Panel vote sends Trump impeachmen­t charges to full House

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Lisa Mascaro and Mary Clare Jalonick

WASHINGTON >> Democrats pro­pelled Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s impeachmen­t to­ward a his­toric vote by the full U.S. House as the Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee on Fri­day ap­proved charges of abuse of power and ob­struc­tion of Congress. It’s the latest ma­jor step in the con­sti­tu­tional and po­lit­i­cal storm that has di­vided Congress and the na­tion.

The House is ex­pected to ap­prove the two ar­ti­cles of impeachmen­t next week, be­fore law­mak­ers de­part for the hol­i­days.

The par­ti­san split in the com­mit­tee vote — 23 Democrats to 17 Repub­li­cans — re­flects the at­mos­phere in Congress. The Demo­crat­ic­ma­jor­ity House is ex­pected to ap­prove the charges against Trump next week, but the Repub­li­can-con­trolled Se­nate is likely to ac­quit him af­ter a Jan­uary trial.

Trump is ac­cused, in the first ar­ti­cle, of abus­ing his pres­i­den­tial power by ask­ing Ukraine to in­ves­ti­gate his 2020 ri­val Joe Bi­den while hold­ing mil­i­tary aid as lever­age, and, in the sec­ond, of ob­struct­ing Congress by block­ing the House’s ef­forts to probe his ac­tions.

“To­day is a solemn and sad day,” Chair­man Jer­rold Nadler, D-N.Y., told re­porters af­ter the ses­sion, mark­ing the third time in U.S. his­tory the panel had voted to rec­om­mend im­peach­ing a pres­i­dent. He said the full

House would act “ex­pe­di­tiously.”’

Af­ter the mile­stone votes, Trump’s press sec­re­tary, Stephanie Gr­isham, la­beled the pro­ceed­ings a “des­per­ate cha­rade” and said, “The Pres­i­dent looks for­ward to re­ceiv­ing in the Se­nate the fair treat­ment and due process which con­tin­ues to be dis­grace­fully de­nied to him by the House.”

Vot­ing was swift and solemn, with none of the fiery speeches and weighty nods to his­tory that de­fined the pre­vi­ous two days of de­bate, in­clud­ing 14 hours that stretched nearly to mid­night Thurs­day. Nadler abruptly halted that ran­corous ses­sion so vot­ing could be held in day­light, for all Amer­i­cans to see.

Nadler, who had said he wanted law­mak­ers to “search their con­sciences” be­fore cast­ing their votes, gaveled in the land­mark but brief morn­ing ses­sion at the Capi­tol.

Law­mak­ers re­sponded “aye” or “yes” for the Democrats, and sim­ple:”no’s” from the Repub­li­cans.

“The ar­ti­cle is agreed to,” Nadler de­clared af­ter each vote.

The top Repub­li­can on the panel Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia im­me­di­ately said he would file dis­sent­ing views.

Min­utes af­ter the morn­ing ses­sion opened, it was gaveled shut.

Trump is only the fourth U.S. pres­i­dent to face impeachmen­t pro­ceed­ings and the first to be run­ning for re­elec­tion at the same time. The out­come of the even­tual House votes pose po­ten­tially se­ri­ous po­lit­i­cal con­se­quences for both par­ties ahead of the 2020 elec­tions, with Amer­i­cans deeply di­vided over whether the pres­i­dent in­deed con­ducted im­peach­able acts and if it should be up to Congress, or the vot­ers, to de­cide whether he should re­main in of­fice.

The pres­i­dent took to Twit­ter early Fri­day to praise the panel’s Repub­li­cans as “war­riors.” Af­ter the vote he said at the White House that Democrats were mak­ing fools of them­selves, de­scrib­ing the pro­ceed­ings as he of­ten does: “a witch hunt,” “scam,” and “hoax.”

Trump in­sisted anew that when he asked Ukraine to “do us a fa­vor’,’ in the July phone call that sparked impeachmen­t, he was re­fer­ring to the U.S., not a po­lit­i­cal fa­vor for him­self. He de­rided the gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials who tes­ti­fied that he pres­sured Ukraine and claimed he was ben­e­fit­ing po­lit­i­cally from impeachmen­t.

