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In a surprise move infuriating Republicans, Judiciary Committee delays impeachment vote until Friday

GOP lawmakers, who were caught completely off guard by the schedule change, accused Democrats of running a "kangaroo court."
Image: House Judiciary Committee Meets For Markup On Articles Of Impeachment
Ranking member Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., from right, speaks as House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., listens during a House Judiciary Committee markup hearing on the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump at the Longworth House Office Building on Dec. 12, 2019.Andrew Harrer / Pool via Getty Images

WASHINGTON — After a grueling 14-hour meeting, Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee suddenly announced that the panel would not vote as planned late Thursday night on two articles of impeachment, angering Republicans.

Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., said shortly after 11 p.m. that the committee would instead vote on the impeachment of President Donald Trump on Friday at 10:00 a.m.

The move caught Republicans on the committee off guard.

"That was the most bush league play I have ever seen in my life," said Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., who accused Nadler of turning the committee into a "kangaroo court."

Collins and other Republicans alleged Democrats abruptly changed the schedule only to get more media attention during the day on Friday for the impeachment vote. "They want the prime time hit," Collins said.

Before banging his gavel to recess the meeting that began at 9:00 a.m., Nadler said, "It is now very late at night. I want members on both sides of the aisle to think about what has happened over the last two days and to search their consciences before they cast their final votes."

Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, was overheard saying Nadler's move was "Stalin-esque," adding, "Let's have a dictator."

"I think we all thought it was going finish up tonight," Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., said on Fox News. "We actually thought there was a deal."

But Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., said the impeachment vote was so important it should take place during daylight hours.

"We want to do it in broad daylight," Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Maryland, said on CNN.

If the articles pass the committee on Friday, the full House is expected to hold a floor vote on the impeachment articles, mostly likely on Wednesday, before lawmakers leave for their holiday break. If approved, a trial about whether to convict Trump and remove him from office will be held in the Senate in January.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told Sean Hannity on Fox News on Thursday night that there was "no chance" Trump would be convicted in the Senate, which would require a two thirds vote.

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"The case is so darn weak coming from the House. We know how it's going to end," McConnell said. "There's no chance the president's going to be removed from office. My hope is that there won't be a single Republican who votes for either of these articles of impeachment, and, Sean, it wouldn't surprise me if we got one or two Democrats."

The delay in the Judiciary Committee vote came after a day-long debate Thursday over the impeachment articles that Democrats introduced earlier this week. Republicans offered a number of amendments to gut the measures, but they were defeated each time by the Democratic majority on the committee.

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, was the first GOP lawmaker to offer an amendment, which intended to eliminate the first article of impeachment against Trump, on abuse of power. After three hours of debate, it failed in a party-line vote. Another amendment from Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., sought to strike language on former Vice President Joe Biden and replace it with Hunter Biden and Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company.

Democrats offered a single amendment at the beginning of the markup in which Nadler proposed to spell out the president's middle name, John, in the articles instead of using just the initial.

Throughout the day, Republicans reiterated their complaints that Democrats had not conducted a fair impeachment process. Democrats argued that they had given the president himself opportunities to make his own case and they used the debate time Thursday to explain again why they have decided to pursue impeachment against Trump.

"There are no crimes here? That is the defense my colleagues across the aisle are putting forward?" Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., said. "The president committed the highest crime against the Constitution by abusing his office," charging that he had invited foreign election interference while jeopardizing U.S. national security.

Earlier in the day, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said, "The facts are clear — irrefutable, in fact."

CORRECTION (Dec. 13, 2019, :30 a.m. ET): A previous version of this article misstated Rep. Doug Collins’ party affiliation. He is a Republican, not a Democrat.