House Judiciary Committee approves two articles of impeachment against President Trump

Vowing "no chance" of Trump's removal, Mitch McConnell says he'll coordinate the Senate trial with the White House

By Igor Derysh

Managing Editor

Published December 13, 2019 11:25AM (EST)

US President Donald Trump (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

The House Judiciary Committee voted across party lines Friday to approve two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump.

The committee voted 23-17 on articles of impeachment charging Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Every Republican on the panel voted against the articles of impeachment. Every Democrat voted in favor of the articles of impeachment, except Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., who was forced to miss the vote due to a medical issue.

Democrats argue that Trump abused his power by conditioning a White House meeting and nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine approved by Congress for a public announcement of investigations that could help his re-election campaign. Democrats also charged Trump with obstruction of Congress after the administration refused to comply with subpoenas or provide witnesses in its impeachment inquiry.

"The facts are clear — irrefutable, in fact," Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said.

The first article of impeachment against Trump alleges that the president “corruptly solicited the government of Ukraine to publicly announce investigations” into former Vice President Joe Biden and a “discredited theory” that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election to help Hillary Clinton.

The article accuses Trump of abusing his power by conditioning two “official acts” on the announcement and “ignoring and injuring national security and other vital national interests to obtain an improper personal political benefit.”

The article also says that Trump “betrayed the nation by abusing his high office to enlist a foreign power in corrupting democratic elections.”

The second article alleges that Trump “has directed the unprecedented, categorical and indiscriminate defiance of subpoenas issued by the House of Representatives pursuant to its ‘sole power of impeachment.’”

“This abuse of office served to cover up the president’s own repeated misconduct and to seize and control the power of impeachment,” the article says.

The vote was initially expected Thursday night, butHouse Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., abruptly postponed the vote to Friday morning.

Republicans fumed after Nadler made the unexpected announcement Thursday following a 14-hour hearing.

“That was the most egregious violation of trust between a committee chairman and ranking member I think I’ve ever seen,” Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., the top Republican on the committee, told reporters. “There was no discussion” about the change of plans.”

Five amendments proposed by Republicans were rejected Thursday.

“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,” a Democratic aide explained to The Hill. "And it should be passed in the daylight and not in the middle of the night."

The full House of Representatives is expected to vote on the articles of impeachment next week. The vote is expected to come in across party lines. If the House votes to impeach, the Senate is expected to hold a trial in January, which will be presided over by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.

The Senate requires a two-thirds vote to convict and remove a president. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who will serve as a juror, vowed to coordinate the trial with Trump’s lawyers and assured Fox News host Sean Hannity that “there’s no chance the president’s going to be removed from office.”

The remarks drew criticism at Thursday’s Judiciary hearing.

“In other words, the jury — Senate Republicans — are going to coordinate with the defendant — Donald Trump — on how exactly the kangaroo court is going to be run,” complained Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y.

Judiciary member Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., said that a vote to impeach the president was important, even if the Senate is expected to acquit the president.

“To anyone who wonders what does impeachment do to this president,” he told MSNBC, “this impeachment process tells the president you are no longer emboldened to put your personal gain above the office that you serve."

Trump insisted ahead of the vote that he was completely innocent.

“How do you get Impeached when you have done NOTHING wrong (a perfect call), have created the best economy in the history of our Country, rebuilt our Military, fixed the V.A. (Choice!), cut Taxes & Regs, protected your 2nd A, created Jobs, Jobs, Jobs, and soooo much more?” the president tweeted. “Crazy!”

But constitutional scholars disagree. University of North Carolina law professor Michael Gerhardt testified at a Judiciary hearing last week that the House had a duty to impeach the president for his Ukraine scheme.

“If what we’re talking about is not impeachable, nothing is impeachable,” he said. “This is precisely the misconduct that the framers created a Constitution including impeachment to protect against.”

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's managing editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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