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'I'M HAVING A GOOD TIME': At the moment President Trump became the third president in American history to be impeached, he was railing against a litany of perceived enemies at a political rally before an estimated 10,000 supporters in the aptly named Battle Creek, Michigan.
From the podium at Trump's "Merry Christmas Rally," where he learned of the final vote count, Trump boasted of a unified Republican party. And on what many might deem the low point of his presidency, he claimed that Republicans have "never been so united as they are right now" and reveled in the drama of the evening.
“With Richard Nixon, I just see it as a very dark era, very dark, very old,” he said. “I don’t know about you, but I’m having a good time.”
- "Every single Republican voted for us. So we had 198. 229-198," Trump said, referring to the vote on the article charging obstruction of Congress, according to our colleague Josh Dawsey who traveled with the president last night. "We didn't lose one Republican vote."
- He pointed to cracks on the other side: "The Democrats always stick together. Think of it: Three Democrats went over to our side."
- And he predicted he would be reelected: "In the life of Trump, 10 months is an eternity."
The breakdown: Reps. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) and Jeff Van Drew (D-N.J.) voted against both articles, though Van Drew is expected to switch parties soon. Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine) voted against the obstruction of Congress article while Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), who is currently running for president, voted "present" on both.
- The House voted 230 to 197 to approve the article charging abuse of power.
NOT A TOTAL JOYRIDE: But for all of Trump's assurances throughout his two-hour speech that he's unconcerned about a trial in the Republican-controlled Senate -- insisting "I'm not worried, I'm not worried" -- Trump furiously defended his actions toward Ukraine and bitterly trashed the media, his Democratic opponents past and present, and lawmakers on the Hill for supporting what he called an "unconstitutional and partisan" effort to remove him from office.
- "Crazy Nancy Pelosi’s House Democrats have branded themselves with an eternal mark of shame," he said about House Democrats initiating the impeachment process. "...This lawless partisan impeachment is a suicide march for the Democratic Party."
- "You know, Chuck Schumer. Cryin’ Chuck," Trump said of the Senate's top Democrat. "I used to be a big contributor...He used to kiss my ass, Chuck Schumer. He’d do anything. He would have done anything for me."
Josh Dawsey and Ashley Parker set the scene for last night's "striking and surreal split screen": "When the House impeachment vote actually happened — just 17 minutes after Trump emerged to applause in this critical 2020 battleground — the president was in the midst of a meandering and free-associating riff that included, but was not limited to, the Space Force, nuclear submarines, the recent budget deal with Congress, a military F-35 plane and a pilot who looked like Tom Cruise."
- Every picture tells a story: "The president's furious visage — red-faced to the shade of burnt sienna, sweat beading on his upper lip — belied the image aides had scrambled to project all week of a leader in high spirits even as he faced a historic low point."
- "Trump's tone was also particularly nasty at times. He joked that Bill Clinton perhaps refers to his wife simply as 'Crooked' and imagined a conversation between the couple, with the former president berating his wife during the 2016 campaign for not visiting swing states such as Michigan and Wisconsin," Josh and Ashley write.
- "You horrible human being, you better start listening to me, or you’re gonna get your ass whooped," Trump told the crowd, pretending to be Bill Clinton talking to Hillary Clinton.
- And Trump took aim at Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) in her home state in a particularly vicious attack, going so far as to suggest that her husband, the late congressman, is currently in hell. (More on that down below.)
On The Hill
MEANWHILE, IN WASHINGTON: Clad in black for the occasion, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi framed the day of intense and polarized debate “through the long lens of history,” according to our colleagues Phil Rucker, Felicia Sonmez and Colby Itkowitz.
It was the opposite of a rally: After 11 hours of fierce argument on the House floor over Trump’s conduct with Ukraine, Pelosi urged members not to applaud the final vote. She recited the Pledge of Allegiance and singled out the line “the republic for which it stands.”
- “The House has acted on a very sad day to protect the constitution of the United States,” she said at a press conference after the vote, calling it “appropriate and urgent."
But the dueling messages from House Democrats and Republicans provided a snapshot of the state of affairs in Washington: Complete polarization. The day's debate featured Republicans determined to paint the other side as Trump-haters who have lusted for impeachment since his election in 2016 against Democrats who insisted they only sought to uphold a pledge to the Constitution and to prevent Trump from soliciting a foreign government to interfere in the 2020 election.
