Judiciary Committee abruptly postpones vote on articles of impeachment

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 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.

Judiciary Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerHouse Judiciary Committee postpones hearing with Barr amid coronavirus outbreak House Democrats plead with key committee chairman to allow remote voting amid coronavirus pandemic Pelosi rejects calls to shutter Capitol: 'We are the captains of this ship' MORE (D-N.Y.) recessed the impeachment articles markup after 11 p.m., saying that the committee would reconvene to cast the impeachment votes Friday at 10 a.m. 

With Nadler's announcement came an audible gasp from both the audience and the Republicans on the dais, who said they had received no warning and were under the impression that Thursday's marathon hearing would conclude with votes on both articles before midnight, allowing members to start heading home for the weekend. 

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The outraged Republicans wasted no time blasting Nadler for what they saw as a procedural cheap shot — one designed solely to allow Democrats more time before the TV cameras on Friday. 

“You chose not to consult the ranking member,” 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 (R-Ga.) said, looking at Nadler stunned.

Collins, then stepping off the dais in a huff, described the chairman's move as a sign that trust between him and Nadler has broken down. 

“That was the most egregious violation of trust between a committee chairman and ranking member I think I’ve ever seen,” said Collins, adding that “there was no discussion” about the change of plans.

“We thought we were going to do votes tonight," he said.

“And then to do that right there shows that Chairman Nadler is zero, his staff is zero,” Collins said, calling the impeachment markups a “kangaroo court."

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Collins then rushed outside the hearing room to a bank of TV cameras to air his frustrations further. 

"The chairman's integrity is gone," he said, charging that the committee majority is "more concerned with being on TV in the morning than it was in finishing its job tonight and letting the members go home."  

His protests were echoed by other Republicans.

"Unbelievable," Rep. Mike JohnsonJames (Mike) Michael JohnsonTop conservatives pen letter to Trump with concerns on fourth coronavirus relief bill Lawmakers ask Trump administration to help Gulf oil and gas producers Roberts wrestles with abortion law in high-stakes Louisiana case MORE (R-La.) stated repeatedly on the dais.

Rep. Steve ChabotSteven (Steve) Joseph ChabotPelosi not invited by Trump to White House coronavirus relief bill's signing House GOP introduces bill to secure voter registration systems against foreign hacking DCCC to run ads tying 11 House Republicans to Trump remarks on entitlements MORE, a 12-term Ohio Republican, piled on. 

"I have never seen anything like that," he said to a Republican staffer on the dais. 

Even rank-and-file Democrats on the committee were not told ahead of time that Nadler would postpone the votes, although they quickly defended the decision, citing the need for greater transparency.

"We weren't sure if they had more amendments, they wouldn't tell us that," said Rep. Madeleine DeanMadeleine DeanBloomberg builds momentum on Capitol Hill with new endorsements Democrats blast consumer bureau over student loan oversight agreement with DeVos Democratic congresswomen wear white to Trump's address in honor of suffrage movement MORE (D-Pa.). "And what the chairman's spirit was: We want to make sure we do this in the light of day. We don't want to vote on such an important article, or articles, that matter to the American people [and] to this president, in the late of night."

The move came after Republicans introduced one amendment after another in an effort to protest the articles of impeachment, dragging out the hearing 14 hours as Democrats voted down their efforts to scrub the two articles of impeachment, which charge Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

A Democratic aide, when asked for the reasoning of the sudden move, said they felt Republicans were trying to run out the clock so that the vote would happen with the least eyes on them.

“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,” the aide said.

The two impeachment articles both stem from Trump’s handling of foreign policy in Ukraine, where the president and his allies had pressed leaders in Kyiv to launch two investigations the might have boosted Trump’s reelection bid next year. 

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The first article accuses Trump of abusing his office by withholding U.S. military aid to Ukraine amid his investigation requests; the second charges him with obstructing Congress throughout the Democrats’ investigation of the Ukraine affair.

Thursday’s postponement is not expected to alter the outcome of the debate: Judiciary Democrats are set to pass the two articles on Friday, sending them to the full House, where votes are likely to take place on Wednesday. 

Still, some Republicans say this will impact their relationship with Democrats beyond impeachment.

“Hard to convey how upset everyone is,” said one Republican Judiciary aide, adding that “people had flights booked.”