Impeachment news roundup: Dec. 13

Judiciary Committee sends articles of impeachment to the House, White House condemns ‘desperate charade’

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler prepares to speak to the media after the committee passed two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump on Friday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler prepares to speak to the media after the committee passed two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump on Friday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Posted December 13, 2019 at 8:31am

After a 14-hour marathon on Thursday, the House Judiciary Committee took less than 10 minutes to approve the two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump on Friday.

Both articles were approved on 23-17 party-line votes.

The full House will take up the articles next week before Congress heads out for its holiday break at the end of the week.

The White House condemned the Democrats’ “desperate charade of an impeachment inquiry,” in a statement after the vote, saying the committee’s part of the process “has reached its shameful end.”

“The President looks forward to receiving in the Senate the fair treatment and due process which continues to be disgracefully denied to him by the House,” Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said.

Judiciary ranking member Doug Collins accused Democrats of “knee-capping our democracy.”

“Rather than help Americans move into the future with confidence, Democrats are attempting to knee-cap our democracy,” Collins said in a statement. “They’re telling millions of voters that Democrats will work to overturn the will of the people whenever it conflicts with the will of liberal elites.”

Here’s the latest on the impeachment inquiry:

Mazars: The Supreme Court agreed Friday to hear President Donald Trump’s challenges to Mazars and Deutsche Bank congressional subpoenas for the president’s financial and tax records. The court will hold oral argument in March.

Trial sabotage: Judiciary member Val Demings is calling on McConnell to recuse himself from the Senate trial after the majority leader gave an interview in which he said he would coordinate his running of the process with the president and White House counsel.

Dennings said McConnell’s statements indicate he has “effectively promised” to let Trump manage the Senate impeachment trial. 

“Senator McConnell has promised to sabotage that trial and he must recuse himself,” the Florida Democrat said in a statement. “No court in the country would allow a member of the jury to also serve as the accused’s defense attorney. The moment Senator McConnell takes the oath of impartiality required by the Constitution, he will be in violation of that oath.”

Trump’s take: “This has been a wild week,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office in something of a historical understatement.

“Waste of time”: Vice President Mike Pence slammed the Judiciary vote on Friday, saying through an aide congressional Democrats should “get back to work for the American people.” That came in a statement from his top spokeswoman, Katie Waldman, who said Democrats “should heed the voice of the American people and reject this partisan impeachment that has been a complete waste of time.”

What happens next: The House Rules Committee will meet at 11 a.m. Tuesday to set the floor debate rules for the articles of impeachment. Unlike other committees, the Rules panel does not plan to move to a more spacious or publicly accessible hearing room.

The committee, led by chairman Jim McGovern, D-Mass., occupies prime office space on the third floor of the Capitol building, with an adjacent small hearing room that will serve as the venue for the meeting.

A Tuesday vote in the Rules Committee would put the two articles of impeachment on track for debate and votes on the House floor on Wednesday, which had been anticipated.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said a trial won’t start in the Senate until after Congress returns from its holiday break in January.

“Out of control”: Trump-Pence 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale called the House Judiciary Committee sending the impeachment articles to the floor “just another act in the Democrats’ political theater.”

“The baseless, sham impeachment is just out-of-control partisan politics and the American people are rejecting it,” he said in a statement.

Fired up early: Hours before the House Judiciary Committee will vote on impeachment articles against him, Trump claimed that Democrats are the party of “lies and deception.”

And he gave his party’s Judiciary Committee members a pep talk.

“The Republicans House members were fantastic yesterday,” he tweeted of a day-long hearing to address the articles. “It always helps to have a much better case, in fact 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. Dems had no answers and wanted out!”

What took so long?: Thursday’s rancorous hearing was punctuated by members repeating talking points with Democrats repeating their evidence against Trump and Republicans asking what crimes were committed and that Democrats’ efforts are an attempt to overturn the results of the 2016 election.

Republicans offered five amendments, which all went down on party-line votes: Two attempts to strike each of the articles against Trump; one that argued there was no proof that Trump held up aid to Ukraine for political purposes; one that stated that the aid was ultimately delivered; and to one to include language that Trump wanted to investigate the Ukrainian energy company Burisma and Hunter Biden instead of former Vice President Joe Biden.

The committee was expected to vote Thursday on the articles against Trump, but Chairman Jerrold Nadler unexpectedly gaveled the committee out after 11 p.m.

Republicans erupted.

“You’ve just blown up everybody’s schedules,” shouted ranking member Doug Collins, R-Ga., who later called Nadler’s move “the most bush league stunt I have seen in my professional life.”

“Stalinist,” shouted Texas Republican Louie Gohmert as members left the dais.

Collins accused the chairman of delaying the vote to presumably get a larger TV audience on Friday morning.

“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,” he told reporters. “Words cannot describe how inappropriate this was.”

Don’t go there: Florida Republican Matt Gaetz offered the Biden amendment. In trying to argue that Hunter Biden was unqualified to hold a lucrative spot on Ukrainian gas company Burisma’s board, Gaetz detailed the younger Biden’s history of drug use. 

But Georgia Democrat Hank Johnson suggested that the markup was not the place to drag through someone’s substance abuse problems, like “getting busted for DUI.”

Gaetz was arrested for driving under the influence in 2008.

“The pot calling the kettle black is not something we should do,” Johnson said.

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Gaetz’s amendment was defeated, 17-23, along party lines.

Ball control: McConnell made a rare TV appearance on one of President Donald Trump’s favorite shows Thursday night.

The Kentucky Republican was on Sean Hannity’s prime time Fox News Channel show to make the case that he is on the same page as the president and his legal team when it comes to the impeachment trial.

“Everything I do during this I’m coordinating with the White House counsel. There will be no difference between the president’s position and our position as to how to handle this to the extent that we can,” McConnell said.

The majority leader, who huddled with White House Counsel Pat Cipollone earlier in the day, explained that he lacked the normal amount of “ball control.” Normally, McConnell would just let an anti-Trump measure from the House collect dust in Senate. He cannot do that with impeachment.

“I’m going to take my cues from the president’s lawyers,” McConnell responded when asked about calling witnesses — but he again suggested the trial could be truncated after opening arguments by House impeachment managers and the Trump lawyers, assuming there are 51 votes to adopt a motion to take the action.

“If you know you have the votes, 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,” he said. “You can certainly make the case for making it shorter rather than longer since it’s such a weak case.”

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Correction 10:20 a.m. | An earlier version of this story misstated how many amendments Republicans offered in Thursday’s markup.