WASHINGTON - The House Judiciary Committee approved two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump on Friday, officially charging him with "abuse of power" and "obstruction of Congress" in a historic step toward removing him from office.
With the party-line 23-17 vote, Trump became just the fourth president in U.S. history to face impeachment for "high crimes and misdemeanors." The committee took just 10 minutes to approve both articles, following a 14-hour session Thursday, teeing up a history-making floor vote next week and a Senate trial in January to determine Trump's fate. "For the third time in a little over a century and a half, the House Judiciary Committee has voted articles of impeachment against the president for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress," House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said in brief remarks after the vote. "The House will act expeditiously."
The first impeachment article alleges Trump abused his power by withholding military aid and a critical White House meeting from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, while pressuring him to launch political investigations targeting Democrats. Trump's blanket refusal to cooperate with the Democratic investigation is the basis of the "obstruction of Congress" impeachment article.
Trump, expressing confidence that the Senate would acquit him, dismissed the vote Friday as "an embarrassment to this country."
Nadler and other Democrats said it was a "solemn and sad" moment as they cast votes aimed ousting a president from office. But the sense of sobriety quickly gave way to flashes of anger as Democrats lashed out against the man who holds immense sway over how the Senate trial might proceed: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
In a late Thursday interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity, McConnell, R-Ky., all but guaranteed a Trump acquittal, saying there was "zero chance" the president would be removed from office. He promised "total coordination" with the White House and Trump's defense team.
"The case is so darn weak coming over from the House," he said. "We all know how it's going to end."
Those remarks - and McConnell's pledge to "take my cues from the president's lawyers" - infuriated House Democrats. After deciding to back articles of impeachment that would force a trial in the Senate, many said the upper chamber appeared to be rigged in the president's favor.
"I was very disappointed in Senator McConnell's remarks and I really think he should recuse himself from this impeachment inquiry," said Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla. "He's working hand in hand with the White House, the president's attorney. And yet we are supposed to expect him to manage a fair and impartial impeachment inquiry? I think he should recuse himself."
It was a sign that the partisan brinkmanship that locked the House Judiciary Committee in hours of heated debate over impeachment this week could spill over into the Senate, shaping the contours of the trial expected to take place in January.
The full House vote on impeachment, expected to take place on Wednesday, is likely to fall largely along partisan lines. It will be the culmination of the House's three-month investigation, which has featured dramatic testimony from civil servants, an anonymous whistleblower from the U.S. intelligence community and hundreds of tweets by a president determined to disrupt the process.
As the Senate prepares to receive the impeachment articles, McConnell's comments could put additional pressure on moderate Republican senators who want to be seen taking the process seriously ahead of tough reelection battles next year. While Trump has previously said he wants to use the Senate trial to mount a robust defense by interrogating multiple Democratic witnesses, it is not clear there is majority support in the Senate for such a scorched-earth strategy.
On Friday, Trump appeared to back down slightly from his demand that the Senate call witnesses, including House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and the anonymous U.S. intelligence official whose complaint sparked the impeachment inquiry. He has also said he wants the Senate to interrogate former vice president Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. Trump's push to have Zelensky investigate both men is at the heart of the "abuse of power" charge he now faces.
Trump accused Democrats of "trivializing impeachment," predicting that they would ultimately regret the decision.
"I tell you what: Someday there'll be a Democrat president and there'll be a Republican House, and I suspect they're going to remember it," he said Friday, accusing Democrats of using impeachment "to try and get a political gain."
When asked if he preferred a long or short trial in the Senate, Trump demurred.
"I'll do whatever I want," he said. "We did nothing wrong. So I'll do long, or short."
McConnell and other senators have tried to convince Trump that a truncated trial without witnesses would allow him to be acquitted quickly.
But the president is also being influenced by his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who has sought to go on offense in recent weeks. Giuliani, who recently traveled to Ukraine in an attempt to do his own investigation of the Bidens, met with Trump on Friday. He arrived at the White House just before the House Judiciary vote to impeach the president.
Giuliani also took to Twitter to deride the impeachment inquiry and repeat his claim that he has evidence of misconduct by the Bidens.
"The American people have already made up their mind on this #ImpeachmentScam," he tweeted. "This is a SMOKESCREEN for the Obama-Biden administration's corruption. It will soon be proven."
Both Joe and Hunter Biden - who served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company while his father was vice president - have denied any wrongdoing.
Ahead of next week's vote, Democrats have begun to amass increasing support within their caucus for impeaching Trump. While some lawmakers representing districts carried by Trump are expected to vote against one or both articles, several moderate Democrats said this week they would back impeachment.
Reps. Susie Lee of Nevada and Tom O'Halleran of Arizona, both moderate Democrats representing districts Trump carried in 2016, said Friday they would vote in favor of both articles of impeachment.
"President Trump abused the power of the presidency and broke his oath of office when he bribed the nation of Ukraine by withholding military aid they had already been promised in exchange for help investigating a political opponent," O'Halleran said in a statement. "I will vote to impeach the President because this bribery and abuse of power violated the constitution and put our national security and our international relationships at risk."