- On the left: "Many of my colleagues appear to have made their choice to protect the president, to enable him to be above the law, to empower this president to cheat again as long as it is in the service of their party and their power," said House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.). "They have made their choice and I believe they will rue the day that they did."
- “No one came to Congress to impeach a president,” said Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.). “We came here to solve the mighty issues that impact the lives of the constituents we pledge to serve.” But “this moment has found us," he added.
- On the right: “Democrats have wanted to impeach President Trump since the day he was elected — and nothing was going to get in their way, certainly not the truth," said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).
- “When Jesus was falsely accused of treason, Pontius Pilate gave Jesus the opportunity to face his accusers,” said Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.). “During that sham trial, Pontius Pilate afforded more rights to Jesus than the Democrats have afforded this president in this process.”
The drama isn't over yet -- and we don't just mean at a Senate trial. Dan Balz widens the aperture: "For all the gravity of the moment, reflected in the general tone of much of Wednesday’s floor debate in the House (there were some who strayed into histrionics and distortions), the impeachment proceeding is likely to become one more way station in a four-year struggle between those who oppose this president and fear his conduct will have long-term detrimental effects on the country, and those who support him as the person who is willing to do combat daily with forces and institutions they see as destructive to their way of life."
NEXT STEPS: Despite the official conclusion of the House's impeachment inquiry, Pelosi didn't quite close this chapter. Pelosi demurred when asked when she would be sending the articles of impeachment to Senate Republicans in a press conference after the vote.
- "Pelosi said the House could at least temporarily withhold the articles from the Senate — a decision, she suggested, that could depend on how the other chamber chooses to conduct its trial on Trump’s removal," our colleague Mike DeBonis reports.
- Pelosi: “We cannot name [House] managers until we see what the process is on the Senate side,” she said of the people who will present the case in a Senate trial. “So far we haven’t seen anything that looks fair to us. So hopefully it will be fair. And when we see what that is, we’ll send our managers.”
Pelosi's comments come as Schumer and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell publicly spar over the parameters of a Senate trial. Some believe that the "the withhold-the-articles gambit" might help Democrats access witnesses in a trial, which McConnell has thus far ruled out. "If no agreement is reached, some have argued, the trial could be delayed indefinitely, denying Trump an expected acquittal," Mike writes.
- "Senior Democratic aides said the House was 'very unlikely' to take the steps necessary to send the articles to the Senate until at least early January, a delay of at least two weeks and perhaps longer," per Politico's Kyle Cheney, Sarah Ferris, and John Bresnahan.
- What we're watching: McConnell will hold a press conference this morning.
- We're also watching: In an equally stunning split-screen, the House is expected to vote on one of Trump's top legislative priorities, an overhaul of the North American Free Trade Agreement known as the USMCA, later today.
MORE ON TRUMP'S ATTACK ON DINGELL: Trump's complaint about the Michigan congresswoman's support for his impeachment took a very personal turn at the rally last night.
The president claimed that he provided the Dingell family "the A-plus treatment" after Rep. Debbie Dingell's late husband, Rep. John Dingell, passed away earlier this year, including ordering flags to be lowered and offering the Capitol Rotunda for his memorial.
- Trump quoted Dingell as thanking him for the funeral arrangements: "Thank you so much. John would be so thrilled. He's looking down."
- Trump said of his own response: "I said, 'That's OK. Don’t worry about it.’ Maybe he’s looking up. I don’t know.”
- "The remark drew wary oohs and aahs from the crowd in Michigan, where John Dingell was a powerful advocate for the state he represented for more than 59 years," per the Associated Press.
TRUMP: "Debbie Dingell, that's a real beauty. … She calls me up … 'John would be so thrilled. He's looking down, he'd be so thrilled. Thank you so much sir.' I said, ‘That's okay, don't worry about it.’ Maybe he's looking up, I don't know." pic.twitter.com/PjqFQ71g0f— JM Rieger (@RiegerReport) December 19, 2019
At least one Republican who voted against impeaching the president moments earlier swiftly called on Trump to apologize: "I’ve always looked up to John Dingell - my good friend and a great Michigan legend. There was no need to 'dis' him in a crass political way. Most unfortunate and an apology is due," Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) tweeted.
