Impeachment news roundup: Dec. 5

Committee leaders to meet today on next steps toward impeachment, Judiciary members prepared to work over weekend

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., announces Thursday that she is calling on the House Judiciary Committee to proceed with articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., announces Thursday that she is calling on the House Judiciary Committee to proceed with articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Posted December 5, 2019 at 9:17am

House Judiciary Democrats have been advised to stay in Washington this weekend for impeachment strategy sessions, but members were unclear whether they’d be huddling to prepare for a Monday hearing or to begin debating the scope of articles of impeachment.

The committee announced Thursday afternoon that it will hold a hearing at 9 a.m. Monday to receive a presentation from Intelligence Committee counsel on its impeachment inquiry report, as well as a presentation from its own counsel. Members on the panel were not clear what the Judiciary counsel would be presenting.

Earlier Thursday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that she had asked the six committee chairmen investigating President Donald Trump to draft articles of impeachment.

“All of the committee chairs that you see meeting with Nancy Pelosi are feeding into what we think, you know, should the Judiciary decide,” Financial Services Chairman Maxine Waters told reporters ahead of a scheduled meeting between Pelosi and the six chairs.

The Judiciary Committee will ultimately draft the articles of impeachment, but the other five committees providing input are the Intelligence, Oversight, Foreign Affairs, Financial Services and Ways and Means panels.

Pelosi declined to answer a question during her weekly press conference about whether the articles of impeachment should be focused on the Ukraine scandal or be broadened to include findings from the special counsel report or other matters Democrats have been investigating.

“I’m not going to talk about that,” said the California Democrat. “Our chairmen will be making recommendations.”

Intelligence Chairman Adam B. Schiff, a California Democrat, told reporters he supports Pelosi’s decision to draft articles of impeachment and said he expects to have a role in the process. He declined to comment on what should go into the articles or whether he’s prepared to vote to impeach Trump.

Waters, a California Democrat who has long said she’s ready to impeach Trump, also declined to comment on what charges should be included in the articles — as did several members of the Judiciary Committee who said they expect their panel to have those discussions soon.

But other Democrats think the articles will be narrowly tailored to the Ukraine scandal that was the focus of the first stage of the inquiry led by the Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees.

“I think it’s important to keep the articles of impeachment simple and clear for the American people,” Rep. Jackie Speier, who serves on both the Intelligence and Oversight panels, said. “The president corroborated the whistleblower’s complaint when he issued his transcript of the summary of the phone call. The elements of bribery are seeded in that phone call and corroborated by subsequent people.”

Speier said she believes her view is one most Democrats share.

“I think that there are some that would like to see it be more expansive, but … I actually think there’s a majority that prefer it to be straightforward to people,” the California Democrat said. “There was obstruction of Congress and there was bribery.”

Here is the latest on the impeachment inquiry:

GOP reacts: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy responded Thursday that House Democrats are operating on a predetermined timeline and outcome for impeachment.

“Today with the speaker’s announcement she has weakened the nation,” the California Republican said.

In response to Pelosi quoting George Mason and other founders on why impeachment was necessary, McCarthy said she left out Alexander Hamilton, who warned of partisan impeachments.

“This is the day that Hamilton feared and warned of,” McCarthy said.

Republican hearing: House Judiciary ranking member Doug Collins sent a letter Thursday to Chairman Jerrold Nadler requesting being contacted as soon as possible to schedule the minority day hearing Republicans requested during the panel’s impeachment hearing Wednesday. The Georgia Republican said House rules are “clear and unequivocal” that the minority is entitled to host a hearing with testimony from their requested witnesses.

“The requested minority hearing day must take place before articles of impeachment are considered by the committee,” Collins wrote.

Candidate recusal: Reps. Mark Walker and Jason Smith, Republican Conference leaders from North Carolina and Missouri, respectively, introduced a resolution co-sponsored by two dozen GOP members to urge the Senate to change its rules requiring any senators running for president to recuse themselves from an impeachment trial.

Senate rules already require the vice president to recuse himself from his role as president of the Senate during an impeachment trial, because of the clear conflict of interest. The leaders argued Democrats seeking their party’s presidential nomination “are incapable of rendering an impartial verdict” against Trump as they campaign to replace him.

Sticking your neck out: House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn told Democrats during their weekly whip meeting Thursday that his team of vote counters will not be pushing “yes” votes on articles of impeachment.

