Live coverage: House Judiciary to vote on impeachment after surprise delay
The House Judiciary Committee is expected to vote Friday on two articles of impeachment against President Trump after delaying the vote late Thursday.
The decision to delay angered Republicans, who said Democrats had pulled a surprise on them with the last-second change.
Democrats said they did not think the votes should happen in the middle of the night.
Lawmakers had debated the articles all day and night before wrapping the panel’s work after 11 p.m.
The panel is now set to resume Friday at 10 a.m. A party-line vote on the two articles is expected.
The full House is expected to vote on them next week, potentially making Trump just the third president in U.S. history to be impeached.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has indicated that he expects a trial in the Republican-controlled upper chamber to be held in January, where a two-thirds vote would be needed to remove the president from office.
Follow The Hill’s live coverage below:
Jayapal says Dems didn’t want vote at night
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) in an interview on MSNBC on Friday morning defended the Democrats’ decision to put off the votes on the impeachment articles, saying they were too important to hold in the middle of the night.
Jayapal also urged voters not to be “distracted” by the “noise” the GOP put up on the case. And she chastised Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for stating on Fox News on Thursday night that he was coordinating Trump’s defense closely with the White House.
“To have Mitch McConnell, who is the No. 1 juror in this trial, to say he is coordinating with the defendant, that is an absolute outrage,” she said.
— Ian Swanson
Trump appears to set personal record for tweets in a day
President Trump on Thursday set a personal record for use of Twitter in a single day since taking office, blasting out more than 120 tweets or retweets in 24 hours.
In total, the president sent 123 messages, according to a count by The Hill, topping his previous record of 105 set just a few days earlier.
The majority of Trump’s tweets came during a morning outburst in which he retweeted dozens of messages from Republican lawmakers ripping the House Judiciary Committee’s impeachment hearings.
The president’s own tweets throughout the day started and ended with criticisms of Democrats conducting impeachment hearings which he decried as a “hoax.” The Judiciary panel spent more than 14 hours debating two articles of impeachment against Trump, and will vote on them Friday.
Perhaps Trump’s most notable message came in the morning when he ridiculed 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, who a day earlier was named Time’s “Person of the Year.”
“So ridiculous,” Trump said of the decision. “Greta must work on her Anger Management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Greta, Chill!”
The president went on to tweet that the U.S. and China were “VERY close” to a trade deal. An agreement was reached later in the day.
Trump’s Twitter use tapered off as the day carried on, though he did weigh in on news in the evening.
“Looking like a big win for Boris in the U.K.!” Trump tweeted as results filtered in showing British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s party making gains in the United Kingdom’s parliamentary elections.
The president had a few items on his public schedule scattered during the day. He spoke at a White House summit in support of paid family leave and child care reform; he huddled with top trade advisers in the afternoon; and the president hosted GOP lawmakers in the evening for the Congressional Ball.
Trump joked at the outset of his remarks at the paid family leave summit that he had to clear his schedule to attend after his daughter, Ivanka Trump, asked him to speak.
“I had a very busy time and a very busy day, and my daughter said, ‘you will be here,’ ” Trump quipped. “So that was the end of that busy day.”
Nadler abruptly announces recess before calling vote
The top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee abruptly announced late Thursday that after more than 14 hours of debate the panel would recess and wait until Friday morning to vote on articles of impeachment against President Trump.
Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) adjourned the impeachment articles markup after 11 p.m., which immediately sparked a wave of anger from Republicans who felt blind-sided by the announcement.
“Unbelievable,” some shouted, saying that he did not give them a heads-up about this decision.
Democrats vote down amendment to remove language charging Trump with betraying the nation
The House Judiciary Committee voted down a proposed amendment by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) that would have removed the language in the articles of impeachment that charged Trump with betraying the nation and posing a national security threat.
The committee debated the amendment for almost two hours and ultimately voted against adopting it by a party-line vote of 23-17.
Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) then gaveled out the committee for a 30-minute recess.
Collins accuses Swalwell of auditioning to be impeachment manager
Ranking member Doug Collins (R-Ga.) accused Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) of auditioning to be “an impeachment manager.”
The ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee responded to Swalwell’s claims that Collins denied people died in the Russia-Ukraine conflict by asking if “the hearing is bad on that end” of the room.
“I did not say no one died,” Collins said.
