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Monday 20 January 2020

Judiciary panel debates Trump impeachment

The deeply partisan House judiciary committee is preparing to send the charges to the full House of Representatives.

President Donald Trump (Matt Rourke/AP)
President Donald Trump (Matt Rourke/AP)

By Mary Clare Jalonick and Lisa Mascaro, Associated Press

The House judiciary committee has launched a marathon session ahead of voting on articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump.

It is a historic step as the deeply partisan panel prepares to send the charges to the full House of Representatives.

Chairman Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat, immediately asked for a full reading of the nine-page resolution, airing the two articles against the president introduced by Democrats for the live TV cameras.

They charge Mr Trump with abuse of power for asking Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden while withholding aid as leverage and with obstruction of Congress for stonewalling the House’s investigation.

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House judiciary committee chairman Jerrold Nadler (Alex Brandon/AP)

The top Republican, Representative Doug Collins, swiftly interjected that the proceedings are a “farce” and should be halted until their side is provided its own chance for a GOP hearing.

The request was denied, with the chairman saying the process was in line with the impeachment hearings of Richard Nixon or Bill Clinton.

Politicians quickly dug in for the second day of the judiciary session, only the fourth time in US history a president is facing impeachment, for what is expected to be a long day of fights over amendments, primarily by Republicans trying to stop the impeachment.

They are likely to be rejected by Democrats on party lines.

First up was Republican Representative Jim Jordan, who tried to delete the first charge against Mr Trump.

“This amendment strikes article 1 because article 1 ignores the truth,” Mr Jordan said.

Democrat Representative David Cicilline argued there is “overwhelming evidence” that the president, in pushing Ukraine to investigate rival Mr Biden, was engaged in an abuse of power “to corrupt American elections”.

Thursday’s hearing picked up where Wednesday’s late-night session left off.

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Members of the House judiciary committee (Matt McClain/Pool via AP)

Into the night, Democrats and Republicans delivered sharp, poignant and at times personal arguments for and against impeachment.

Both sides appealed to Americans’ sense of history – Democrats describing a strong sense of duty to stop what one called the president’s “constitutional crime spree” and Republicans decrying the “hot garbage” impeachment and what it means for the future of the country.

The committee is considering two articles of impeachment introduced by Democrats.

They charge Mr Trump with abuse of power for asking Ukraine to investigate Mr Biden while withholding aid as leverage and with obstruction of Congress for stonewalling the House’s investigation.

On Thursday, the committee is likely to vote to send the articles to the full House, which is expected to vote next week.

That could come after hours of debate over Republican amendments, though the articles are not likely to be changed.

Democrats are unlikely to accept any amendments proposed by Republicans unified against Mr Trump’s impeachment.

Republicans are expected to offer an array of amendments and make procedural motions, even if they know none of them will pass.

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House judiciary committee members on Capitol Hill in Washington (Alex Brandon/AP)

The judiciary panel is made up of some of the most partisan members on both sides, and Republicans will launch animated arguments in Mr Trump’s defence.

In the formal articles announced this week, the Democrats said Mr Trump enlisted a foreign power in “corrupting” the US election process and endangered national security by asking Ukraine to investigate his political rivals, including Mr Biden, while withholding US military aid as leverage.

That benefited Russia over the US as America’s ally fought Russian aggression, the Democrats said.

Mr Trump then obstructed Congress by ordering current and former officials to defy House subpoenas for testimony and by blocking access to documents, the charges say.

Mr Trump tweeted that to impeach a president “who has done NOTHING wrong, is sheer Political Madness”.

The House is expected to vote on the articles next week, in the days before Christmas.

That would send them to the Senate for a 2020 trial.

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday that he would be “totally surprised” if there were the necessary 67 votes in the chamber to convict Mr Trump, and signalled options for a swift trial.

He said no decision had been made about whether to call witnesses.

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