House Judiciary Committee To Unveil Articles Of Impeachment
After a hearing that largely recapped the past month of hearings on Capitol Hill, the House Judiciary Committee is set to unveil Articles of Impeachment today.
After an all-day hearing of the House Judiciary Committee that consisted largely of a recap of the past month of hearings before the House Intelligence Committee as well as last week’s public hearing before the Judiciary Committee, Democrats are reportedly ready to unveil Articles of Impeachment against the President early today:
Democrats are expected to unveil two articles of impeachment against President Trump on Tuesday that will focus on abuse of power and obstructing Congress, and would be voted on by the full House next week, according to three officials familiar with the matter.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) met with Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and other committee chairmen Monday night after a nine-hour hearing in which a Democratic counsel laid out the party’s case against Trump. The three officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private talks, cautioned that the plan had not been finalized.
Leaving a meeting with Pelosi, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.) told reporters that he and the chairmen of other House committees would announce specific articles at a news conference at 9 a.m. Tuesday.
At an event hosted by the Wall Street Journal on Monday night, Pelosi said no final decision had been made.
“You think I’m going to tell you the articles of impeachment?” she said when asked about the matter. “We’re in a place where our members, our leadership of our committees of jurisdiction have now gotten the last input” about the conduct at issue, she added. “They’ll make a determination, a recommendation as to how we will go forward and what the articles will be.”
Under the current plan, the Judiciary Committee would vote on the articles Thursday, according to two people familiar with the matter, setting up a floor vote next week.
Democrats laid the groundwork for the charges Monday, lambasting Trump as a danger to the country during a contentious Judiciary panel hearing that foreshadowed a likely party-line vote on the articles.
Describing Trump as a “continuing risk to the country,” Nadler forcefully accused the president of using his office to pressure Ukraine to launch political investigations and then trying to block Congress from investigating him.
“President Trump put himself before country,” he said. “The president welcomed foreign interference in our election in 2016, he demanded it in 2020, and then he got caught.”
Republicans on the committee sought to vigorously defend Trump, using parliamentary maneuvers, process complaints and occasional theatrics to disrupt the hearing and accuse Democrats of abusing the impeachment process in pursuit of a political vendetta.
The hearing did not reveal much new information about the underlying conduct at the heart of the impeachment inquiry, instead allowing committee lawyers to summarize the extensive existing evidence and present opposing sides of the case. With dueling staff counsel arguing for and against impeachment — and at one point questioning one another — the hearing showcased how partisan the proceedings had become ahead of the release of articles for ousting Trump from office.
The partisan rancor at Monday’s hearing belied the growing closed-door cooperation between the two parties on other issues as they negotiate with the White House to complete several major legislative agreements before the end of the year. With pending deals on budget measures, a North American trade agreement and a new paid family leave initiative, Congress faced the prospect of ending 2019 with a rush of bipartisan legislation to go along with a party-line impeachment vote in the House that would be followed by a Senate trial early next year.
The hearing allowed both sides to sharpen their arguments ahead of a historic committee vote on whether to send articles of impeachment to the House floor.
“Such conduct is clearly impeachable,” Nadler said of Trump’s actions toward Ukraine at the end of the hearing. “This committee will proceed accordingly.”
Republicans argued throughout the hearing that Trump eventually released the aid to Ukraine without any investigations into Biden, something that occurred after a whistleblower came forward to allege wrongdoing. They said Trump was within his rights to block his top aides from testifying while the courts decide on the issue of executive privilege.
Republicans also sought to undercut the witnesses who did decide to testify publicly, including several Trump administration appointees who provided damning testimony about the president’s Ukraine policy.
Several Republican lawmakers openly criticized Gordon Sondland, Trump’s ambassador to the European Union, who said last month that there was a “quid pro quo” requiring Ukraine to announce investigations into Democrats before Trump would meet with Zelensky at the White House.
In his opening remarks Monday, GOP lawyer Stephen R. Castor pointed out more than 600 references to Sondland in the Intelligence Committee report, suggesting that Democrats had leaned heavily on an unreliable witness in making their case.
