Democrats, GOP dig in for public phase of impeachment battle

Both Democrats and Republicans are digging in for what promises to be the biggest political battle in a generation.

The House impeachment probe resolution, which passed in a 232-196 party-line vote, was the first of many public fights that are likely to extend in 2020.

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It was also a clear indication that the next phase of the impeachment process — taking place in public hearings, before the television cameras — will be a highly partisan affair.

Over the past five weeks, the probe has primarily been shaped by closed-door testimony from several officials who have raised serious questions about whether President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP divided over impeachment trial strategy Official testifies that Bolton had 'one-on-one meeting' with Trump over Ukraine aid Louisiana governor wins re-election MORE and his inner circle withheld nearly $400 million in security aid for Ukraine in order to pressure Kiev to investigate Trump’s political rivals.

"So far, we've seen damning evidence that the president abused his power and jeopardized our national security to help his own political fortunes,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelOvernight Defense: Protests at Trump's NYC Veterans Day speech | House Dems release Pentagon official's deposition transcript | Lawmakers ask Trump to rescind Erdogan invite Bipartisan House members call on Trump to rescind Erdoğan invitation House Democrats pull subpoena for ex-Trump national security official MORE (D-N.Y.), one of three Democrats leading the impeachment probe, said Thursday after the vote.

Trump “pressed for another round of foreign interference in an American election. It's what the framers feared the most,” Engel added.

Only two Democrats — Reps. Jefferson Van Drew (N.J.) and Collin PetersonCollin Clark PetersonHow centrist Dems learned to stop worrying and love impeachment GOP lawmaker says House impeachment rules vote 'doesn't change anything for me' Majority of Americans see impeachment inquiry as fair: poll MORE (Minn.) — voted against the resolution, a relatively small number of defections considering the nasty, intraparty battle that played out for most of the year over whether Democrats should go down the impeachment path so close to 2020.

House Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseLive updates on impeachment: Schiff fires warning at GOP over whistleblower Bottom Line Trump allies assail impeachment on process while House Democrats promise open hearings soon MORE (R-La.) took a victory lap Thursday after he held his troops in line following days of speculation that some GOP lawmakers might break ranks.

In the end, not a single Republican sided with Democrats.

“Every Republican voted against the Soviet-style impeachment process. … You can see strong unity for the president and his policies,” Scalise told reporters just off the House floor immediately after the vote.

Republicans have argued there was no clear evidence of Trump making U.S. security aid contingent on Ukraine opening investigations that would benefit him politically. They have also accused Democrats of selectively leaking witness testimony to fit their narrative.

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky “was very clear that there was no pressure plan in the phone call; there was no quid pro quo — that's the basis for their impeachment,” Scalise told reporters.

After the vote, dozens of defiant Republicans piled into the Rayburn Room just off the House floor and sent a loud message to Trump and the public that they were unified in their opposition to the impeachment probe. Trump himself has consistently denied there was any quid pro quo.

“Folks, this ain't over. Get ready,” warned Georgia Rep. Doug CollinsDouglas (Doug) Allen CollinsThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Former Ukraine envoy offers dramatic testimony GOP eager for report on alleged FBI surveillance abuse House to vote on bill to ensure citizenship for children of overseas service members MORE, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee. “The cloud that is dropping will be dropping on their heads, because process matters and substance will always win out in the end. And this president has nothing to worry about.”

“History will hold them accountable, history will judge them,” GOP Conference Chairwoman Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyLawmakers call for extra security for anti-Erdoğan protesters  Live updates on impeachment: Schiff fires warning at GOP over whistleblower Overnight Defense: Protests at Trump's NYC Veterans Day speech | House Dems release Pentagon official's deposition transcript | Lawmakers ask Trump to rescind Erdogan invite MORE (R-Wyo.) said of the Democrats.

Democratic leaders, including Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiLouisiana governor wins re-election Dynamic scoring: Forward-thinking budgeting practices to grow our economy Pelosi: Trump tweets on Yovanovitch show his 'insecurity as an imposter' MORE (D-Calif.), had for months pushed back against liberals agitating for impeachment over allegations against Trump in the Mueller report, arguing that pursuing an inquiry without bipartisan support would be futile.

“If the evidence isn’t sufficient to win bipartisan support for this, putting the country through a failed impeachment isn’t a good idea,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffGOP divided over impeachment trial strategy READ: Top NSC aide Tim Morrison's closed-door impeachment inquiry testimony Top NSC aide puts Sondland at front lines of Ukraine campaign, speaking for Trump MORE (D-Calif.) told CNN in March.

But on Thursday, Schiff and other top Democrats expressed determination to press on with the inquiry.

“We take no joy in having to move down this road and proceed with the impeachment inquiry, but neither do we shrink from it,” Schiff said.

Despite the two defections, the vast majority of even the most vulnerable Democrats backed the resolution. That included four lawmakers — Democratic Reps. Anthony Brindisi (N.Y.), Joe CunninghamJoseph CunninghamConservative group unveils million ad campaign against Trump impeachment Club for Growth extends advertising against House Dems over impeachment Progressive freshmen jump into leadership PAC fundraising MORE (S.C.), Jared Golden (Maine) and Kendra HornKendra Suzanne HornHow centrist Dems learned to stop worrying and love impeachment Democrats, GOP dig in for public phase of impeachment battle House panel advances resolution outlining impeachment inquiry MORE (Okla.) — who hadn’t publicly backed the impeachment inquiry before Democratic leaders announced this week’s vote.

Like Peterson and Van Drew, the other vulnerable Democrats represent districts that Trump carried in 2016.

The two Democrats who voted against the resolution expressed frustration that the impeachment process is sucking oxygen out of the room and preventing progress on any legislative work in the Capitol. They suggested impeachment would be a waste of time given that Senate Republicans are likely to acquit Trump in a trial.

Peterson blasted the impeachment process as “hopelessly partisan,” adding it was a “mistake” to go forward without support from GOP senators.

“I have some serious concerns with the way the closed-door depositions were run, and am skeptical that we will have a process that is open, transparent and fair,” Peterson said in a statement Thursday.

Republicans quickly seized on the “no” votes of the two Democrats, arguing the opposition to impeachment is now bipartisan. And both parties seemed to argue that public opinion will be on their side once the investigation shifts from closed doors to a public setting.

“We want the American people to be able to see all of this evidence that Chairman Schiff has decided upon himself to keep closed off in the basement with these super secret depositions,” Republican Study Committee Chairman Mike JohnsonJames (Mike) Michael JohnsonDemocrats, GOP dig in for public phase of impeachment battle Conservative Republicans unveil latest ObamaCare replacement plan Top Democrat holds moment of silence for Cummings at hearing MORE (R-La.) said Thursday during an appearance on C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers.”

“Let’s put the facts out there. That’s our point,” Johnson said. “We want the American people to be able to judge for themselves the merits of these claims and these allegations, and we, as duly elected representatives of the people, should certainly have a right to review that as well.”