The House has impeached only two presidents in history: Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998. President Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 before the full House could vote on articles of impeachment in the Watergate scandal. The House Judiciary Committee voted to advance three articles of impeachment against Nixon before he stepped down.
Both Johnson and Clinton were acquitted by the Senate and remained in office.
Speaking to reporters during an Oval Office visit by Paraguayan President Mario Abdo Benítez, Trump said that impeachment would benefit him in the end.
"It's a very sad thing for our country, but it seems to be very good for me politically," he added. "The people are absolutely disgusted. Nobody's ever seen anything like this."
Trump also ticked off several now-familiar terms he's used to describe the process, including "witch hunt," "hoax" and "sham."
McConnell's comments about coordinating with the White House lawyers forced Republicans to defend their handling of the impeachment process. Many Democrats pointed out that senators must take an oath to "do impartial justice" once the impeachment trial begins.
"Making sure the Senate conducts a fair and honest trial that allows all the facts to come out is paramount," Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a brief statement Friday.
Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., said Democrats had no standing to question Republicans on impartiality.
"They didn't act as a fair arbiter of facts," he said of House Democrats. "And they convicted long before they started investigating this."
Buck advocated for a thorough examination of evidence in the Senate, saying "this is not something to be rushed."
Rep. Jim Jordan, D-Ohio, also defended McConnell.
"I think he's just telling you the truth. He's not predicting an outcome," he said. "He's just saying, this is the facts. The facts on the president's side. This is a ridiculous case that the Democrats are bringing."
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The Washington Post's Colby Itkowitz and Josh Dawsey contributed to this report.
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Video: The House Judiciary Committee held a historic vote Dec. 12 and approved two articles of impeachment against President Trump.(The Washington Post)
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Video: Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said he will coordinate with President Trump's lawyers on impeachment and does not anticipate the Senate voting to remove the president.(REF:riegerj/The Washington Post)
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Video: The House Judiciary Committee voted on Dec. 12 to pass two articles of impeachment unamended. The impeachment articles will now be debated on the House floor.(REF:brownz/The Washington Post)
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WASHINGTON - The House Judiciary Committee spent more than 14 hours Thursday locked in a rancorous and contentious debate about whether to approve two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, with Democrats making an abrupt decision before midnight to hold off on the history-making vote until Friday morning.
The debate ended as it began, with angry exchanges, personal insults and recycled arguments about process and propriety as the committee moved toward voting to impeach Trump for "high crimes and misdemeanors."
"It has been a long two days of consideration of these articles, and it is now very late at night," said Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., at 11:15 p.m. "I want the members on both sides of the aisle to think about what has happened over these last two days and to search their consciences before we cast our final votes."
He then banged his gavel and said lawmakers should return on Friday at 10 a.m. for the final votes to send articles of impeachment to the House floor next week.
Republicans on the committee, who appeared blindsided by the decision to delay the vote, erupted in frustration.
"This is the kangaroo court we're talking about," Rep. Douglas Collins of Georgia, the committee's ranking member said after Nadler made his announcement.
"Stalinesque" added Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas.
The fight teed up a historic clash on the House floor next week to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate for a trial in January. Trump would be only the fourth president in U.S. history to face official impeachment charges.
Trump faces impeachment for "abuse of power" and "obstruction of Congress" over his dealings with Ukraine. Democrats allege that Trump withheld military aid and a White House meeting while pressuring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch political investigations targeting Democrats. Trump's blanket refusal to cooperate with the Democratic investigation is the basis of the "obstruction of Congress" impeachment article.
Thursday's hearing began around 9 a.m. with the judiciary panel's chief clerk, Madeline Strasser, reading the charges against Trump.
"Resolved that Donald J. Trump, president of the United States, is impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors," she said. "Articles of impeachment exhibited by the House of Representatives of the United States of America, in the name of itself and the people of the United States of America against Donald J. Trump."
From there, the process quickly devolved into a partisan battle, complete with parliamentary maneuvers, personal insults and shouting matches interrupted by a slammed gavel. Frustration on both sides of the aisle boiled over as lawmakers cast aside decorum and traded barbs on issues ranging from drug abuse to sexual impropriety to a congressman's past DUI arrest.
As the markup approached its 12th hour - running well past predictions by officials on both sides of the aisle - one GOP lawmaker implored his colleagues to wrap up the fight. Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., complained that "I have not heard a new point or an original thought from either side in the last three hours," calling the hearing an "institutional embarrassment."
The day foreshadowed a likely partisan showdown on the House floor next week, as Democrats seek to shore up support within their ranks and Republicans remain largely united in defending Trump from his greatest political threat thus far.
Trump spent much of the day on Twitter, posting more than 100 times to attack what he described as an unfair attempt to oust him from office. Many of his tweets included video clips of Republicans defending him during the Judiciary Committee hearing.
Even as Democrats and Republicans fought over impeachment, congressional leaders and White House officials worked together behind closed doors to reach a spending agreement to fund the government. Negotiators said the deal in principle would authorize $1.3 trillion and avert a government shutdown next week.
The announcement, from House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., came after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin visited Capitol Hill at midday to review a final list of sticking points.
