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Democrats approve two articles of impeachment against Trump in Judiciary vote

Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee approved two articles of impeachment Friday that charge President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump admin to announce coronavirus vaccine will be covered under Medicare, Medicaid: report Election officials say they're getting suspicious emails that may be part of malicious attack on voting: report McConnell tees up Trump judicial pick following Supreme Court vote MORE with high crimes and misdemeanors, setting up a historic House vote next week that all but guarantees Trump will be just the third president to be impeached in U.S. history.

The articles, which charge Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, were passed out of the committee along strict party lines, with 23 Democrats voting to send the measures to the full House, which is expected to approve them next week. One Democrat, Rep. Ted LieuTed W. LieuPelosi suggests Trump setting 'dangerous' example with quick return to White House The spin on Woodward's tapes reveals the hypocrisy of Democrats Larry Kudlow defends response to coronavirus: Trump 'led wisely' MORE (D-Calif.), was absent after undergoing an unexpected medical procedure earlier in the week. 

All 17 panel Republicans, meanwhile, united against both articles, arguing that the charges rested on thin evidence and that Democrats proceeding with their rapid impeachment push will set a dangerous precedent in the years ahead.

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The votes come two days after the panel began its debate and the morning after Democrats enraged Republicans by abruptly canceling an expected vote that would have taken place very late Thursday night or early Friday morning. 

“That was the most egregious violation of trust between a committee chairman and ranking member I think I’ve ever seen,” said Rep. Doug CollinsDouglas (Doug) Allen CollinsHouse Judiciary Republicans mockingly tweet 'Happy Birthday' to Hillary Clinton after Barrett confirmation Poll shows deadlocked races for president, Senate seat in Georgia Sunday shows preview: Trump, Biden gear up for final sprint to Election Day MORE (Ga.), the top Republican on Judiciary, who said “there was no discussion” about the change of plans.

“We thought we were going to do votes tonight," said Collins, who called the impeachment markups a “kangaroo court" and argued that Democrats wanted more television time for the proceedings. 

Democrats signaled that they wanted to prevent Republicans from arguing they had approved the articles of impeachment in the dead of night and when no Americans were watching. 

“We felt like they wanted us to pass this in the middle of the night, so we felt the American people deserved to see this historic vote. And it should be passed in the daylight and not in the middle of the night,” a Democratic aide said.

The partisan vote came after more than 14 hours of feisty debate on Thursday over a series of Republican amendments seeking to scrub Democrats’ impeachment articles that raised allegations about Trump’s contacts with Ukraine.

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In comparison to that slog, Friday's votes were lightening fast: Nadler introduced them, one by one, shortly after 10 a.m., and he gaveled the hearing closed less than 10 minutes later. Almost no one spoke, except to cast their yea or nay vote.

Afterwards, Democrats hailed the development as a case of Congress protecting the country from an inherently corrupt president who had put his personal political interests above those of national security.

"It'll be remembered as a day that certain people stood up for the Constitution and the founding fathers," said Rep. Steve CohenStephen (Steve) Ira CohenTwo ethics groups call on House to begin impeachment inquiry against Barr Jewish lawmakers targeted by anti-Semitic tweets ahead of election: ADL Tennessee Rep. Steve Cohen wins Democratic primary MORE (D-Tenn.).

Republicans were equally as passionate that Trump, rather than doing the abusing, had been abused. They accused the Democrats of rushing the process — before gathering all the facts and hearing from the first-hand players — to fit a pre-conceived conclusion that Trump should be removed.

"America needs to hear from the witnesses," said Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-Texas), referring to the process as "a kangaroo court."

"They don't have the right to abuse the process and this was a total abuse of process."

The White House dismissed Friday's committee vote, saying Trump looks forward to a "fair" trial in the GOP-controlled Senate.

"This desperate charade of an impeachment inquiry in the House Judiciary Committee has reached its shameful end," White House press secretary Stephanie GrishamStephanie GrishamMelania Trump cancels campaign appearance over 'lingering cough' The Memo: Trump grapples with credibility gap in crisis President Trump, Melania Trump test positive for COVID-19 MORE said in a statement issued shortly after the vote. "The President looks forward to receiving in the Senate the fair treatment and due process which continues to be disgracefully denied to him by the House."
 
Democrats allege Trump used a White House meeting and nearly $400 million in U.S. aid to Kyiv as leverage to get Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to open two investigations that would benefit him politically, including one into the son of his 2020 political rival, former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenDemocrats warn GOP will regret Barrett confirmation Trump campaign eyes election night party at his sold-out DC hotel Harris blasts GOP for confirming Amy Coney Barrett: 'We won't forget this' MORE. They also accused him of obstructing Congress during their subsequent investigation of that episode.