“You can accuse whatever because you’re just sitting there just telling untruths because you don’t get it because you have a personal agenda and maybe you’re auditioning for the prospect of being an impeachment manager,” he added.
The ranking member said the California representative’s remark was “the most ridiculous comment” of the hearing, adding “there’s been a lot of them.”
“We know people died,” Collins said. “Let me explain it to you — wars, people die. Is that difficult to understand?”
Collins’s clash with Swalwell came after the Democrat accused the ranking member of saying lives were not lost in Ukraine.
“And you might not want to think about that. It may be hard for you to think about that, but they died when this selfish, selfish president withheld the aid for his own personal gain,” Swalwell said.
GOP rep urges members to halt ‘endless loop’ of talking points
Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) implored his fellow committee members to resist the urge to keep speaking up to make the same points they’ve repeatedly made over the course of the nearly 12-hour hearing.
“This hearing’s been enough of an institutional embarrassment without putting it on an endless loop, so if I could just offer a modest suggestion if no one has anything new to add they resist the temptation to inflict what we’ve already heard over and over again,” McClintock said.
The congressman bemoaned that he had not heard a new talking point from either side “in the last three hours.”
“Repeating a fact over and over doesn’t make it true and denying a fact over and over doesn’t make it false,” he said.
Upon the conclusion of McClintock’s remarks, Rep. Martha Roby (R-Ala.) sought recognition. She yielded to other Republican lawmakers who went on to defend the president.
Ratcliffe corrects Nadler: ‘I never said the word interference’
House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) had a tense exchange after Nadler claimed the Texas Republican said it was “OK” for a president to encourage foreign interference in an election.
Nadler said he was “startled” by Ratcliffe’s comments but “impressed by his honesty.”
“I was startled to hear him say that it is OK for a president to invite foreign interference in our elections,” the chairman said. “It is OK for a president to cheat and try to rig this election.”
Ratcliffe attempted to respond but was denied until Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) yielded his time to the Texas Republican. He then claimed Nadler “made a false statement.”
“The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee just made a false statement — said that I said that it was OK to elicit foreign interference in an election I never used the word interference,” Ratcliffe said. “I said foreign involvement in investigations.”
Democrats vote down Republican amendment, Jordan introduces another
The House Judiciary Committee voted down an amendment introduced by Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-Pa.), with Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) then immediately introducing another Republican amendment to the articles of impeachment.
The amendment voted down by the committee would have taken out the entirety of Article Two, which is the charge that President Trump obstructed Congress through ignoring multiple congressional subpoenas.
The committee voted against adopting the amendment by a party-line vote of 23-17.
Jordan then introduced another amendment, which would remove the last eight lines of Article One of impeachment and the last eight lines in Article Two. The last lines of Article One say Trump betrayed the nation and he will “remain a threat to national security and to the Constitution,” while the last eight lines of Article Two are largely the same.
Jordan strongly criticized Democrats for leading what he described as a “rigged and rushed process.”
“You have a rigged and rushed process when you don’t have the facts, you have a rigged and rushed process when you can’t accept the will of the American people,” Jordan said.
Jordan also accused Democrats of rushing the impeachment process because they are concerned that Trump will win reelection next year.
“This is about their concern that they can’t win next year based on what the president has accomplished the last three years, it’s an amazing record,” Jordan said.
– Maggie Miller
Reschenthaler suggests striking obstruction of Congress charge
Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-Pa.) proposed an amendment striking the article of impeachment that accuses President Trump of obstructing Congress during the impeachment inquiry.
“The facts simply do not align with the Democrats’ claim of obstruction,” he said. “When there is a disagreement between the executive and the legislative branch, it is supposed to be resolved by the third branch, court.”
– Rachel Frazin
Democrat compares Trump anti-corruption effort to ‘Kim Jong Un leading a human-rights effort’
Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) expressed skepticism at the idea that President Trump was motivated by a sincere interest in rooting out corruption in his dealings with Ukraine.
“My Republican colleagues are trying to find an answer, so they say ‘Oh, it’s because he was fighting corruption,’” Cicilline said. “The idea that Donald Trump was leading an anti-corruption effort is like Kim Jong Un leading a human-rights effort. It’s just not credible.”
