House impeachment hearing grinds slowly toward final vote

WASHINGTON — The 10th and final public impeachment hearing in the House lurched forward Thursday, as the House Judiciary Committee moved toward a vote that would send articles of impeachment to the full House floor for a final vote next week.

Democrats and Republicans debated the nine-page text of the articles of impeachment that were released on Tuesday, making amendments and trading barbs.

But the mood was more subdued and less contentious overall than the previous two hearings in the Judiciary Committee, since Democrats were not expected to make any significant changes to the articles and Republicans did not have enough votes on the committee to force any alterations.

“This committee finally accomplished its goal,” said Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., the top Republican on the committee, mocking Democrats who he said have wanted to impeach President Trump since his inauguration in 2017.

Collins made a spirited speech in the hearing’s first half-hour, calling the impeachment process a “travesty” because Republicans were not allowed to call witnesses they wanted to. Collins said Democrats had “sounded the death of minority rights” on the committee. But Collins’s complaint ignored the fact that many of the denials Democrats made to Republican requests throughout the impeachment process were based on changes to rules that Republicans made while in power over the past decade.

Representative Jerry Nadler, a Democrat from New York and Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and Ranking Member Representative Doug Collins, a Republican from Georgia, speak during a hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019. (Photo: Andrew Harrer/Pool via Reuters)

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, made rebuttals to the Republican points on historical precedent, relying on their unique status as two of the five members on the 41-person committee to have served on Judiciary Committee during the 1998 impeachment of President Bill Clinton.

Lofgren compared Republican arguments in favor of impeaching Clinton in 1998 to their arguments now against impeaching Trump, saying their logic was that “somehow lying about a sexual affair is an abuse of presidential power, but the misuse of presidential power to get a benefit somehow doesn’t matter.”

Lofgren took a shot at Trump over the allegation by the president’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen, who has said he paid porn star Stephanie Clifford, aka Stormy Daniels, $130,000 in hush money to keep her from talking about her affair with Trump.

“If it’s lying about sex, we could put Stormy Daniels’s case ahead of us. We don’t believe that’s a high crime and misdemeanor,” Lofgren said.

The two Republicans on the committee present in 1998 — Reps. James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin and Steve Chabot of Ohio — argued back.

“Bill Clinton lied to a grand jury. That is a crime,” Sensenbrenner said.

13 PHOTOS
Key figures on House Judiciary Committee
See Gallery
Key figures on House Judiciary Committee
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 08: Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., arrives for a House Judiciary Committee hearing in Rayburn Building titled 'Oversight of the U.S. Department of Justice,' where acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker was questioned about special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation on Friday, February 8, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Ranking member Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA), speaks during the testimony of Acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker before the House Judiciary Committee on the special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Friday, February 08, 2019. (Photo by Cheriss May/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Rep. Joe Neguse D-Colo., speaks with Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (vice chair), D-Pa., during a House Judiciary Committee debate to subpoena Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker as he appears before the House Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill, Friday, Feb. 8, 2019 in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
UNITED STATES - APRIL 12: Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., participates in a press conference with House Judiciary Committee Democrats to announce new legislation to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation on Thursday, April 12, 2018. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 08: U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) speaks during a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill February 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. Following a subpoena fight between committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and the Justice Department, Acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker was questioned about his oversight of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 08: Reps. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., and Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., conduct a House Judiciary Committee hearing in Rayburn Building titled 'Oversight of the U.S. Department of Justice,' where acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker was questioned about special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation on Friday, February 8, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 08: U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-TX) speaks during a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill February 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. Following a subpoena fight between committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and the Justice Department, Acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker was questioned about his oversight of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., speaks during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on gun violence, at Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 08: House Judiciary Committee member Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) questions Acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker during an oversight hearing in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill February 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. Following a subpoena fight between committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and the Justice Department, Whitaker was questioned about his oversight of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Rep. Louis Gohmert, R-Texas, asks a question during a joint hearing with testimony from Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz, during a joint House Committee on the Judiciary and House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing examining Horowitz's report of the FBI's Clinton email probe, on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, June 19, 2018 in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 08: U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-FL) speaks during a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill February 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. Following a subpoena fight between committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and the Justice Department, Acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker was questioned about his oversight of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., chairman of the House subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations, makes a statement on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2015, as the House Judiciary Committee met to approve rare bipartisan legislation that would reduce prison time for some nonviolent drug offenders. The aim of the bipartisan bills is to reduce overcrowding in the nation's prisons, save taxpayer dollars and give some nonviolent offenders a second chance while keeping the most dangerous criminals in prison. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

The back-and-forth was spirited but far less charged than on Monday, when Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., had to gavel down interruptions and objections from Republicans.

As the debate went on, there were occasional fireworks, as freshman lawmakers like Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., and Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., sparred; Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, interrupted in violation of the rules; and Nadler began to make more ample use of his gavel.

Rep.  Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) speaks as the House Judiciary Committee continues its markup of articles of impeachment against U.S. President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., December 12, 2019. (Photo: Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

The hearing began with a reading of the articles of impeachment. Democrats are charging Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. They say the president used a White House meeting and military assistance as leverage to pressure the Ukrainian government to announce an investigation into Joe Biden, an attempt to coerce a foreign power into helping himself get reelected by hurting a domestic political rival.

“We’re here today because the president abused his power,” said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., noting that Trump publicly invited Russian interference in the 2016 election and has publicly stated he’d like China to investigate Biden as well. Biden is the leading Democratic candidate for president.

And the articles of impeachment allege that no president has ever refused to comply with a congressional investigation to the degree Trump has in categorically rejecting requests and subpoenas for witnesses’ testimony and document production.

The hearing was expected to drag on as long as Republicans chose to file amendments, with each member allowed five minutes if they choose to speak. Nadler’s first amendment was to change the use of “Donald J. Trump” in the articles to “Donald John Trump.” Jordan offered an amendment to strike the first article of impeachment.

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-OH,  speaks during a House Judiciary Committee markup of the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, on Capitol Hill in Washington December 11, 2019. (Photo: Jose Luis Magana/Pool via Reuters)

The House Intelligence Committee held seven public hearings over five days in November, hearing witness testimony from 12 people. This built the fact record beyond an initial whistleblower complaint filed on Aug. 12 and released publicly in early September that led to the release of a call record of the July 25 phone conversation between Trump and Ukraine’s president.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has not said which day next week the House will vote on articles of impeachment, or how much debate there will be ahead of the vote. Democrats have said they expect to lose about a half-dozen votes on their own side, but the only impact of that will be political, as Republicans will argue there is bipartisan opposition to impeachment. But Democrats have a 233-to-197 majority and will be able to pass impeachment easily.

An impeachment in the House would be a significant historical moment. Only two other presidents have been impeached. But it will not remove Trump from office. Impeachment would go to the Senate for a trial in January.

In the Senate, 67 votes are required to remove the president from office. Republicans have a 53-to-47 seat majority in the Senate, and are not expected to find the president guilty of an impeachable offense.

_____

Download the Yahoo News app to customize your experience.

Read more from Yahoo News:

Read Full Story