They say such conduct rises to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors — the grounds for impeachment under the Constitution — and that leaving a lawless president in office threatens the very basis of American democracy.

Republicans fought back in defense of their White House ally.

Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanHouse Judiciary Republicans mockingly tweet 'Happy Birthday' to Hillary Clinton after Barrett confirmation Sunday shows preview: Trump, Biden gear up for final sprint to Election Day McCarthy faces pushback from anxious Republicans over interview comments MORE (R-Ohio) offered an amendment Thursday to gut the abuse of power charge, arguing that there could be no “quid pro quo” since the U.S. aid was ultimately delivered without Kyiv announcing the investigations Trump sought. 

“This amendment strikes article one because article one ignores the truth,” he said. 

Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzHouse Judiciary Republicans mockingly tweet 'Happy Birthday' to Hillary Clinton after Barrett confirmation Congressional antitrust report rips tech firms for stifling competition Loeffler tweets edited video showing Trump taking down coronavirus in wrestling match MORE (R-Fla.) offered another amendment to add language characterizing Burisma Holdings, the Ukrainian energy company that employed Hunter Biden, as “a well-known corrupt company” — a provision designed to frame Trump’s investigation requests as valid anti-corruption efforts, not political bullying.

"There is no way in the United States of America that honestly pursuing political corruption is a political offense,” Gaetz said. 

Democrats argued otherwise.

“The idea of Donald Trump leading an anti-corruption effort is like Kim Jong UnKim Jong UnOvernight Defense: Biden nets military family endorsements | Final debate features North Korea exchange | Judge refuses to dismiss sexual assault case against top general Biden: Obama wouldn't 'legitimize' North Korea with meeting How Trump and Biden contrast on foreign policy MORE leading a human rights effort. It’s just not credible,” said Rep. David CicillineDavid Nicola CicillineJustice Department charges Google with illegally maintaining search monopoly Pocan won't seek another term as Progressive Caucus co-chair Jewish lawmakers targeted by anti-Semitic tweets ahead of election: ADL MORE (D-R.I.), the head of Democrats’ messaging arm.

Aside from their amendments, Republicans also raised repeated objections that the process was unfair, including claims that Democrats ignored their request for a minority witness hearing.

“You should have run for a chairmanship, I believe, more than to be a rubber stamp for Mr. Schiff and Ms. Pelosi,” said Rep. Doug Collins (Ga.), senior Republican on the committee, referring to the Speaker and Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffIn our 'Bizarro World' of 2020 politics, the left takes a wrong turn Greenwald slams Schiff over Biden emails on Fox Hillicon Valley: DOJ accuses Russian hackers of targeting 2018 Olympics, French elections | Federal commission issues recommendations for securing critical tech against Chinese threats | House Democrats slam FCC over 'blatant attempt to help' Trump MORE (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. 

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Collins added that the rights of the minority party on the panel are "dead" moving forward.

The GOP protests were largely symbolic, as the majority Democrats easily shot them all down. But Republicans sought to put up a fight against the articles, using the introduction of multiple amendments to reassert their arguments in defense of the president.

The markup began the night before, with opening statements from the more than 40 members of the Judiciary panel — a 3 1/2-hour meeting notable for the absence of outbursts and other dramatic flourishes. Day two on Thursday was a much different beast, running for 14 hours and quickly devolving into ugly personal barbs as Republicans directed their scrutiny at Hunter Biden and Democrats responded by blowing their own fire at the GOP members themselves.

When Gaetz began reading a New Yorker profile on Hunter Biden detailing alleged drug abuse, Rep. Hank JohnsonHenry (Hank) C. JohnsonDemocratic senators unveil bill to ban discrimination in financial services industry Five takeaways as panel grills tech CEOs Lawmakers, public bid farewell to John Lewis MORE (D-Ga.) responded with a thinly veiled punch back. 

"It's a little hard to believe that Burisma hired Hunter Biden to resolve their international dispute when he could not resolve his own dispute with Hertz rental car over leaving cocaine and a crack pipe in the car," Gaetz had said before Johnson's comment. 

“The pot calling the kettle black is not something we should do,” Johnson said. “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, appearing to reference Gaetz’s past driving under the influence charge.

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Next week’s impeachment vote will be part of a packed House calendar, as Democratic leaders are also hoping to pass two other big-ticket items just before leaving town for the two week holiday break: a revamped trade agreement with Canada and Mexico and a sweeping spending bill to prevent a government shutdown. 

A House leadership aide said Thursday that the tentative schedule is to vote on the spending bill Tuesday, impeachment Wednesday and trade on Thursday. That timetable, while subject to change, opens up the possibility that the House could recess a day earlier than previously scheduled.

Updated at 10:58 a.m.