House Judiciary to draft abuse of power, obstruction impeachment articles

Panel will consider the articles later this week, Nadler says

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., and Maxine Waters, D-Calif., listen as Adam Schiff, D-Calif., speaks during the press conference to announce articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump in the Capitol on Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., and Maxine Waters, D-Calif., listen as Adam Schiff, D-Calif., speaks during the press conference to announce articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump in the Capitol on Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Posted December 10, 2019 at 10:03am

House Democrats will bring two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, one saying he abused the power of his office and another that he obstructed Congress in its investigation of his conduct.

The Judiciary Committee plans to begin consideration of the articles, which are official charges against the president, on Thursday, and the full House is expected to vote next week. Opening statements at the Judiciary Committee will begin Wednesday night.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and leaders of key committees that conducted inquiries into Trump said that the president’s actions toward Ukraine and his efforts to stymie Congress’ attempt to investigate had left them no choice but to move forward with the toughest penalty outlined in the Constitution.

The impeachment of Trump would be just the third time in American history that Congress has taken such action. President Richard Nixon resigned before he could be impeached.

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“Our president holds the ultimately public trust,” said New York Democrat Jerrold Nadler, chairman of the Judiciary Committee. “When he betrays that trust and puts himself before country, he endangers the Constitution, he endangers our democracy, and he endangers our national security.”

House Intelligence Chairman Adam B. Schiff, who led the impeachment investigation, summarized the evidence his committee gathered during closed-door depositions and public hearings this fall. 

“President Trump abused the power of his office by conditioning two official acts to get Ukraine to help his reelection,” Schiff said.

He countered the argument that House Democrats should wait for court rulings on access to testimony from executive branch and White House employees who were barred from participating in the inquiry, saying waiting for the courts to act isn’t an option.

“The argument ‘Why don’t you just wait’ amounts to this: Why don’t you just let [Trump] cheat in one more election? Why not let him cheat just one more time?” he said.

Schiff added that Congress is acting with urgency, but not in haste. He stressed that moving quickly on impeachment is, in part, a preventative measure in addition to a punishment for previous actions.

“The president’s misconduct continues to this day: unapologetically and right now,” he said.

Text of the articles

The articles of impeachment state that Trump obstructed Congress when he, “without lawful cause or excuse,” directed agencies, offices and officials within the executive branch to not comply with subpoenas issued by Congress in the inquiry into his dealings with Ukraine.

“Donald J. Trump has directed the unprecedented, categorical, and indiscriminate defiance of subpoenas issued by the House of Representatives pursuant to its ‘sole Power of Impeachment.’ President Trump has abused the powers of the Presidency in a manner offensive to, and subversive of, the Constitution,” read the articles.

The articles state that part of Trump’s alleged abuse of power was executed in covering up his own misconduct and attempting to “seize and control the power of impeachment-and thus to nullify a vital constitutional safeguard vested solely in the House of Representatives.”

At Thursday’s markup, lawmakers will be able to propose amendments, but the articles are not expected to change significantly.

As for how long the markup could go, Pennsylvania Democrat Mary Gay Scanlon, vice chairwoman of House Judiciary, said she didn’t think it would take the six days that President Bill Clinton’s took.

“We’ll take as long as it takes,” Scanlon said. “I would suspect that the more extended it is it will be because of Republican shenanigans.”

Republican reaction

House Republicans, seemingly united in opposing the articles of impeachment, were vague Tuesday on their strategy moving forward.

Doug Collins, the top Republican on the committee, is still weighing how he and his colleagues will approach the markup and how many amendments they’ll offer.

“I’m not sure, we’re looking at it,” Collins said. “You can’t fix bad. There’s no sense in trying to fit bad.”

When asked about any Republican plans to slow down the Democratic march toward impeachment, Texas Republican John Ratcliffe said, “I think we’re just gonna let the Democrats walk right off the plank.”

North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows, who has been one of the GOP’s main anti-impeachment messengers, said some members may offer amendments in the markup aimed at watering down the language, though the inclusion of such amendments on a Democrat-dominated panel is unlikely.

“I think there will be some amendments that are offered to it, potentially,” Meadows said. “I think probably the most prudent amendment would be to change it.”

Meadows said moderates in both parties have discussed changing the articles to merely a motion to censure the president, a strategy that Meadows said he doesn’t support and doesn’t have “legs at this point.”

Pennsylvania Republican Scott Perry predicted that Republicans will stick to messaging and procedural actions as the articles of impeachment move forward.

“Obviously, we can talk to the people about how this whole process has gone, the lack of, the lack of any admissible evidence in any realistic court of law in the country. And yet, they’re going to move forward with this impeachment,” Perry said of Democrats.

Perry said he believes that some Republicans will file amendments in committee and on the floor to signal their displeasure with the articles, knowing that successfully amending them, or even debating amendments on the floor, is unlikely.

“It will probably be a closed rule and so on and so forth,” Perry said. “So you really won’t even be able to bring the discussion to the to the, to the table, I suspect.”

Lindsey McPherson contributed to this report.