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Analysis after House Judiciary Committee votes to impeach President Trump

Lawmakers act against Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

The House Judiciary Committee voted Friday to impeach President Donald Trump on two articles of impeachment: abuse of power and obstructing Congress. The historic vote lasted just a few minutes following a marathon, 14-hour public discussion about amendments to the articles.

Follow us here for all of the latest breaking news and analysis from NBC News' political reporters, as well as our teams on Capitol Hill and at the White House.

1023d ago / 4:15 PM UTC

‘I move to strike the last word!’ made simple

If you’ve been watching closely, you’ve heard these words a lot. According to the Congressional Research Service, in this context, it just means I’d like to talk now.

Read more about it here.

1023d ago / 4:06 PM UTC

There's talks about adding Dershowitz to Trump's legal team, sources say

There are preliminary discussions happening now about bringing Alan Dershowitz on to the president's legal team, according to a source familiar with the conversations, but the source cautions no final decision has been made and so far nothing appears imminent.

Dershowitz, who was at the White House yesterday for a Hanukkah reception, has often defended the president re: the Mueller investigation on cable news. But he also has described himself as a "loyal liberal who has supported every Democratic candidate for president since I campaigned for Adlai Stevenson in 1952," and has said he didn't agree with some of the president's policies — like on the travel ban and DREAMers.

He'd likely be a controversial pick: cases he has defended or advised on include those of O.J. Simpson, Jeffrey Epstein, and Harvey Weinstein. He's a professor emeritus at Harvard Law and a graduate of Yale Law. 

1023d ago / 3:58 PM UTC

Trump is watching (and inaccurately tweeting)

It appears the president has tuned in.

He's right that he asked President Zelenskiy to "do us a favor," but he's misstating Democrats' statements here.

Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, was posing a hypothetical about a governor asking for a favor when she said "do me a favor," and according to Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee's retelling, Trump said, "I would like you to do a favor, though." She didn't use an "us" or "me."

1023d ago / 3:56 PM UTC

Bannon predicts impeachment will backfire for Democrats and an 'Ali-Frazier' Trump-Clinton rematch

Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon told CNBC on Thursday that he thinks the impeachment process has ensured Trump’s re-election in 2020 and that Democrats will lose their House majority to Republicans. He also predicted Hillary Clinton is going to jump into the Democratic primary for an “Ali-Frazier” rematch with Trump.  

"What the Democrats, I think, may have done is to lock in control of the Senate, reinforce President Trump's re-election in 2020, and also concede the House so we could be back to the beginning of the Trump administration when we had all aspects of government," Bannon said.

"What they're going to turn to is who can save the Democratic Party ... I think you're going to see a rematch, Ali-Frazier — it's going to be Clinton-Trump in 2020."

1023d ago / 3:52 PM UTC

Gaetz says there's 'no evidence' Ukraine was aware of hold on military aid, but evidence suggests otherwise

Gaetz asserted there is "no evidence" that Ukrainian officials were even aware of a hold on nearly $400 million of military aid.

The evidence suggests otherwise.

Pentagon official Laura Cooper testified before impeachment investigators that her staff received emails from Ukrainian officials asking what was going on with the aid as early as July 25 — the same day as the Trump/Zelenskiy call. 

"What is going on with Ukrainian security assistance?" one Ukrainian contact emailed a member of Cooper's staff, she testified.

Though she could not be certain the check-in was a result of the recently placed hold on aid or just a regular inquiry, she said, "It's my experience with the Ukrainians they would call about specific things, not just generally checking in on the assistance package."

1023d ago / 3:41 PM UTC

Hillary Clinton weighs in

1023d ago / 3:27 PM UTC

White House suggests Trump is 'ready for anything in the Senate'

The White House is publicly suggesting the president is open to whatever kind of process the Senate decides on.

“The president has done nothing wrong, and the House should stop this ridiculous illegitimate impeachment sham, but he is absolutely ready for anything in the Senate,” Deputy Press. Sec. Hogan Gidley says.

Privately, a source familiar with the strategy cautions the president wants two things: to ensure the process in the Senate is fair, and that a trial gives the president the due process rights the White House feels he was deprived of in the House.