The pres­i­dent has re­fused to par­tic­i­pate in the pro­ceed­ings, tweet­ing crit­i­cisms as he did Thurs­day from the side­lines, mock­ing the charges against him in the House’s nine-page resolution as “impeachmen­t light.” But House Speaker Pelosi said the pres­i­dent was wrong and the case against him is deeply grounded.

Democrats con­tend that Trump has en­gaged in a pat­tern of mis­con­duct to­ward Russia dat­ing back to the 2016 election cam­paign that spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller in­ves­ti­gated. And they say his deal­ings with Ukraine have ben­e­fited its ag­gres­sive neigh­bor Russia, not the U.S., and he must be pre­vented from “cor­rupt­ing”

U.S. elec­tions again and cheat­ing his way to a sec­ond term next year. “It is ur­gent,” Pelosi said. But Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell said late Thurs­day on Fox News, “There is zero chance the pres­i­dent will be re­moved from of­fice.” He said he was hop­ing to have no GOP de­fec­tions in the Se­nate trial next year.

The Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee ses­sion drew out over two days, much of time spent in fights over amend­ments.

Rep. David Ci­cilline, D-R.I., ar­gued there was “over­whelm­ing ev­i­dence” that the pres­i­dent with his lawyer Rudy Gi­u­liani, in push­ing Ukraine to in­ves­ti­gate ri­val Bi­den, was en­gaged in an abuse of power “to cor­rupt Amer­i­can elec­tions.

Bring­ing even more at­ten­tion to the sit­u­a­tion, Gi­u­liani showed up at the White House on Fri­day. Just back from Ukraine, hei was ex­pected to brief Trump on his search for in­for­ma­tion. Many GOP law­mak­ers are try­ing to ig­nore Gi­u­liani, blam­ing him for Trump’s predica­ment.

Af­ter law­mak­ers trudged through two days of hear­ings, tem­pers still flared Fri­day.

Florida GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz said, “For Democrats, impeachmen­t is their drug, it is their ob­ses­sion, it is their to­tal fo­cus.”

“My vote is no,” said Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas. Then, be­fore the tally was an­nounced, he in­quired how his vote was recorded by the clerk. “I want to make sure.”

Nadler said late Thurs­day night, af­ter pre­sid­ing over the two-day ses­sion, “I want the mem­bers on both sides of the aisle to think about what has hap­pened over these past two days and to search their con­sciences be­fore they cast their fi­nal votes.”

The Repub­li­cans on the panel, blind­sided by the move to Fri­day, were livid. When Nadler an­nounced it, they started yelling “un­be­liev­able” and “they just want to be on TV.” Congress was to be out of ses­sion on Fri­day, and many law­mak­ers had other plans, some out­side Washington.

“This is the kan­ga­roo court that we’re talk­ing about” stormed Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, the top Repub­li­can on the panel, who said he had not been con­sulted on the de­ci­sion.

De­bate over amend­ments had dragged on with fa­mil­iar ar­gu­ments: Democrats cited ev­i­dence they said showed Trump’s mis­con­duct, while Repub­li­cans in­sisted the en­tire investigat­ion was bo­gus. Typ­i­cal was the first amend­ment, of­fered by GOP Rep. Jim Jor­dan of Ohio, who tried to delete the first charge against Trump. “This amend­ment strikes ar­ti­cle one be­cause ar­ti­cle one ig­nores the truth,” he de­clared.

J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee Chair­man Jer­rold Nadler, D-N.Y., left, ex­hales af­ter a day of work with Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., the rank­ing mem­ber, right, on the markup of ar­ti­cles of impeachmen­t against Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Thurs­day on Capi­tol Hill in Washington.

AN­DREW HARNIK — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Rep. Jim Jor­dan, R-Ohio, lis­tens dur­ing a House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee markup of the ar­ti­cles of impeachmen­t against Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, Thurs­day on Capi­tol Hill.

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