rules do not permit him to be on the dais.

Meadows, who is not a member of the Judiciary Committee, had been talking to his fellow former Freedom Caucus chairman Jim Jordan.

“I told them that I know the rules better than they do,” the North Carolina Republican said of his conversation with the Democratic staff. “And I promise you that it was certainly okay for me to be back there, sharing my thought with a member of Congress who happens to be my best friend.”

After the staff insisted there was a rule prohibiting him from appearing on the dais, he said if they can show it to him he would leave. “And they said, ‘Well, it’s not a rule, it’s an agreement.’ And I said, ‘Well, the only problem with that is, I didn’t agree,’” he said.

Asked if the Judiciary Republicans made such an agreement, Meadows said, “No, in fact ranking member Collins said he made no such agreement, I can stay as long as I want.”

Meadows declined to say what thought he was sharing with Jordan.

“Now, that would be a story,” he said.

“No fear”: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, speaking to reporters at his weekly news conference, said he would support the Senate bringing witnesses forward in its trial but he doesn’t think it needs to last that long because the Democrats have no facts to support their case.

“I’m not concerned about bringing any more facts out because based upon what’s happened in the House — not having a due process … anytime you would get more of that out I think it would collapse on itself,” he said. “Whatever the decide to bring forward on a defense, I have no fear.”

McCarthy disputed the premise of a question about Republicans whipping their members to vote against the articles of impeachment.

“I don’t think there’s a need to whip the vote,” he said. “I really think your question should lie with the other side of the aisle, because I think they’re the ones that have a challenge.”

On the other hand: Despite McCarthy’s claim that Republicans don’t need to whip the impeachment vote, Minority Whip Steve Scalise’s office announced that they were doing so during Thursday’s vote series.

“The impeachment inquiry has been rigged from the start, lacking fairness, transparency and most importantly, facts,” the whip’s notice recommending a “no” vote reads.

“The sham articles of impeachment were written based on a report that was drafted with presumptions, cherry-picked witnesses, lack of input by the minority and the president, and contested facts. Even with the deck stacked in their favor, Democrats have failed to make their case because no impeachable actions occurred.”

The whip notice specifically addresses the two articles, saying abuse of power “does not cite any crime or facts on improper actions” and that obstruction of Congress “ignores longstanding constitutional privileges exercised by the president that have historically been negotiated with Congress and adjudicated by the courts.”

“Busy” day?: At the top of his remarks at a White House event on  child care, Trump claimed he was interrupting his “busy day” to speak as a favor to his daughter and White House adviser Ivanka Trump.

But the president’s Twitter posts suggests he has been watching television for hours. There was nothing on his public schedule, released Wednesday night by the White House, before the the child care event and he had tweeted responding to the Judiciary Committee debate.

Thursday’s hearing: The Judiciary Committee began its second day of its markup of impeachment articles with more back and forth with Democrats arguing how Trump abused his power and obstructed Congress and Democrats challenging their facts and alleging the inquiry is an effort to overturn Trump’s election.

Congressional committees typically dispense with the opening readings of legislation as members are typically familiar with the the substance of such documents. Republicans requested to dispense with the reading, but Chairman Jerrold Nadler refused and had a clerk read the entire articles of impeachment.

Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, the top Republican on the committee, raised a point of order requesting a hearing day for GOP-called witnesses before marking up articles of impeachment. Nadler refused to consider the request but said he is “willing to work with the minority,” on such a hearing after marking up the articles.

Republicans have repeatedly called for House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff of California, the White House whistleblower and Joe Biden’s son Hunter to appear before the committee, witnesses Democrats have repeatedly blocked from appearing.

He’s watching: Trump reacted to House Judiciary’s ongoing impeachment articles session by accusing Democratic Reps. Veronica Escobar and Sheila Jackson Lee of having “purposely misquoted my call” with Ukraine’s President on July 25.

“I said I want you to do us (our Country!) a favor, not me a favor. They know that but decided to LIE in order to a fraudulent point! Very sad,” Trump tweeted.

Counterprogramming: As the hearing was beginning, Trump tweeted that the U.S. was “VERY close to a BIG DEAL with China” on trade.

The White House announced in October that it was within a few weeks of making a deal.

More counterprogramming: As the Judiciary Committee restarted its debate of the articles of impeachment against Trump, McCarthy claimed that’s been the timeline Democrats have had for years as they’ve sought to remove Trump from office.

“It’s more political than anything you could dream of,” the California Republican said at a Politico Playbook event Thursday. He said Democrats are treating impeachment like it’s nothing.

McCarthy said Democrats have “nothing” to prove their case against the president, citing their narrow articles of impeachment that don’t allege any crimes as indicative of that.

“It’s embarrassing that these articles they brought forth,” he said. The Republican leader claimed that Trump did not obstruct Congress, as Democrats allege, simply by seeking the judicial branch to weigh in on what information he has to disclose.

In response to a reporter noting Pelosi has said that if Trump had anything to prove his innocence he’d turn it over, McCarthy said that contradicts our democracy’ s assumption of innocence until proven guilty.

“In a Nancy Pelosi House you’re guilty until proven innocent,” he said.

McCarthy dodged questions about whether Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani’s actions in regards to Ukraine were appropriate, saying Giuliani is not a government employee and not mentioned in the articles of impeachment.

Scheduling conflict: Members of Congress and their partners are invited to a ball at the White House Thursday evening, which could dictate timing of the markup.

Republicans stated earlier this week that they will “avail ourselves of every parliamentary tool available to us in committees and the House floor in order to highlight your inaction,” but that promise to interject with objections and offer amendments may be at odds with their desire to wrap up the markup in time to celebrate the holidays with Trump, who they have worked to defend against impeachment in recent weeks.

Lisa Collins, wife of ranking member Doug Collins, sat in the front row of the markup’s audience Thursday in a festive red jacket with sequins and her pin designating her as a congressional spouse worn on a gold chain around her neck.

Senate trial?: Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Barrasso signaled Wednesday that he thought there could be an appetite for moving to final votes in an impeachment trial after the House managers and President Donald Trump’s lawyers present arguments.

“I would like to see the House managers, the Democrats make their case, the president’s team make its defense, and at that point if a majority of the senators said I’d heard enough, I’d be ready to vote on the Final Jeopardy question immediately,” Barrasso said.

“It depends how long it takes for the Democrats to make their case and the president — the president’s team to respond,” Barrasso said.

Lack of diversity: Democratic Rep. Al Green offered what he’d like to see in impeachment managers if the case moves to a Senate trial.

“I’d like to see diversity,” Green said. “There’s little reason why we should have an all-white group of managers.”

He said that the legal witnesses called before the Judiciary Committee were a disappointment to him for their lack of diversity and he hopes that doesn’t happen again with impeachment managers.

“The experts who testified, I thought it was an insult to the many people of color in this country because the message that may have been received … may very well have been that there are no persons of color with expertise in this area of law, which of course we know is not true,” he said.

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