As some of the Republicans — like Sen. Braun below — have indicated, there’s still uncertainty on what that concretely translates to as far as whether he will insist witnesses will be called, etc. So far, the tone from the White House officials has been one of deference to Sen. McConnell.

1023d ago / 3:24 PM UTC

Chabot dismisses abuse of power as a legitimate charge for impeachment

Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, said that the Constitution says that impeachment is for someone who has committed treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors. 

“No president should abuse the power of his or her office. That doesn’t make alleged abuse of power a high crime or misdemeanor,” he said. 

Chabot said that the House has never adopted alleged abuse of power as a charge in a president’s impeachment, saying that it’s a “vague, ambiguous term” and “lacks a concise legal definition.” 

The congressman, who sat on the Judiciary Committee during President Clinton’s impeachment, said that the significant difference between the impeachment process for Presidents Nixon and Clinton and Trump’s is that for the former two, “abuse was a tacked-on charge, far less important in those cases than the actual high crimes against both of them.” 

“The entire argument for impeachment, in this case, is based on a charge that is not a crime,” he said. 

Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., responded, “There are no crimes here? That is the defense my colleagues across the aisles are putting forward?”

“The president committed the highest crime against the Constitution by abusing his office,” he said, by cheating in the election and inviting foreign interference while jeopardizing U.S. national security.

1023d ago / 3:00 PM UTC

The posters behind Republicans' seats

The posters behind republicans today include:

  •  A return of the photo of Pelosi, CA, and the committee chairs Nadler, NY, Maloney, NY), Waters, CA, Schiff, CA, Engel, NY, and Neal, MA, announcing the impeachment articles with the heading “Coastal Impeachment Squad” and “this is why we have the electoral college” below.
  • “If the Senate doesn’t convict that doesn’t mean it’s over,” Rep. Al Green
  • “The president’s accusers must go beyond heresy and innuendo and beyond demands that the president prove his innocence of vague and changing charges,” Chairman Schiff
Image: House Judiciary Committee's markup of House Resolution 755
From left, Republican Representatives Louie Gohmert, Jim Jordan and Ken Buck attend the House Judiciary Committee's markup of House Resolution 755, Articles of Impeachment Against President Donald Trump, on Capitol Hill in Washington on Dec. 12, 2019.Saul Loeb / AFP - Getty Images

 

1023d ago / 2:44 PM UTC

Nadler makes a style change to Trump's name, Collins gives a monologue

Chairman Nadler offered an amendment to spell out the president’s middle name, John, in the articles of impeachment. Ranking Member Collins used the opportunity to loudly complain about the Democratic-controlled process.

This must be the Congressional bickering and parliamentary process that endears this body to the American people.

1023d ago / 2:42 PM UTC

Responding to GOP complaints, Deutch argues Democrats gave Trump opportunities to present his case

Responding to complaints by Collins about Democrats not treating Republicans fairly, Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., said that Republicans had GOP counsel Steve Castor present evidence on their behalf on Monday in the Judiciary Committee’s second impeachment hearing.

“Before telling us the sky is falling and there’s great disrespect for the rules, it’s important to actually look at the rules,” Deutch said.

Democrats, Deutch said, gave Trump the opportunity to appear himself at the Dec. 4 committee hearing “to advocate for himself” and had the opportunity to call his own witnesses but he chose not to. 

“Let’s be careful to suggest that rules are being violated,” Deutch said. 

1023d ago / 2:38 PM UTC

Jordan wants to strike 'abuse of power' from the articles of impeachment

Jordan offered an amendment to strike the entire first article of impeachment, which charges Trump with abuse of power.

"This amendment strikes articles one because article one ignores the truth!" Jordan said.

Democrats then began describing how Trump allegedly abused his power, listing off multiple instances of Trump's conduct toward Ukraine and testimony from current and former Trump administration officials.

Cicilline said there was "overwhelming evidence" of Trump's abuse of power.

1023d ago / 2:26 PM UTC

And the procedural bickering begins...