“This is an issue that we think each and every one of our members takes stock of who we are, and what we are, and what kind of country we want to have,” the South Carolina Democrat said, but noted he believes the law professors who testified before Judiciary on Wednesday made clear that if Trump’s misconduct is not impeachable then you might as well amend the Constitution to get rid of the power altogether.

In explaining his views on the moment, Clyburn told the caucus about his love for turtles, which he says he’s been “worshiping” since his childhood.

“The turtle to me is a metaphor for public service,” he said. “The shell is there to protect us from all that surrounds us, but if you ever want to make progress, the turtle has to stick its neck out. I think if we want to make progress, we will do what is necessary and sometimes that entails sticking your neck out. We can be safe under the shell, but I hope that we all want to make progress for this great country of ours.”

White House responds: White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham accused Pelosi of orchestrating a “subversion of the Constitution” via the impeachment inquiry and charged Democrats have “abused their power.”

In an early afternoon statement, Trump’s top spokeswoman criticized the speaker for not using her weekly news conference to announce a vote on the president’s proposed trade agreement with Canada and Mexico.

“Instead, Speaker Pelosi did exactly what she always does — ignore the needs of the American people and advance her selfish political desires,” Grisham said, adding Democrats are trying to “overturn the results of a free and fair election” and oust Trump because they cannot stop his reelection next year.

“Democrats in Congress have clearly abused their power. Democrats in Congress have lied to the American people,” she said. “Democrats in Congress have made a mockery of the law.”

“How many Democrats will join her driving right off the cliff with this illegitimate impeachment hoax?” Grisham said. “Speaker Pelosi’s instruction to advance this impeachment process — one that has violated every precedent — moves this Country toward the most partisan and illegitimate subversion of the Constitution in our history.”

On message: Team Trump continued, in a shift, playing from the same sheet of impeachment music following Pelosi’s announcement about impeachment articles in the works.

Echoing her boss, Grisham tweeted that the White House is looking forward “to a fair trial in the Senate.”

“.@SpeakerPelosi & the Democrats should be ashamed. @realDonaldTrump has done nothing but lead our country — resulting in a booming economy, more jobs & a stronger military, to name just a few of his major accomplishments,” she posted moments after Pelosi made her announcement.

Trump-Pence 2020 Campaign Manager Brad Parscale said it was also looking forward to a trial in the Senate.

“We are less than a year away from Election Day 2020 and Democrats can’t possibly explain to the American people why they want to take the decision of who should be president out of the hands of voters,” Parscale said in a statement. “But impeaching the President has always been their goal, so they should just get on with it so we can have a fair trial in the Senate and expose The Swamp for what it is.”

Bring it on: Trump called on House Democrats to impeach him “now” and “fast” so the country can “get back to business.”

In a pair of tweets, Trump wrote that Democrats “have no Impeachment case and are demeaning our Country. But nothing matters to them, they have gone crazy.”

Little hope for agreement: The first day of testimony in the new phase of the impeachment process underscored just how little the parties are engaging with each other.

And Wednesday’s daylong House Judiciary Committee hearing offered little hope of some mutual agreement on the facts that House Democrats uncovered, how to interpret them or the entire impeachment process.

During hours of testimony from four constitutional law experts, three invited by Democrats and one by Republicans, the lawmakers or their committee counsel almost exclusively directed questions only to their side’s witness.

The result was a hearing in which Democrats generally made statements about why Trump committed an impeachable offense with the help of answers from their witnesses, while Republicans made statements defending Trump with the help of answers from theirs.

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Comment controversy: Florida Republican Matt Gaetz called out Pamela S. Karlan of Stanford Law School, one of the Judiciary Committee’s witnesses Wednesday, for making a reference to Trump’s youngest son during the hearing.

“I’ll just give you one example that shows you the difference between him and a king, which is the Constitution says there can be no titles of nobility. So while the president can name his son Barron, he can’t make him a baron,” Karlan said.

Gatez called the comments out of line and in poor taste.

“When you invoke the president’s son’s name here, when you try to make a little joke out of referencing Barron Trump, that does not lend credibility to your argument. It makes you look mean,” Gaetz told Karlan.

First lady Melania Trump weighed in later, tweeting that “A minor child deserves privacy and should be kept out of politics.”

Karlan later apologized.

“I want to apologize for what I said earlier about the president’s son. It was wrong of me to do that,” Karlan said. “I wish the president would apologize, obviously, for the things that he’s done that’s wrong. But I do regret having said that.”