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Impeachment news roundup: Dec. 17

House Republicans put up united front ahead of impeachment vote

Maryland Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin, right, a House Judiciary Committee member, confers with counsel Barry Berke during the House Rules Committee markup of articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump on Dec. 17. Judiciary Committee ranking member Doug Collins, R-Ga., is at left. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Maryland Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin, right, a House Judiciary Committee member, confers with counsel Barry Berke during the House Rules Committee markup of articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump on Dec. 17. Judiciary Committee ranking member Doug Collins, R-Ga., is at left. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

House Republicans huddled Tuesday evening for their weekly conference meeting and emerged with confidence that their party will remain united in opposing the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump that Democrats are bringing to the floor Wednesday.

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“Have you not seen us united? Have you not witnessed us united?” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said when a reporter asked if he was confident Republicans will unanimously oppose the articles. “The reason why I know we’ll stay united is because the facts are on our side … the process has been failed, [Democrats] picked a timeline and they stuck to their timeline without having any facts for it.”

Pennsylvania Rep. Guy Reschenthaler said the GOP message going into tomorrow will be the same as it’s always been and that the “law and the facts” are on their side. He predicted that two to five Democrats to vote with the GOP, including Rep. Jeff Van Drew, who is expected to soon join the Republican Party.

The 31 Democrats who sit in districts Trump won have to decide if they are going to “vote with AOC or if they’re going to vote with the people who put them in office,” Reschenthaler said.

House Republicans did not discuss what the Senate trial may look like.

“I think we want to just finish the House portion, leave it to the Senate,” House Freedom Caucus Chairman Andy Biggs said.   The Arizona Republican acknowledged “there’s a certain number” of House Republicans, including himself, who would like to provide counsel to the president as he mounts a defense in the Senate. But Biggs isn’t expecting any House members to be added to Trump’s defense team.

“Basically it’s run by the White House counsel, and that’s been historically the way it’s gone,” Biggs said, but he noted that the White House may include House Republicans in informal strategy sessions or briefings.

Like Democrats’ caucus meeting earlier Tuesday, Republicans’ conference meeting was not solely about impeachment. They got a visit from U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer ahead of a Thursday vote on implementing legislation for the country’s trade agreement with Canada and Mexico.

Here is the latest on the impeachment inquiry:

Rules chairman promises no Wednesday meeting: The House Rules Committee concluded the hearing portion of its meeting but recessed subject to the call of the chair. The panel has not yet advanced the rule for floor consideration of the articles of impeachment.

In response to a pleading inquiry from ranking member Tom Cole, Chairman Jim McGovern promised the meeting would not go as late as Monday evening’s, which went past midnight. McGovern said the panel would return Tuesday evening and would not push further action to Wednesday morning.

Pelosi announces Wednesday vote: Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a Wednesday vote on impeachment in a “Dear Colleague” letter Tuesday evening, in which she invited the House to join her on the floor for the historic moment.

“Tomorrow, the House of Representatives will exercise one of the most solemn powers granted to us by the Constitution, as we vote to approve two articles of impeachment against the President of the United States,” Pelosi wrote.

She said that the committee chairs conducted the inquiry with “great seriousness and solemnity” and called the process “fair, transparent and deliberative.” Pelosi seemed to discourage celebration among Democrats when the articles are expected to pass, calling the moment prayerful, solemn and sad.

“Our constituents look to us to be respectful of the Constitution and Defenders of our Democracy, and to proceed in a manner worthy of our oath of office to support and defend the Constitution of the United States,” Pelosi wrote.

The letter was released while the House Rules Committee continued deliberation of the articles and before they issued the parameters for debate and votes.

One up, one down for Golden: Maine Rep. Jared Golden, a freshman Democrat from a district that President Donald Trump carried in 2016, is voting for one article of impeachment, but not the other, breaking with nearly every other member of his caucus. Golden said he would vote for the first article, which accuses the president of abuse of power, but not the second, which alleges that he obstructed Congress. Read more here.

Manchin on Mulvaney, Bolton: Sen. Joe Manchin III said Tuesday that he wants to see witness testimony during the Senate impeachment trial, but the Democrat from West Virginia also wishes House Democrats had pursued more legal avenues to force testimony from key figures.