The tentative agreement sets the stage for a remarkable sequence of events next week in the House, with a presidential impeachment sandwiched between bipartisan deals on federal spending and North American trade.
Some moderate Democrats whose votes were in doubt announced support for impeaching Trump on Thursday, signaling that there are adequate votes in the House to pass both articles next week. Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., said in a statement that he would support both articles of impeachment, saying that Trump's actions regarding Ukraine "were illegal and he obstructed justice by refusing to cooperate with congressional investigations." Rep. Conor Lamb, D-Pa., told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Thursday that the two articles "go together" and that the "the story's clear" on what Trump did - meaning the House needs "to carry out our own obligations" and impeach him.
Still, Democrats braced for some defections among moderates in swing districts who are concerned a vote to impeach Trump could cost them their seats in November.
Congress has impeached only two presidents in history: Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998. President Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 before the full House could vote on articles of impeachment in the Watergate scandal. The House Judiciary Committee voted to advance three articles of impeachment against Nixon before he stepped down.
The debate in the Judiciary Committee on Thursday was especially acrimonious, as partisan accusations flew back and forth across the dais.
Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., a senior House Judiciary Committee member, compared Republicans' support of Trump to Judas's betrayal of Jesus.
Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., argued that impeaching Trump for obstruction of Congress doesn't make sense because Republican lawmakers were "sent here to obstruct this Congress." Nadler shot back, calling it "terrible ignorance" to suggest obstruction is a good thing.
In an especially dramatic moment, Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., chided Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., for attacking Hunter Biden, the son of former vice president Joe Biden, for a substance abuse issue, making an oblique reference to Gaetz's 2008 arrest for drunken driving. The charges against him were eventually dropped.
"The pot calling the kettle black is not something that we should do," Johnson said, without specifically naming Gaetz.
Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., blasted Republicans for defending Trump's behavior, saying the president backed a scheme that left Ukraine vulnerable to Russian aggression.
"People died in Ukraine at the hands of Russia," he said at 8:30 p.m. "You may not want to think about that and it may be hard for you to think about that. But they died when this selfish, selfish president withheld the aid for his own personal gain."
Collins shot back, calling Swalwell's remark "the most ridiculous comment" that exposed a "reading comprehension problem."
The freewheeling debate stretched well into the night, even as the outcome was well known to lawmakers before the vote.
The committee was still debating Republicans' first amendment three hours after the hearing began. That amendment, from Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, proposed to strike the entire first impeachment article charging Trump with abuse of power. But lawmakers stopped referring to it as the discussion degenerated into a rehash of partisan talking points.
Republicans also tried to offer an amendment to throw out the "obstruction of Congress" charge against Trump, saying it was rushed and unwarranted.
"The Democrats have no case when it comes to obstruction," said Rep. Guy Reschenthaler, R-Pa., more than eight hours into the debate. "This obstruction charge is completely baseless and bogus."
Democrats dismissed Republican attempts to amend or delete the language in the articles, accusing their GOP colleagues of trying to cover for the president.
As the hearing was taking place, Trump's political advisers briefed reporters on his reelection campaign, seeking to make the case that impeachment had helped their efforts.
"This lit up our base, lit up the people that are supporters of the president. They're frustrated, they're upset, and that motivates voters," Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale told reporters Thursday. "They have ignited a flame underneath them."
While Trump has claimed that impeachment would help Republicans up and down the ballot, his case was undermined when Democrats won major victories during last month's elections in Virginia, Louisiana and Kentucky. Since public hearings began, support and opposition for impeachment and removal of Trump has remained about split, 47 percent to 45 percent, while Trump's approval has remained in the low 40s, according to a Washington Post average of public polling.
With the expectation that House Democrats are likely to impeach Trump next week, the White House has begun trying to strategize with Republicans in the Senate about a trial next year.
White House counsel Pat Cipollone and legislative affairs director Eric Ueland met with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on Thursday.
"We're having good close communication and conversation with Senate Republicans in the event the House goes ahead and actually produces articles of impeachment," Ueland said after the meeting. "We're going to continue to work closely with Senate Republicans as well as other members of Congress on the questions, and we'll continue to be very cooperative and very collaborative with our friends up here on the Hill as we work through this process."
The Senate has begun considering what kind of impeachment trial to have in January; many Republicans are advocating for a short proceeding to quickly acquit Trump.
Cipollone has rejected House entreaties to participate in the impeachment probe and present the White House's side.
The White House said it would not legitimize a "sham" process and would wait until it moved to the Senate to engage.
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The Washington Post's Mike DeBonis, Karoun Demirjian, Emily Guskin and Michael Brice-Saddler contributed to this report.
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Video: Justice committee chief clerk Madeline Strasser read the charges against President Trump at a hearing to debate the articles of impeachment on Dec. 12.(The Washington Post)
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Video: 40 House Judiciary Committee members made opening statements on Dec. 11, ahead of votes on the articles of impeachment against President Trump.(REF:AkhtarM/The Washington Post)
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Video: House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) opined Dec. 12 on why Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky denied a quid pro quo.(The Washington Post)
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