House Set To Debate And Vote On Impeachment
By the end of today, Donald Trump will most likely be the third President of the United States to be impeached by the House of Representatives.
By the end of the day t0day, possibly not until sometime after sundown on the East Coast, Donald Trump will become the third President in American history to be impeached by the House of Representatives:
The House is set to vote on Wednesday to impeach Donald Trump for abusing his power and obstructing congressional investigations, labeling the president a threat to national security and recommending his removal from office.
With the votes, which are expected to fall largely along party lines, Trump will become just the third president to be impeached — after Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998. He likely will also become the first to campaign for reelection after facing the House’s ultimate punishment.
It’s the culmination of Democrats’ yearlong string of Trump-focused investigations overseen by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a skilled political tactician who remained reluctant to embrace impeachment until September, when allegations were unearthed about Trump’s conduct toward Ukraine.
Even with the president heading to the Senate for a trial and likely acquittal, House Democrats have vowed to continue their impeachment probes — particularly those focused on former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and potential obstruction of justice by the president.
Leading up to Wednesday’s vote, nearly every moderate and swing-district Democrat declared his or her support for the impeachment articles — an indication that Democratic leaders were successful in holding their caucus together amid fears that several members would peel off. Republicans, meanwhile, are poised to vote uniformly against impeachment after weeks of a feverish whip operation by GOP leaders who “kept a close pulse on the entire conference,” according to a Republican source.
Democratic leaders cited Trump’s lack of remorse — and, indeed, his alleged ongoing pursuit of an scheme to undermine the integrity of the 2020 presidential election — as evidence that he poses a continuing and unprecedented threat to U.S. national security while in office. That charge far exceeds the gravity of any previous presidential impeachment.
The two articles of impeachment against Trump stem from his efforts to enlist Ukraine to announce investigations targeting former Vice President Joe Biden and other Democrats on discredited allegations. Trump made the request in a July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, a summary of which the White House released in September, fueling the House’s impeachment investigation and prompting allegations that Trump was soliciting foreign help for his reelection.
Democrats also accuse Trump of dispatching his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to pressure Ukrainian officials to launch the probes. They said Trump sought to further pressure Zelensky by ordering a freeze on $391 million in military aid meant for Ukraine and by refusing a White House visit for Zelensky intended to broadcast U.S. support for an ally at war with Russia.
In directing the alleged scheme, Democrats said, Trump “betrayed” the country and violated his oath of office — a claim that forms the basis of the first article of impeachment: abuse of power. In a separate report issued earlier this week, the House Judiciary Committee went further, writing that Trump committed criminal bribery and wire fraud as part of a monthslong scheme to solicit foreign interference in a U.S. election. Republicans have pointed out that neither charge appears in the text of the impeachment articles.
When Democrats began investigating the matter, Trump directed senior officials to defy subpoenas and refuse to appear for testimony or to provide documents. The second impeachment article — obstruction of Congress — describes these actions as an unprecedented assault on the House’s impeachment power and an attempt to skirt accountability.
The two articles of impeachment were the product of weeks of agonizing debate inside the Democratic Caucus about which “high crimes and misdemeanors” to bring to the floor. A swath of the Democratic Caucus had hoped to include obstruction of justice as a third charge, based primarily on Mueller’s findings, but Pelosi and other House leaders viewed the Ukraine scandal as a simpler and more compelling narrative to explain to Americans.
Proceedings in the House of Representatives begin this morning in the House of Representatives, and it’s likely to last all day. First, the House will convene at 9:00 a.m this morning to begin debate on the rules that will govern the debate on the actual Articles of Impeachment. Those rules were set by the House Rules Committee after a long and contentious day of hearings that featured Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle making their case on the merits of the proceedings. The debate on the Rules Committee package will likely last for an hour or two and will end with a vote of the full House on the Rules that is expected to be a party-line vote just as the final vote on impeachment will be later today.