“How do you have trial without witnesses? Tell me. How do you have a trial if you can’t get the facts out?” Manchin said. “So, some how, way, shape or form, even if it’s in a deposition, they should be sworn in under oath and make sure they tell the truth.”

“I don’t know why the House … didn’t go to court. You know, why they didn’t go after these witnesses that are so pertinent to the whole accusation. That makes it very difficult,” Manchin told CQ Roll Call. Manchin specifically referenced acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton as witnesses who should’ve been pursued.

“Hindsight’s 20/20. I can’t tell you what was in their mind, why they did what they did, but they had the ability to go to court, subpoena these witnesses and make sure they testify, either in closed — in a closed deposition or whatever,” Manchin said. “Bolton had firsthand information. Mulvaney has firsthand information, and there’s a lot of people on the front lines.”

Manchin added that the Republican side should also be able to call any witnesses they would like.

“The Republicans should be able to call whoever they want, whoever they think’s pertinent to the trial,” Manchin said.

Collins has questions: Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., the ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee, questioned why the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump were even at the committee, citing Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying earlier this year that impeachment should be overwhelmingly bipartisan, and precedent in previous impeachment efforts.

The articles written for President Bill Clinton — the most recent impeachment in 1998 — bypassed the Rules Committee and went to the House floor as a privileged resolution from the Judiciary Committee. The House then moved forward with a unanimous consent agreement that allowed for two days of debate in which nearly all members participated.

Earlier this month, House Republicans wrote in a public letter that they planned to use “every parliamentary tool available to us in committees and the House floor in order to highlight your inaction.”

“I’m not sure in light of this letter that we could get a unanimous consent request with regard to these proceedings to break for a cup of coffee, never mind determine the rules of engagement, ” Rules Chairman Jim McGovern said, saying the deal struck during the Clinton case would be impossible today.

McGovern hit back at the Republican allegation that the impeachment is an effort to reverse the results of the 2016 election because Democrats lost, saying that this is about Trump’s conduct not politics.

“I would take losing an election any day of the week when the American people render that verdict,” McGovern said. 

He reiterated what Pelosi has said, that impeachment will be a “vote of conscience” for members.

Judiciary Committee member Rep. Jamie Raskin took the lead in advocating for the articles, stepping in for Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler due to medical emergency involving Nadler’s wife. 

Raskin, who serves on both the Rules and Judiciary panels, sat beside Collins at the witness table in the tiny Rules Committee room. McGovern welcomed them both, noting that while he rarely agrees with Collins, he respects him and noted that Collins is a former Rules member.

The committee is establishing how much debate time the House will spend on the two articles against Trump and whether any amendments would be in order for debate. It could also structure votes to allow lawmakers to vote on each article separately, rather than as a package.

An interesting proposal: House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said he’s familiar with the suggestion that the House hold the articles of impeachment in the lower chamber to give Senate Democrat leverage in negotiating rules for the Senate trial.

“It’s an interesting proposal,” the Maryland Democrat said. “I don’t think that that’s the path we’ll follow. That does not mean they’ll immediately go over.”

Hoyer said the timing of appropriations legislation and other matters that the Senate needs to pass this year will factor into the House’s decision when to transmit the articles.

Hoyer said the impeachment floor debate Wednesday be several hours and “significant” but he doesn’t foresee it sliding into Thursday. He said he can’t predict the exact timing of the vote but that it will be Wednesday.

An interesting proposal, Part II: Asked what he thinks about some Democrats pushing for Republican-turned-independent Justin Amash to be an impeachment manager, Hoyer called that “an interesting proposal,” too, given that Amash left the GOP over the frustration Democrats share that Republicans are unwilling to put country over party and uphold their oath to the Constitution.

Pelosi will make the decision about impeachment managers, Hoyer said, noting, “I will not second guess her on what she wants to do.”

Cutting him some slack: Lawmakers repeatedly said they understood why Nadler was not present at the Rules markup and offered sympathies for his family, but his absence also led to some frustration because Raskin could not always answer questions to the satisfaction of Republican members

“To my friend Mr. Raskin, a number of my questions were originally crafted for chairman Nadler, so may or may not need to answer these directly,” Rules ranking member Tom Cole, R-Okla., said.

Cole’s concern was confirmed after his first question.

“Forgive me, Mister Cole, I was not prepared to answer that question,” Raskin responded before citing previous Judiciary Committee positions.

