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Parties clash as impeachment articles move closer to House vote

Parties clash as impeachment articles move closer to House vote
© Jose Luis Magana-Pool/Getty Images
Lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee clashed in prime time Wednesday night over the propriety of President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden to hold virtual bilateral meeting with Mexican president More than 300 charged in connection to Capitol riot Trump Jr.: There are 'plenty' of GOP incumbents who should be challenged MORE's conduct in Ukraine, highlighting the deep gulf between the parties a day before the panel is poised to pass a pair of resolutions to impeach him.
 
The historic launch of the two-day markup of impeachment articles — while rife with partisan finger-pointing — was also uniquely disciplined; lawmakers from both parties largely shed the impromptu barbs that had marked earlier hearings and instead moved swiftly through prepared statements invoking the Constitution, the Bible and the Founding Fathers to advance their conflicting arguments over the gravity of Trump’s pressure campaign on Ukrainian leaders.
 
The rapid back-and forth carried the tone of closing arguments, as Democrats sought to portray Trump as a lawless figure who abused his power for personal political gain — a breach of the Constitution demanding a congressional response.
 
“One indisputable truth has emerged: If we do not respond to President Trump’s abuses, the abuses will continue," Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerHouse Judiciary split on how to address domestic extremism George Floyd police reform bill reintroduced in House Nadler presses DOJ to prosecute all involved in Capitol riot MORE (D-N.Y.) said at the start of the hearing, which was held in the House Ways and Means Committee room. “If our elections are corrupt, everything is corrupt."
 
Republicans countered in kind with accusations that Democrats had rammed the process through in order to oust a president they can’t remove electorally, while distorting the underlying facts to achieve that “preordained” political goal.
 
 
Unlike previous hearings which focused on the Intelligence Committee’s investigation into the Ukraine affair, Judiciary Democrats shifted their strategy from laying out evidence that Trump is a lawless president to imploring their Republican colleagues to join them and put country over party.
 
“The people don’t vote on impeachment, Congress does. So before I close, I want to speak directly to my Republican friends: Wake up,” said Rep. David CicillineDavid CicillineHouse passes sweeping protections for LGBTQ people The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - J&J A-OK, Tanden in Trouble Six ways to visualize a divided America MORE (D-R.I.), who heads Democrats’ messaging arm. “Do what you were elected to do.”
 
But Republicans, who remain unified in opposing impeachment, fought to flip the script, saying it wasn't Trump who abused his power and obstructed justice, but the Democrats, for orchestrating a process that denied the president a fair defense.
 
“This is the quickest, thinnest, weakest, most partisan impeachment in all of American presidential history," said Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzTrump to reemerge on political scene at CPAC Former Trump officials eye bids for political office Cancun fallout threatens to deal lasting damage to Cruz MORE (R-Fla.). “For all of the radical-left syntax on the president's honesty, it is their lies that continue to fuel this scorched-earth strategy of impeachment.”
 
GOP members also warned that House Democrats were setting a dangerous precedent that will come back to haunt them when the scales of power next tip in Republican favor.
 
"They are setting a precedent which they will likely one day be the victims of themselves," said Rep. Steve ChabotSteven (Steve) Joseph ChabotREAD: The Republicans who voted to challenge election results House Republicans who didn't sign onto the Texas lawsuit Top GOP lawmaker touts 'more flexible' PPP loans in bipartisan proposal MORE (R-Ohio), a senior member on the committee who was an impeachment manager during the GOP impeachment of President Clinton.
 
Wednesday’s markup represented a pivotal moment in the Democrats’ hard-charging impeachment inquiry, launched just 11 weeks ago after an anonymous government whistleblower accused Trump of abusing his power by pressuring Ukraine to open politically beneficial investigations.
 
Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiHouse Democrats pass sweeping .9T COVID-19 relief bill with minimum wage hike Budget Committee chair pledges to raise minimum wage: 'Hold me to it' Capitol review to recommend adding more fencing, 1,000 officers: report MORE (D-Calif.), who had resisted impeachment for much of the year, pivoted in late September to open the inquiry. After weeks of investigation by the Intelligence panel, the process moved early this month to the Judiciary Committee, which on Tuesday introduced two articles accusing Trump of abusing power and obstructing Congress.
 
The Judiciary Committee will resume the markup Thursday morning, when Republicans are expected to introduce a long list of amendments likely to extend the proceeding deep into the day, ahead of final votes on the two articles.
 
With both sides unyielding, the resolutions will likely pass along strict party lines, sending them to the full House, which is expected to vote on them next week.
 
Passage in the House would make Trump just the third president in the nation’s history to be impeached. In a country fiercely divided over Trump’s fitness for office, the historic process all but ensures that the impeachment debate will play an outsize role in 2020 races far outside the presidential contest — a dynamic of lingering concern for vulnerable Democrats in battleground districts.
 
“All of this, at the end of the day, is not going to matter. Because … it’s going to go to the Senate, and at the end of the day the Senate’s going to say he’s not guilty,” said Rep. Jefferson Van Drew (D-N.J.), who has vowed to oppose the articles on the floor. “Then he is going to speak about that — a lot.”
 
With much at stake, Democrats sought to use Wednesday’s markup to appeal to undecided and independent voters by invoking their personal life stories about a democratic country that has provided them the opportunity to achieve the American dream — and why they feel removing Trump is a necessary move to protect it.
 
 
“I have constituents who remember what it’s like to live in a democracy in name only, and they can tell you what it’s like when powerful men undermine fair and free elections,” he continued.
 
 
McBath, who is facing a tough reelection, announced her support for the impeachment articles Wednesday night, emphasizing that she did not come to Washington to remove a president, but nevertheless must vote her “conscience” after considering the president’s actions toward Kyiv.
 
“I do so with a heavy heart and a grieving soul,” she said.
 
However, it remains unclear whether their appeals will resonate outside the Beltway.
 
Polls in recent weeks indicate that the country is split on whether or not to impeach Trump, with those supporting his removal hovering roughly 1 percentage point above those who oppose such a move.
 
Amid the uncertain public attitude toward impeachment, Republicans have stepped up their attacks on vulnerable Democrats fighting for reelection in 2020 by targeting dozens of battleground districts with attack ads.
 
GOP lawmakers are also feeling more confident in their 2020 reelection prospects as the sentiment of impeachment reverberates throughout the country. Some warned Wednesday that Democrats do not need to wait to see how history will judge their hasty push to remove Trump from office; they only need to wait until the next election.
 
“The chairman and members of this committee keep saying that history will judge our decisions,” said freshman Rep. Greg SteubeWilliam (Greg) Gregory SteubeBiden faces deadline pressure on Iran deal READ: The Republicans who voted to challenge election results Lost cures and innovation, too high a price for Democrats' drug pricing proposals MORE (R-Fla.). “I would offer that your decisions and that of your colleagues in the majority will be judged much sooner than history, they will be judged by the voters in November 2020, and I guess we will see who is on the right side of history.”
 
But Democrats say that they must put aside political considerations in order to protect the founding principles of the country.
 
“We have an opportunity to show the world that in the United States, nobody is above the law,” said Rep. Karen BassKaren Ruth BassBlack Caucus members lobby Biden to tap Shalanda Young for OMB head George Floyd police reform bill reintroduced in House Six ways to visualize a divided America MORE (D-Calif.), “including President Trump.”

Maggie Miller contributed.