From there, the House will proceed immediately to the debate on the Articles of Impeachment themselves. As set forth in the rules there will be six hours of debate on the Articles of Impeachment which will be divided equally between Republicans and Democrats, with the time controlled by Jerry Nadler, the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, on the Democratic National Committee and by Congressman Doug Collins, the Ranking Minority Member of that Committee. Under the rules, there will be no amendments permitted by either side, although there are a variety of parliamentary rules that would allow Republicans to slow the process down somewhat, they won’t be able to stop it altogether. Once that debate and the consideration of any parliamentary moves is over with, the House will proceed to vote on the Articles of Impeachment themselves. The final votes will most likely take place somewhere between 6:30 and 7:30 p.m EST this evening. There will be separate votes on each Article of Impeachment, which means that we could see some Democrats vote for one Article and against the other. There will be no Republican votes in favor of either Article and other than independent Michigan Congressman Justin Amash, there will be no non-Democrats voting for the Articles. After the votes, the House could proceed immediately to approve the slate of House Impeachment Managers that will be named by Speaker Pelosi. Alternatively, that vote will take place later this week before the House leaves for the Christmas break.
At this point, there isn’t very much to be said about the substance of the Articles of Impeachment themselves. The evidence that has been laid on the table ever since the whistleblower complaint was made public in September is clear and establishes, at least in my opinion, that the President of the United States committed offenses that are clearly in violation of the law, an abuse of Presidential power, and the clearest example of the reason the Impeachment Clause was placed in the Constitution in the first place.
Early American history, both before and after the Constitution was drafted and adopted, makes clear that one of the greatest fears that the men who fought to establish the United States, and who gathered some six years after the Revolutionary War was won to draft the Constitution, was the fear that the new nation would become the pawn of foreign powers. It was a concern that hung over the nation for decades, until seemingly finally resolved in the War of 1812. In that respect, one of the main concerns about the President is the concern that he could be influenced by foreign powers and that the tiny nation on the eastern coast of North America could end up becoming a puppet to the powers of Europe, principally France or England. Indeed, several of the biggest political battles of the first decades of American government involved questions about American involvement in European affairs, especially under Presidents Washington, Adams, and Jefferson.
While that kind of outside interference is less of a concern than it was two centuries ago, the principles remain the same. As the Russia investigation started by the F.B.I. and continued by former Special Counsel Robert Mueller, showed, Russia made an active effort to interfere in the 2016 election and appears to have at least timed its effort to benefit the candidacy of Donald Trump. Whether or not the result of this interference rose to the level of collusion or conspiracy is largely immaterial as the result was the same, a foreign power explicitly sought to interfere in an American election and did so in a way that actually seemed to have an impact.
In the case of the Ukraine scandal, the process was reversed, but the impact is precisely the same. And in this case, we are presented with seemingly incontrovertible evidence that the President of the United States sought to use a foreign power to influence the outcome of an American election to his benefit.
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 and fall under the abuse of power grounds set forth in the first Article of Impeachment.
The second Article of Impeachment, of course, deals with the efforts of the Trump White House to obstruct Congressional investigation not only of the Ukraine matter but of other legitimate areas of investigation. In a manner that even the Nixon Administration didn’t attempt, the Trump Administration has attempted to block Congress from current and former Administration officials as well as perfectly legitimate document requests. Each time these requests have been challenged in Court, they have been blocked at the District Court and Court of Appeals level. While those matters are now pending before the Supreme Court, the resolution of that case likely won’t come before June, right before the party conventions and the beginning of the Presidential General Election season.
There have been two Presidents before Trump who were impeached, and one who was almost impeached before resigning. Other than Nixon, there has been none more serious and fundamental to the principles of the Constitution than the impeachment of Donald Trump. The impeachment of Andrew Johnson, who was admittedly an incompetent successor to Abraham Lincoln who sought to undermine the post-Civil War Reconstruction process, was based largely around a law that was clearly unconstitutional, the Tenure Of Office Act. The impeachment of President Clinton, while it was based on what was clearly a violation of the law, was related to matters outside the Presidency itself and dealt with conduct that, arguably, was more deserving of censure than impeachment.
The conduct of President Trump, however, like the conduct of President Nixon, which involved the abuse of the power of the Presidency for the benefit of the President himself. In President Nison’s case, the abuses of power involved domestic matters and touched on the integrity of the political system and, more seriously, of law enforcement agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation and intelligence agencies such as the Central Intelligence Agencies. In Trump’s case, the abuses involve the abuse of foreign policy to benefit the President personally. To the extent that there is anything a President can do that rises to the level of an impeachable offense, President Trump has done it and it is appropriate that he will be rebuked for it by the House of Representatives.
Coverage of today’s proceedings on the House floor will be covered live on broadcast and cable television on the usual channels, as well as by C-Span. The major news websites will also have live video streaming of the House proceedings. Meanwhile, we’ll be back with a wrap-up post most likely tomorrow morning.