“Sondland as a witness — he’s a bit of an enigma,” Castor said during a lengthy colloquy with another GOP lawyer aimed at casting doubt about one of the few witnesses who spoke directly to Trump. “He stated that he doesn’t have notes because he doesn’t take notes and he conceded that he doesn’t have recollections of a lot of these issues.”
Trump has previously quoted from Sondland’s testimony to defend himself, saying that he told the ambassador that he wanted “no quid pro quo” from Ukraine.
Well accustomed to one another’s arguments after several weeks of private and public testimony, lawmakers from both parties used Monday’s hearing to try to poke holes in the opposing side’s case.
Nadler, for example, used his opening remarks to preemptively dismiss a GOP complaint about the fast-moving impeachment timeline. He also referenced Trump’s personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani, who traveled to Ukraine earlier this month to meet with officials who have peddled unsubstantiated allegations of misconduct by Biden and an unfounded theory that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 election.
“As we proceed today, we will hear a great deal about the speed with which the House is addressing the president’s actions,” he said. “To the members of this committee, to the members of the House, and to my fellow citizens, I want to be absolutely clear: The integrity of our next election is at stake. Nothing could be more urgent.”
As stated, the hearing on Monday was generally repetitive of testimony and arguments from the past month of hearings of two of the House’s most prestigious committees. Both the Majority and Minority Counsel for the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees presented what amounted to the arguments made by the two sides in each committee, with the majority counsel laying out the case for impeachment and the minority counsel seeking to undercut the same. In the meantime, the hearing was as raucous as one might have as expected as Republican members sought to use parliamentary inquiries and other methods to obstruct, delay, and throw the hearing off course virtually from the moment that Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler gaveled the hearings open. This should make the committee debates over the Articles of Impeachment themselves, which at least in part will likely be broadcast as the past hearings have been, quite, well, interesting to watch to say the least.
With respect to the Ukraine matter, the evidence is crystal clear. Beginning at nearly the same time that President Zelensky was elected the new President of Ukraine, the Trump Administration, at the apparent direction of the President working through his private attorney Rudy Giuliani, was seeking to put pressure on the new government. That pressure was directed at getting Zelensky to agree to launch an investigation aimed at finding compromising information about a political rival as well as information that would supposedly corroborate a discredited, Kremlin-based, conspiracy theory dealing with Ukraine’s role in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election.
When Congress authorized millions of dollars in defensive military aid for Ukraine to deal with the Russian-backed civil war taking place in the nation’s eastern region, that opportunity presented itself. Contrary to the wishes of Congress, the President placed a hold on that aide without explanation and then sought to tie the lifting of that hold and any progress with regard to the relationship between Washington and Kyiv and made clear to the aforementioned investigations. This was made clear in both the President’s July 25th phone call with President Zelensky and other communications with his government, including contact initiated by and through Giuliani. As I’ve discussed elsewhere, this constituted a violation of both the Constitutional understanding of “bribery” as that term is used in the impeachment clause and of a number of existing provisions of Federal law.
Based on the reports that came out overnight, it does not appear that the Articles of Impeachment to be considered by the committee will include anything outside of the Ukraine matter. This means that they will not deal with obstruction of justice related to the Russia investigation, the President’s conspiracy with Michael Cohen to violate campaign finance laws via the payoffs to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, the Emoluments Clause issues, or the White House’s stonewalling of Congressional investigations and oversight in matters entirely unrelated to the underlying impeachment investigation. In part, this appears to be due to the fact that Democrats are uncertain that they can keep the caucus together on a floor vote for articles that stray too far from the Ukraine scandal, particularly with respect to moderate Democrats elected in Districts that President Trump won in 2016. The calculus appears to be that losing a floor vote on even one of the proposed articles would be a political setback for the impeachment process itself. Whether this is the wisest course of action to take regardless of the politics of the matter, though, is another question.
Whatever the case may be, the process is now set to move forward rapidly. The Judiciary Committee will likely spend the next two days debating the articles that will be unveiled later today, with a floor vote taking place at some point on Thursday. From there, the matter goes to the House floor for debate and a floor vote that will likely take place at the end of next week right before Congress leaves town for the holidays. At that point, of course, the matter will shift over to the Senate and only third Impeachment Trial of a President in the history of the United States.