“At the very time you claim he’s interested in ferreting out corruption in Ukraine, you know what he proposed? Cutting by more than 50 percent anti-corruption efforts in Ukraine,” Cicilline added. “We restored the money, Congress restored the money. He proposed deep cuts. That’s not evidence of a serious commitment to fighting corruption.”
Cicilline also cited the May letter from the Pentagon certifying Ukraine had taken steps to reduce corruption, which was sent several months before military aid to Ukraine was released.
“There’s only one explanation for why it was finally released, it was a report of whistleblower report being filed. The president got caught,” Cicilline said.
“And so this notion that somehow this president was concerned about corruption is defied by all the evidence collected. I know you want to believe it, it’s just not supported by the evidence,” he added.
Gohmert says he wrote amendment accusing Schiff, Nadler of abuse of power
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) said that he drafted an amendment that would replace Trump’s name in the impeachment charges of abuse of power with that of House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) over their handling of the impeachment inquiry.
“I had a document prepared to offer as an amendment in the nature of a substitute which would just change the president’s name to that of Chairman Schiff and Chairman Nadler regarding abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, because there are plenty of basis for that, but it would not have been ruled germane, so I did not waste the time,” Gohmert said.
Gohmert described Nadler and Schiff as “tyrants for not allowing a “minority day of hearings” during the impeachment inquiry process, and for waiving Republican points of order.
“That really is an abuse of power,” Gohmert said.
— Maggie Miller
Biggs proposes amendment saying that Ukraine aid was released consistent with administration policy
Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) proposed an amendment to an article of impeachment that would say military aid to Ukraine was released by the White House in a way that was consistent with administration policy.
The amendment would say that Trump released the aid after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky signed anti-corruption measures and was consistent with White House policy that international aid not be used for corrupt purposes.
Biggs particularly cited a letter from the White House’s Office of Management and Budget on the subject.
“They got that money and they got it on time,” he said.
Two previous GOP amendments have been voted down by the Democratic majority in the markup hearing.
Jeffries blasts Trump’s attack on Thunberg
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) blasted President Trump for his Thursday attack on teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg, listing her among several other figures Trump has publicly disparaged.
“This is a president that attacks everybody — to distract — attacks everybody who won’t bend the knee to Donald J. Trump,” Jeffries said. “He’s attacked John McCain, a war hero. He’s attacked Mitt Romney, 2012 Republican nominee. He’s attacked Bob Mueller, a Marine [and] a distinguished professional in law enforcement. He’s attacked your former Speaker, Paul Ryan.”
“He’s attacked Gold Star Families,” Jeffries continued. “He even attacked, today, a 16-year-old teenage activist, Greta Thunberg. Are you here to defend that as well? And so what’s happened is instead of defending the substance of the allegation, you want to attack Joe Biden and his family.”
Trump tweeted Thursday morning that Time magazine’s selection of Thunberg as its Person of the Year for 2019 was “ridiculous” and that she needed “Anger Management.”
So ridiculous. Greta must work on her Anger Management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Greta, Chill! https://t.co/M8ZtS8okzE
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 12, 2019
As she has with past criticism, Thunberg appropriated Trump’s remarks and made them her Twitter profile bio.
— Zack Budryk
Judiciary panel Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) gaveled the markup back in, following roughly an hour-and-a-half long recess for House votes.
“The committee will come to order,” Nadler said.
The committee resumed debating Gaetz’s proposed amendment.
— Olivia Beavers
Johnson takes veiled shot at Gaetz’s DUI arrest
Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) took a veiled jab at Rep. Matt Gaetz’s (R-Fla.) 2008 arrest for driving under the influence after Gaetz read anecdotes from The New Yorker about former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter’s drug use.
“The pot calling the kettle black is not something we should do,” Johnson said, prompting laughter. “I don’t know which members, if any, have had any problems with substance abuse [or] been busted in DUI. But if I did, I wouldn’t raise it on this committee. I don’t think it’s proper,” Johnson said.
Johnson’s comment followed Gaetz reading from the New Yorker profile of Hunter Biden, which recounts incidents of attempting to buy drugs in Kyiv as well as a report of what appeared to be a crack pipe was found in Biden’s rental car.
— Zack Budryk
Gaetz proposes amendment to say possible Ukraine investigation was about Hunter Biden and Burisma, not Joe Biden
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) proposed an amendment to the abuse of power article of impeachment to replace “Joe Biden” with “Burisma and Hunter Biden” as the topic of President Trump’s proposed Ukrainian probe.
