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.

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, Impeachment, Law and the Courts, Politicians, U.S. Constitution, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Nickel Front says:

    So bribery and Quid pro quo are out.

    When someone gives me a huge list of horrible things about Trump, I typically ask them to pick the one absolute worst thing, the one with the strongest evidence behind it and which truly poses the greatest threat to the country.

    “Obstructing Congress.”

    LOL

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  2. @Nickel Front:

    The violations of law that the President committed with respect to Ukraine do not require a quid pro quo. See 50 USC 30121(a)(2) and 18 USC 201(b)(2).

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  3. Kurtz says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    @Nickel Front’s response to your links will be:

    TL;DR

  4. senyordave says:

    @Nickel Front: Imagine for three seconds if, in 2011, Barack Obama had been caught trying to have a foreign country push a phony investigation into Mitt Romney. You really don’t think that a sitting president abusing the power of his office in that way isn’t a big deal?

  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    The House DEMs appear to be following the KISS principle: Keep It Simple Stupid. Considering the short attention span of the American electorate, I suspect they are right to.

    @Wooden Nickel : At the very top of my huge list of horrible things about trump is “Breathing”, which is theft of oxygen from a far more deserving platypus.

    @senyordave: IOKYAt

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  6. reid says:

    @Kurtz: Or LOL. It’s all very LOL.

  7. Joe says:

    Those of you who follow my comments closely (numbering in the low zeros) will know that these two focused articles of impeachment were exactly what I was advocating. This piece from The Bulwark makes my point in spades, whether for the Republicans in the House or in the Senate.

  8. CSK says:

    @Nickel Front: Given that it’s the official position of Trump fans that Christopher Steele is a villain of unparalleled dimensions, what is your take on Ivanka Trump’s long term friendship with Steele? Cult45 is remarkably silent on the issue.

  9. JKB says:

    “abuse of power, obstruction of justice”

    So the Senate will have to call witnesses to see if there is any there, there. All the House has is accusations. A long January trial.

    Amusingly, Trump has a rally in PA tonight and, meeting with the Russian Foreign Minister this afternoon. Oh and an hour after announcing impeachment, Nancy is rushing to pass the trade deal with Mexico and Canada that she has held up for nearly a year.

    Fun, fun.

  10. CSK says:

    @JKB: Okay, I’ll ask you. What is your position on Ivanka Trump’s years-long friendship with her father’s worst enemy, C. Steele?

  11. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @JKB: Shorter JKB:

    [with fingers in ears]LA LA LA … I’M NOT LISTENING… NO NO NO… NAAAAAHHHHHT LISTENING!!!!!!!

  12. CSK says:

    Will no kindly Trumpkin heed and address my plaintive query?

  13. Nickel Front says:

    @senyordave:
    It is in the public interest to know about any nefarious dealings involving Joe Biden, his son, and a foreign govt.

    Maybe if someone had overheard a conversation in a bar about it you’d be more supportive of that. Very flimsy basis on which to start an investigation.

    I agree it’ll be good to get the USMCA finally passed tho. Another win for this President.

  14. CSK says:

    @Nickel Front: Are you perchance avoiding my question?

  15. Nickel Front says:

    @Doug Mataconis:
    Dems changed the narrative from quid pro quo to Bribery because of polling.

    Both Ukraine and the US have an interest in knowing about corruption in both countries. Being a presidental candidate, as we all know, does not immunize one from being investigated.

    I’m not seeing any instance of actual bribery anywhere. Sorry.

  16. Michael Reynolds says:

    @JKB:
    Dude they have ten times thee evidence it takes to put a drug dealer, a robber or a killer behind bars. They have a surplus of evidence. Hannity/Tucker et al are lying to you. Do you think you’ll ever wake up? Or are you going to your grave still sunk in the mental cesspool that is Cult45?

  17. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Nickel Front:
    Quid pro quo IS bribery you imbecile.

  18. KM says:

    It is in the public interest to know about any nefarious dealings involving Joe Biden, his son, and a foreign govt.

    Perhaps if you had followed up that statement with “and Trump should have left it to the proper authorities to investigate instead of dealing himself him”, you’d have plenty of people agreeing with you. That’s what investigative agencies are for – to investigate.

    However, public interest is not Trump’s interest. L’état, Ce N’est Pas Donald. For god sake, his personal lawyer (as Giuliani keeps reminding us!!) is in the middle of all this so how can it be for the public good? No, y’all keep trying to pretend His Mandarin Majesty wasn’t trying to personally benefit from using his power to investigate a political rival. There’s no reason why this should have risen to the level of Presidential attention other then it’s extremely relevant to his interests.

  19. KM says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    Now, now – be nice. It’s in a dead language and has funny letters and pronunciation that even Trump gets wrong every time he tries it. What hope does a mere nickel have if a billionaire can’t?
    “Switching it to bribery” stings the pride because they used a word he can understand, thus implying he’s not capable of getting what quid pro quo means. QED and all that…..

  20. Kurtz says:

    @Nickel Front:

    Trump is using the same tactic he used with the Russia investigation–collusion is one narrow part of potential wrongdoing. By drawing attention to one thing that is hard to prove, he can control the narrative for someone like you.

    “No quid pro quo” is the same thing here. It is focusing attention on one difficult to prove element of a complex issue.

    At least one sucker was born on your birthdate. Shame on you for being fooled multiple times by, to quote Mencken on WJ Bryan, “a charlatan, a mountebank, a zany without any shame or dignity.”

    Please, either smarten up or stop voting. You are putting your fellow Americans at risk. You are embarrassing us.

  21. CSK says:

    @Kurtz: I like better what Charles Francis Adams said about Bryan: “He is in one sense scripturally formidable, for he is unquestionably armed with the jawbone of an ass.”

  22. Kurtz says:

    @CSK:

    I was not aware of that quote. It is fantastic.

  23. CSK says:

    @Kurtz: It’s great, isn’t it?

  24. grumpy realist says:

    @CSK: Oooh, the BURN…..

    (Takes opportunity to post the best Doctor Who bitch-fight ever…)

  25. Kurtz says:

    @CSK:

    Especially given the shape of Trump’s mouth when he speaks.

  26. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: Until Hannity, Ingraham, or Breitbart comments on it, they won’t know what their opinions are, so I’m guessing “no.”

    @CSK: Since he doesn’t know the answer yet (see above), Magic 8 ball gives that “A definite yes!”

  27. CSK says:

    @Kurtz: Yes.
    @Just nutha ignint cracker: Hannity has said he will not comment on it.
    @grumpy realist: Burn indeed.

  28. DrDaveT says:

    @JKB:

    All the House has is accusations

    Well, and the public confessions by Trump and Mulvaney and Giuliani. That you keep pretending didn’t happen. Apart from that…