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 TrumpCampaigns face attack ad dilemma amid coronavirus crisis Outgoing inspector general says Trump fired him for carrying out his 'legal obligations' Trump hits Illinois governor after criticism: 'I hear him complaining all the time' 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. LieuPentagon gets heat over protecting service members from coronavirus Trump spars with reporter over Kushner's 'our stockpile' remark Overnight Defense: Lawmakers call for probe into aircraft carrier captain's firing | Sailors cheer ousted commander | Hospital ship to ease screening process for patients 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 CollinsSunday shows preview: As coronavirus spreads in the U.S., officials from each sector of public life weigh in Justice IG pours fuel on looming fight over FISA court Loeffler traded .4M in stocks as Congress responded to coronavirus pandemic 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 CohenMemphis congressman asks Tennessee, neighboring states to issue shelter-in-place orders Centrist Democrats insist Sanders would need delegate majority to win Clinton advises checking your voter registration during Trump's State of the Union 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 GrishamOAN says it will attend briefing as White House guest after violating social distancing rules UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson tests positive for coronavirus White House press secretary to return to work after negative virus test 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 BidenCampaigns face attack ad dilemma amid coronavirus crisis Biden to host 'virtual fireside chat' with donors Esper faces tough questions on dismissal of aircraft carrier's commander 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 JordanTop conservatives pen letter to Trump with concerns on fourth coronavirus relief bill Justice IG pours fuel on looming fight over FISA court The relief bill and public broadcasting: A missed opportunity 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) Gaetz2020 on my mind: Democrats have to think like Mitch McConnell Harris knocks Gaetz for taking issue with money for Howard in relief package Critics hit Florida governor over lack of 'sweeping' coronavirus response 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 UnTired of worrying about the pandemic? There's always Pyongyang Overnight Defense: Pentagon orders bases to stop reporting coronavirus numbers | Hospital ship arrives in NY | Marines pause sending new recruits to boot camp | Defense bill work delayed North Korea: 'Reckless remarks' by Pompeo show US doesn't want nuclear talks MORE leading a human rights effort. It’s just not credible,” said Rep. David CicillineDavid Nicola CicillineLocal news outlets struggle to survive coronavirus fallout The Hill's 12:30 Report: House to vote on .2T stimulus after mad dash to Washington Pelosi rejects calls to shutter Capitol: 'We are the captains of this ship' 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 SchiffTrump defends firing of intel watchdog, calling him a 'disgrace' Democrats seize on Trump's firing of intelligence community watchdog Trump fires intelligence community watchdog who flagged Ukraine whistleblower complaint 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. JohnsonProgressives urge Democrats to hear from federal judge deeply critical of Roberts, conservatives House approves bill banning flavored tobacco products Clinton advises checking your voter registration during Trump's State of the Union 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.