“This amendment strikes the reference to Joe Biden as the center of the proposed investigation and replaces it with the true topic of the investigation: Burisma and Hunter Biden,” Gaetz said, referring to the Ukrainian energy company that had hired the former vice president’s son.
“An essential element of the Democrats’ case on abuse of power is that the Bidens did nothing wrong. It can only be an abuse of power and not a correct use of power if the president was pursuing something under which there was no reasonable basis to ask a question about Hunter Biden and Burisma,” he added
“Working for some foreign government while your dad’s the vice president of the United States. Is there anyone who believes this is OK?” Gaetz continued.
According to a rough transcript released by the White House, both Bidens were mentioned around the time when Trump asked Ukraine’s president to “look into it.”
— Rachael Frazin
Trump accuses Democrats of purposely misquoting his call with Ukraine
President Trump accused Reps. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) and Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) of intentionally misquoting his July 25 call with the president of Ukraine, an indication he was tracking Thursday’s impeachment hearing.
“Dems Veronica Escobar and Jackson Lee purposely misquoted my call. I said I want you to do us (our Country!) a favor, not me a favor,” Trump tweeted. “They know that but decided to LIE in order to make a fraudulent point! Very sad.”
The tweet came at about the same time Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a fierce Trump ally, pushed back against the same mistake.
“Democrats don’t read the plain language,” Jordan said, accusing party members of repeatedly misquoting the same line from the president’s call.
Trump, who has said he has watched at least portions of prior impeachment proceedings, had a clear public schedule until an 11:15 a.m. event.
Escobar and Jackson Lee referenced Trump’s call in which he urged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to look into the Bidens and a conspiracy theory about 2016 election interference.
On the call, Trump tells Zelensky “I would like you to do us a favor though” before asking his counterpart to look into a debunked claim about Ukrainians being involved in the 2016 hack of Democratic servers.
Democrats have seized on the exchange to argue that Trump was pressuring Ukraine for an investigation into the 2016 election. Escobar cited the comment during her remarks Thursday, quoting Trump as saying “I want you to do me a favor, though.”
Trump has claimed he was referring to the country as a whole when he used the word “us.”
— Brett Samuels
Gaetz: House didn’t impeach Obama even though ‘a lot of constituents’ think he abused his power
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), a vocal ally of President Trump, accused House Democrats of failing to abide by their own standards for impeachment, invoking Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) statements before the inquiry was launched that impeachment must be bipartisan.
Gaetz read passages from an interview with Anton Yermak, an adviser to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, in which he denied a “shakedown” by U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland.
“To accept the Democrats’ theory of the case, you’ve got to believe the Ukrainians are lying to us,” Gaetz said. “That they’re so weak and they’re so dependent on the United States that we can’t believe a word they say. Well, again, where were you during the Obama administration when this weak ally didn’t get Javelins [missiles] that were then withheld?”
Gaetz went on to call the “abuse of power” article of impeachment against Trump a “total joke,” saying it was only written because no specific crimes could be proven.
“I’ve got a lot of constituents who think Barack Obama abused his power but you know what? We didn’t do this to the country,” said Gaetz, who entered office in early 2017, shortly before Obama finished his term.
“We didn’t put him through this nonsense in this impeachment. You all set the standard. We didn’t set it. You said this would have to be bipartisan, compelling and overwhelming. It ain’t that, and this looks pretty bad,” he added.
— Zack Budryk
Lofgren, Sensenbrenner clash on Trump, Clinton impeachment comparisons
Republican and Democratic committee members sparred on how the allegations at the heart of the impeachment inquiry compared to the ones against former President Clinton.
“I would just like to note that the argument that somehow lying about a sexual affair is an abuse of presidential power, but the misuse of presidential power to get a benefit somehow doesn’t matter,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), who participated in proceedings for both Clinton and former President Nixon.
“Lying about sex, we could put Stormy Daniels’s case in front of us. We don’t believe that’s a high crime and misdemeanor,” she added. “And it is not before us, and it should not [be] before us, because it is not an abuse of presidential power.”
Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), who also participated in the impeachment of Clinton, shot back that the Clinton impeachment was not about a sexual affair but was about lying to a grand jury.