Dingell's office issued a statement fact checking Trump's comments. It insists that Dingell did not ask for her late husband to lie to rest in the rotunda, "and when many suggested it she declined. And that would have been a Congressional Decision, not presidential." Dingell's office also said that she did not call the president: "The only person she spoke to while making arrangements was Speaker Pelosi."
- From Dingell herself: "Mr. President, let’s set politics aside," Dingell tweeted. "My husband earned all his accolades after a lifetime of service. I’m preparing for the first holiday season without the man I love. You brought me down in a way you can never imagine and your hurtful words just made my healing much harder."
- Dingell to New York Magazine's Olivia Nuzzi: “I’ve been one of the most measured members there is, so he may be mad because — I don’t know why he’s mad. I can’t explain why he’s fixated on me."
- Just hours earlier, Dingell was seen walking hand in hand with Pelosi entering the House Chamber.
In the Media
Today's front page:
A look at how past impeachments were presented:
MORE ON IMPEACHMENT:
Inside Pelosi’s strategy:
- Moderates in all things: “The experience tested the will of centrist Democrats from pro-Trump districts, forced liberals to settle for what some considered to be a far narrower list of charges than the president deserved, and, ultimately, showcased Pelosi focused on protecting her majority,” our colleagues Rachael Bade, Mike DeBonis and Josh Dawsey report.
- It wasn’t that long ago when she was facing opposition in her own party: But now “a caucus filled with younger Democrats who questioned the 79-year-old’s liberal bona fides now stands firmly behind her,” our colleague Paul Kane reports.
- The speaker's influence could be seen in a viral moment:
The glare Pelosi gave her caucus when some Dems started to clap after she announced the first article of impeachment passed pic.twitter.com/8vONZlEyZ3— Peter Stevenson (@PeterWStevenson) December 19, 2019
How McCarthy was able to hold to GOP together: “Instead of persuading Democrats, the GOP leader was focused on his own party, aware that a single defection could lead to many more,” our colleagues write.
- We’re talking about process?: Hammering the speed and secrecy of the probe became a daily talking point for the GOP. Those “arguments weren’t aimed at Democrats or even swing voters,” our colleagues write. “They were aimed at Republicans in Congress.” It worked.
- From a Republican that was viewed as get-able: “People can be compelled to testify, evidence can be turned over, there’s a legal process to do that,” retiring Rep. Paul Mitchell (Mich.) told our colleagues, citing the Nixon investigations. “It seems to me, it was just inconvenient. It appears to me that [Democrats] had a schedule.”
Looking back at history: “The impeachment battles over Presidents Andrew Johnson, Richard M. Nixon and Bill Clinton came at turning points in the American story,” the New York Times’s Peter Baker reports. “The time that produced Mr. Trump has proved to be another one, a moment when the unthinkable has become routine and precepts that once seemed inviolable have been tested.”
- The last word: “After the vote that day [nearly 21 years ago], Clinton rallied with fellow Democrats on the South Lawn of the White House, condemning the politics of personal destruction as his accusers spoke of his trampling on the honor and dignity of the Oval Office," our colleague Dan Balz wrote.
- "The stories that day provide an echo of what is being said and written about this moment, but few today see the period of two decades ago as equivalent to what the country is going through now. Whatever conditions existed then have grown worse. Many factors contribute to the mix: the velocity at which information moves; the endless news cycles; the fractured and more partisan media; the toxicity of social media."
MEADOWS RESIGNING: Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), a close ally of Trump, will not seek reelection:
can confirm @JakeSherman @apalmerdc scoop: Rep. Mark Meadows, one of Pres. Trump's confidants, will not seek reelection and expects to work closely with the president on the 2020 campaign, likely as a top surrogate/adviser, exact role TBD, per several ppl briefed on the talks— Robert Costa (@costareports) December 19, 2019
Outside the Beltway
ONE LAST DEBATE …. OF 2019: Seven of the 15 remaining Democratic presidential candidates will face off tonight in Los Angeles with just over one month until Iowa kicks of the presidential cycle.
- Everything you need to know: The debate starts at 8 p.m. central time and is scheduled to last three hours. It is co-hosted by PBS Newshour and Politico and will feature PBS’ Judy Woodruff, Amna Nawaz and Yamiche Alcindor, and Politico’s Tim Alberta as moderators, the Los Angeles Times’s Seema Mehta answers all your other questions.