Impeachment news roundup: Dec. 16

Vulnerable Democrats announce they’ll vote for impeachment; Schumer lays down marker for Senate trial

Michigan Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin was one of four vulnerable Democrats who announced they will vote for impeachment. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Michigan Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin was one of four vulnerable Democrats who announced they will vote for impeachment. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted December 16, 2019 at 8:54am

Four vulnerable House Democrats have announced they will vote for impeaching President Donald Trump.

Colorado Rep. Jason Crow announced his intent in a town hall meeting in his district Sunday and released a statement on Monday.

“President Trump’s unprecedented abuse of power and obstruction of Congress leaves us with no choice but to proceed with impeachment. No man or woman is above the law in our country, including the president. It’s time for me to once again fulfill my oath to the Constitution,” said Crow, who served in the Army in Afghanistan and Iraq before being elected to Congress.

South Carolina Rep. Joe Cunningham also joined the group of vulnerable Democrats backing impeachment, telling the Post and Courier, “At the end of day, this is simply about the rule of law, whether we’re a country with laws or not and what type of precedent we want to set for future presidents.”

The South Carolina Democrat acknowledged his vote could jeopardize his reelection — Trump carried his district by 11 points.

“If I wanted to do what was easy politically, I would just vote no and move on,” Cunningham said. “But it’s about doing what’s right for our country.”

Utah Rep. Ben McAdams, another of the handful of Democrats in vulnerable seats whose votes were in question, announced Monday that he would vote for impeachment. 

His announcement came hours after a significant obstacle was removed from his path to maintaining his seat representing the state’s 4th District when Dan Hemmert, expected to put up a significant challenge, said he would not run.

And Michigan Democrat Elissa Slotkin also came out in support of both articles of impeachment, explaining her reasons in an op-ed column in the Detroit Free Press and at a town hall meeting in her district.

“I did what I’ve been trained to do as a CIA officer,” Slotkin said at the town hall, describing how she was trained to review the evidence and make decisions. The announcement was met by both cheers and boos, including from Trump supporters who began chanting “Four more years.” Slotkin signaled she understood the consequences of her op-ed.

“Over the past few months, I’ve been told more times that I can count that the vote I’ll be casting this week will mark the end of my short political career,” she said. “That may be.”

Here is the latest on the impeachment inquiry:

Dingell on Trump’s tweet: “Having Donald Trump tweet about me on Saturday was not enjoyable,” Michigan Democratic Rep. Debbie Dingell told CQ Roll Call on Monday.  “It hurt.”

Trump lashed out at Dingell after she said on Fox News that she was leaning toward voting for Trump’s impeachment. Trump tweeted that the last time they spoke she thanked him for the honors shown after her late husband, longtime Michigan lawmaker John Dingell, died earlier this year.

Trump went on to say, “Now I watch her ripping me as part of the Democrats Impeachment Hoax. Really pathetic!”

She said she was “stunned” since she’s been“very measured about all of this.”

GOP former representatives on immunity case: Fourteen former Republican members of Congress signed onto a court brief Monday to back congressional investigative power and argue that former White House Counsel Don McGahn should have to testify before the House Judiciary Committee.

The former lawmakers joined a brief from Republican officials in a federal appeals court in Washington in a case, where the White House has argued that McGahn has “absolute immunity” from testifying about what he told Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III. Oral argument in the case is set for Jan. 3.

“The idea that a president and his current and former advisors enjoy absolute immunity from subpoena — particularly during impeachment proceedings — finds no support in early American practice,” the brief states.

The former lawmakers who signed the brief are: Steve Bartlett, R-Texas; Jack Buechner, R-Mo.; Tom Coleman, R-Mo.; Mickey Edwards, R-Okla.; Gordon Humphrey, R-N.H.; Bob Inglis, R-S.C.; James Kolbe, R-Ariz.; Steven Kuykendall, R-Calif.; Jim Leach, R-Iowa; Mike Parker, R-Miss.; Thomas Petri, R-Wisc.; Reid Ribble, R-Wisc.; Peter Smith, R-Vt.; and Dick Zimmer, R-N.J.

From Ukraine with love: Why does Rudy Giuliani work pro bono for President Trump in places like Ukraine? He “does this out of love,” the president told reporters Monday.

Witness list: In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer indicated he’s looking for a full hearing of the charges against Trump when it takes up impeachment next year after the Senate’s holiday break.

Schumer wants to call acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, former national security adviser John Bolton, senior Mulvaney adviser Robert Blair, and Michael Duffey, a political appointee at the Office of Management and Budget who oversaw the process for releasing foreign aid funds. The White House blocked the four from testifying before and providing documents to House committees in their inquiry.

McConnell and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham have indicated they prefers an expedited trial in the Senate, but Schumer’s letter starts negotiations far from that.

Schumer said he thinks some Senate Republicans might support a fuller trial.

“I expect some of my Republican colleagues when they see this letter will say ‘That’s fair.’ They don’t want to be a part of a coverup,” Schumer told CNN Monday morning.

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“Just the facts, ma’am”: Quoting Sgt. Joe Friday from TV’s “Dragnet,” Schumer said that his Sunday request was designed to ensure all of the evidence is presented.

Schumer said a trial without all of the evidence and relevant witnesses providing testimony to the Senate would be tantamount to “a coverup.”

“Trials have witnesses. That’s what trials are all about,” the New York Democrat said Monday in the Capitol. “We need to know the facts from those who are in a position to know.”

Schumer said he viewed this differently from the 1999 impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton because a broader number of witnesses had testified.

He said the four witnesses named in the Sunday letter had the most connection to the delay in the U.S. assistance to Ukraine. “We don’t want to be dilatory,” Schumer said. “Live testimony is the best way to go.”

“I haven’t seen a single good argument about why these witnesses shouldn’t testify or these documents shouldn’t be produced, Schumer said. “Unless the president has something to hide.”

“The president and House Republicans have resisted letting all the evidence and facts come out,” Schumer said.

Laying it out: The House Judiciary Committee early Monday released its report on the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump, setting the stage for a historic week in Washington that will likely see Trump to be the third U.S. president impeached.

The 658-page, four-part report lays out the case against the president and the charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

In part one, the committee explains how the House Intelligence Committee conducted its investigation of the allegations against Trump. Part two explains the standards of impeachment in the Constitution.

The third part details the committee’s conclusion that Trump abused the power of the presidency.

“President Trump has realized the Framers’ worst nightmare,” the committee wrote. “He has abused his power in soliciting and pressuring a vulnerable foreign nation to corrupt the next United States Presidential election by sabotaging a political opponent and endorsing a debunked conspiracy theory promoted by our adversary, Russia.”

And the fourth part addresses the charge of obstruction of Congress, concluding that while other presidents have provided information to Congress under similar circumstances, “President Trump’s stonewall, by contrast, was categorical, indiscriminate, and without precedent in American history.”

The House Ways and Means Committee will set the rules on Tuesday for the debate in the House on Wednesday, when it is expected to vote to impeach Trump.

Correction 2:50 p.m. | Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton won Rep. Jason Crow’s House district in 2016. 

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Simone Pathé contributed to this report.