Tuesday, March 31, 2020

House Rules Committee to set parameters for historic debate on impeachment

Dec 18. 2019
President Donald Trump participates in meeting at the White House on Monday, Dec 16, 2019 in Washington, D.C. MUST CREDIT: Washington Post photo by Jabin Botsford
President Donald Trump participates in meeting at the White House on Monday, Dec 16, 2019 in Washington, D.C. MUST CREDIT: Washington Post photo by Jabin Botsford
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By The Washington Post · John Wagner, Elise Viebeck

WASHINGTON - The House is expected to move one step closer to impeaching President Donald Trump, as the Rules Committee meets Tuesday to set the parameters on how the two articles of impeachment - abuse of power and obstruction of Congress - will be debated and voted on by the full chamber on Wednesday.

The session could last late into the night if Republicans offer numerous amendments. But the outcome is not in doubt, since Democrats hold a 9-to-4 majority on the panel.

At the heart of the Democrats' case is the allegation that Trump tried to leverage a White House meeting and military aid, sought by Ukraine to combat Russian military aggression, to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch an investigation of former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden. Trump is also said to have sought a probe of an unfounded theory that Kyiv conspired with Democrats to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., will not be present at Rules Committee meeting due to a family emergency, according to a Judiciary committee aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss personal matters.

Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., has been tapped to fill in for Nadler, whose committee approved two articles of impeachment last week. The committee aide said lawmakers are hopeful that Nadler will return on Wednesday for the full House debate and vote.

Also attending is Rep. Douglas Collins of Georgia, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, who said he would argue that for Democrats to "give us as much time as they possibly can" during debate over impeachment on the House floor.

On Wednesday, a procedural vote by the full House, expected around midday, will launch the debate, which is expected to last several hours and culminate in an evening vote on the articles of impeachment. 

The House also is planning to vote Wednesday on a resolution formally naming House managers, or prosecutors, for the Senate trial, who will be selected by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

The Senate trial is expected to start in early January. 

While the White House has prevented senior administration officials from appearing before the House committees conducting the impeachment investigation, a large 71% majority of Americans say the president should allow those officials to testify at a Senate trial, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.

That includes majorities across partisan and demographic lines. Among Democrats, 79% say Trump should let his advisers appear before the Senate, while 64% of Republicans agree. Among independents, 72% favor their appearance. There is also sizable agreement among men and women, whites and nonwhites, and all age groups, contrary to the divisions over impeachment itself.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., is advocating for several senior administration officials to testify, including acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton.

But on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., rejected Schumer's call to subpoena new witnesses. "We certainly do not need jurors to start brainstorming witness lists for the prosecution," McConnell said, referring to the role of senators during the trial.

"The fact that my colleague is already desperate to sign up the Senate for new fact-finding . . . suggests something to me," McConnell said of Schumer. "It suggests that even Democrats who do not like this president are beginning to realize how dramatically insufficient the House's rushed process has been."

Overally, 49% of Americans say Trump should be impeached and removed from office, while 46% say he should not, according to the poll. It also finds that regardless of whether Trump committed an impeachable offense, 49% say he improperly pressured Ukraine to investigate Biden and his son, while 39% say Trump did not do this.

Congress has impeached only two presidents: Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998. President Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 before the House could vote on articles of impeachment in the Watergate scandal. Lawmakers drafted three articles against Nixon, including charges of "high crimes and misdemeanors" that mirror the abuse-of-power and obstruction allegations Trump now faces.

Earlier Tuesday, group of Trump's conservative critics, including George Conway, the husband of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, announced the launch of a new super PAC with the aim of defeating Trump and his "enablers" at the ballot box.

"Our efforts are aimed at persuading enough disaffected conservatives, Republicans and Republican-leaning independents in swing states and districts to help ensure a victory in the Electoral College, and congressional majorities that don't enable or abet Mr. Trump's violations of the Constitution, even if that means Democratic control of the Senate and an expanded Democratic majority in the House," four leaders of the group, dubbed the Lincoln Project, wrote in a New York Times op-ed.

Besides Conway, other authors of the piece include veteran GOP consultants Steve Schmidt, John Weaver and Rick Wilson. Others involved in the effort, according to the group's website, include Reed Galen, an independent political strategist; Jennifer Horn, a former chairwoman of the New Hampshire Republican Party; and Mike Madrid, a Republican strategist.

In the op-ed, the group is critical not only of Trump but of congressional Republicans who have opposed the president's impeachment.

Trump, meanwhile, took to Twitter on Tuesday to again proclaim that he'd done no wrong: "The Stock Market hit another Record High yesterday, number 133 in less than three years as your all time favorite President, and the Radical Left, Do Nothing Democrats, want to impeach me. Don't worry, I have done nothing wrong. Actually, they have!"



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