“The important thing is that Bill Clinton lied to a grand jury,” Sensenbrenner said. “That is a crime. The article of impeachment that passed the House accused Bill Clinton of lying to a grand jhury, a crime and something that obstructs the ability of the courts to get to the truth. This is not what is happening here, big difference.”
— Zack Budryk
Jordan introduces first GOP amendment
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a close ally of the president, introduced the first GOP amendment of the markup, which sought to strip out the first article of impeachment, abuse of power.
Jordan argued against the charges Democrats are bringing forward against Trump that he sought to pressure Ukraine to open two investigations that would benefit him politically, including into a 2020 political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.
They also allege that he dangled the possibility of a White House meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and nearly $400 million in U.S. aid to Kyiv as leverage for such investigations.
Jordan argued that there was no quid pro quo.
The first GOP amendment introduced. pic.twitter.com/tbqA4RnYX2
— Olivia Beavers (@Olivia_Beavers) December 12, 2019
The amendment sparked a series of back-and-forth arguments among Democrats and Republicans, who dueled over the propriety of Trump’s contacts with Ukraine and GOP allegations of an unfair impeachment process.
The amendment is likely to be voted down along party lines.
— Olvia Beavers
Collins says committee has been ‘overtaken,’ ‘overrun’ by Schiff and Pelosi
After having a “minority day of hearings” denied, Judiciary Committee ranking member Doug Collins (R-Ga.) said that the committee had been “overrun” and “overtaken” by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.).
While complaining about the impeachment process, Collins, addressed Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), saying, “You should have run for a chairmanship, I believe, more than to be a rubber stamp for Mr. Schiff and Ms. Pelosi.”
“We already knew that this committee was overrun and overtaken because Mr. Schiff and Ms. Pelosi took it from us earlier this year,” he added.
Collins called the hearings an “embarrassment” and said that the rights of the minority party on the committee are “dead.”
— Rachel Frazin
Nadler pushes back against Republican request for a minority hearing day
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) pushed back against a request by ranking member Doug Collins (R-Ga.) for a “minority day of hearings,” with Nadler ruling that he did not have to schedule the hearing prior to marking up the articles of impeachment and Collins strongly objecting.
Collins raised a point of order asking for a minority day of hearings, something Republicans have repeatedly asked for throughout the impeachment inquiry process, with Collins describing a ruling on whether to hold the separate day of hearings as “a farce” given that Thursday is the last day the House Judiciary Committee is expected to hold hearings.
Nadler pushed back, saying the House rule setting standards for the impeachment hearing “does not require me to schedule a hearing on a particular day, nor does it require me to schedule as a condition precedent to taking any specific legislative action.”
When Nadler formally ruled against Collins’s point of order on holding a minority day of hearings, Collins immediately interrupted and appealed this ruling.
When Nadler moved to table the appeal for a later time, Collins requested a roll call vote. The motion to table the appeal was approved along party lines.
— Maggie Miller
Nadler gavels in, clerk reads two articles of impeachment
Nadler gaveled in the hearing to markup the two articles of impeachment that charge Trump of abusing his power of the presidency and obstructing Congress.
Shortly after starting off the hearing, Collins made a point of order about the lack of a minority witness hearing day.
Republicans are expected to make many procedural points to protest the articles of impeachment throughout the day, from introducing amendments to making points of orders, among others.
But Democrats, who have the majority, are expected to all but swiftly bat them down.
The clerk then read through the two articles of impeachment.
Trump targets impeachment inquiry, media with tweetstorm
Trump sent a flurry of early-morning tweets, bashing House Democrats and the media while sending out dozens of tweets and retweets of supporters defending him.
The president retweeted messages from several of his congressional allies while also taking shots at the media.
“It’s great to have a wonderful subject, President Trump,” tweeted Trump. “Fake News like CNN & MSNBC are dying. If they treated me fairly, they would do well. Have Zero credibility!”
He also sent several tweets supporting the new North American trade agreement his administration has reached with House Democrats.
— Tal Axelrod
McConnell to move to acquit Trump in Senate trial: report
McConnell is expected to hold a vote to acquit Trump should the president ultimately be impeached in the House rather than move to dismiss any articles of impeachment sent from the lower chamber.
CNN, citing two Republican senators, reported Thursday that the Senate GOP wants to have a vote for acquittal to try to clear the president of any wrongdoing stemming from his dealings with Ukraine rather than a majority vote to simply dismiss impeachment.