Collins’ rebuttals against Raskin’s answers were passionate, as he is known for, but didn’t dig into Raskin himself.

“I’ll cut him some slack, he was trying to answer for the chairman’s own words and I get that,” Collins said.

Rejected: As the Rules Committee was setting the ground rules for the House vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell rejected Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer’s request for the Senate impeachment trial to include witnesses and documents not made available to the House investigators.

“The fact that my colleague is already desperate to sign up the Senate for new fact-finding … well, that suggests something to me,” McConnell, R-Ky., said. “It suggests that even Democrats who do not like this president are beginning to realize how dramatically insufficient the House’s rushed process has been.”

House Democrats have argued that legal action taken by potential witnesses is tantamount to an obstruction of Congress, as charged in one of the impeachment articles.

“If House Democrats’ case is this deficient, this thin, the answer is not for the judge and jury to cure it here in the Senate. The answer is that the House should not impeach on this basis in the first place,” McConnell said.

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More moderates to vote yes: Oklahoma Rep. Kendra Horn, one of the most vulnerable Democrats in the House in 2020, joined the growing ranks of Democrats who won in Trump districts who will vote to impeach Trump.

“It is with a heavy heart, but with clarity of conviction that I have made my decision. The oath I took to protect and defend the Constitution requires a vote for impeachment,” she said in a statement Tuesday. “This is not a decision I came to lightly, but I must do my part to ensure our democracy remains strong.”

Trump won Horn’s 5th District by 14 points in 2016. She is the first Democrat in nearly 40 years to represent the Oklahoma City area in the House.

Earlier Tuesday New York Democratic Rep. Anthony Brindisi announced that he would support both articles of impeachment. Of the freshmen who flipped House seats in 2018, Brindisi represents the district Trump won by the widest margin in 2016 — 15 points.

Since the weekend, Democratic Reps. Joe Cunningham of South Carolina, Andy Kim of New Jersey, Elaine Luria and Abigail Spanburger of Virginia, Ben McAdams of Utah, and Elissa Slotkin of Michigan, all who represent districts Trump won in 2016, have come out for impeaching the president.

Slotkin explained her decision to a town hall meeting in her district on Monday: “This was an issue of principle,” she said. “This was an issue in my bones.”

Other moderate Democrats like Iowa’s Cindy Axne and Wisconsin’s Ron Kind while leaving the Democrats’ weekly meeting declined to say how they planned to vote on the two articles of impeachment.

“I’m waiting for the president to come forward at the last minute and offer any kind of defense to these allegations,” Kind said. “And he still has not. He’s got 24 hours.”

Rudy roils the waters: The morning after telling The New York Times he needed to get then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch “out of the way” and that he briefed Trump on his efforts there “a couple of times,” the president’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani doubled down the day before the House will vote to impeach his boss.

“Yovanovitch needed to be removed for many reasons most critical she was denying visas to Ukrainians who wanted to come to US and explain Dem corruption in Ukraine. She was OBSTRUCTING JUSTICE and that’s not the only thing she was doing. She at minimum enabled Ukrainian collusion,” Giuliani tweeted Tuesday morning.

Witnesses during the House Intelligence Committee hearings described Giuliani’s efforts to oust Yovanovich as a “smear campaign” pushed by the former New York mayor, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, who testified that “everyone was in the loop” in the administration.

Courage: Members leaving the Democrats’ weekly caucus meeting said while most of their discussion was about appropriations, Pelosi did address the impeachment vote, reiterating her message that it’s about the Constitution and thanking moderates for their courage.

“Principle is unifying and I think we’re seeing it play out in pretty dramatic fashion,” Minnesota Rep. Dean Phillips said of his fellow moderate colleagues who have come out in droves to support the articles of impeachment.

“Record High”: Trump continued arguing the state of the U.S. economy should convince House Democrats to vote against the impeachment articles. And he again suggested polling data shows voters have turned against the opposition party.

“The Stock Market hit another Record High yesterday, number 133 in less than three years as your all time favorite President, and the Radical Left, Do Nothing Democrats, want to impeach me. Don’t worry, I have done nothing wrong. Actually, they have!” he tweeted.

In a tweet posted minutes later, he wrote: “Impeachment Poll numbers are starting to drop like a rock now that people are understanding better what this whole Democrat Scam is all about!”

A CNN survey released Tuesday shows voters split on whether he deserves to be impeached.

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