After the articles of impeachment were read at the onset of Thursday's hearing, Ranking Member Collins made a point of order to highlight that Democrats did not provide Republicans with a minority hearing day that they have been pressing for. 

Nadler said he was still willing to consider such a hearing, but not as a way to delay the consideration of the articles of impeachment.

Collins pushed back, and was then gaveled by Nadler. The two men started speaking over each other and Collins sought to appeal Nadler's ruling.

Members voted on whether to table Collins' motion. It was tabled along party lines.

1023d ago / 2:08 PM UTC

McConnell's dilemma: Senate trial with Trump's witnesses, or a quick vote

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WASHINGTON — As the Senate begins preparations for an impeachment trial next month, many Republican members are questioning the wisdom of having President Donald Trump call witnesses and are instead discussing a speedy resolution.

Republican senators have been holding talks about the likely trial and few see the benefit of a slate of witnesses testifying on behalf of the president, fearful that the benefits of a defense filled with contentious testimony that may not necessarily exonerate him could be overshadowed by political rancor and gamesmanship.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has mostly avoided looking like he is putting his thumb on the scale on how to conduct the trial, will be keeping tabs on his members to know when to a call for a vote. He said that after the presentations from each side, senators could decide "that they've heard enough and believe they know what would happen and could move to vote on the two articles of impeachment."

Trump has indicated that he wants former Vice President Joe Biden, his son Hunter, the whistleblower and House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff, D-Calif., to testify.

Others want to get to a Senate vote much more quickly.

Read the full story here

1023d ago / 2:04 PM UTC

The markup meeting is back in session

House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler gaveled in the second day of the markup on articles of impeachment at roughly 9:03 a.m. 

1024d ago / 3:37 AM UTC

The markup is in recess until Thursday morning

The first day of the markup concluded at 10:34 p.m. The meeting will continue at 9 a.m. on Thursday.

1024d ago / 3:03 AM UTC

A lot of empty seats in the audience

Unlike previous hearings, tonight the hearing room in the Longworth House Office Building has more empty seats than full ones. 

There are no House members watching from the audience.

GOP counsel Steve Castor is sitting in the first row, and Rep. Jordan has come down to chat with him periodically. GOP lawmakers have come and gone after speaking. Gaetz, Buck and Ratcliffe have all left, and it’s not clear if they’ll return. 

Some Democrats have cycled in and out of the room, but at the moment only two of their seats are empty. With the exception of Gohmert and Gaetz, tonight’s hearing has been much more high-minded and somber than others. There have been no procedural hijinks, and lots of appeals to the founders’ visions, holding up of pocket Constitutions and personal anecdotes supporting votes. 

1024d ago / 2:43 AM UTC

Jayapal calls Trump the 'smoking gun'

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., made her case for impeachment by arguing that the president abused his power by pressuring a "fragile ally" to investigate a political rival by withholding aid.

"This is not hearsay. The president was the first and best witness in this case. The president admitted to his wrongdoing and corrupt intent on national television. The president is the smoking gun," she said. 

She argued that if Congress does not hold Trump accountable he will commit abuses of power again. 

"The smoking gun is already re-loaded and whether or not it gets fired, that's up to us," she said. 

1024d ago / 2:29 AM UTC

GOP impeachment posters attack, mock Democrats

House Judiciary Republicans brought large posters to the impeachment markup to call out Democrats over the inquiry. 

One sign, without context, reads: "44% of House Democrats already voted to impeach President Trump. The outcome is predetermined."

The other sign takes aim at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the chairs of the committees leading the impeachment inquiry, dubbing them the "Coastal Impeachment Squad" because most represent New York or California. 

Image: House Judiciary Committee Meets For Markup On Articles Of Impeachment
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, speaks during a House Judiciary Committee markup of the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, on Capitol Hill on Dec. 11, 2019.Jose Luis Magana / Pool via Getty Images
1024d ago / 2:00 AM UTC

1024d ago / 1:53 AM UTC

Gaetz rails against 'hot garbage impeachment'

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., railed against the "hot garbage impeachment" during his opening remarks and called the process a "political hit job." 

Gaetz is one of the president's staunchest allies in Congress and has repeatedly excoriated witnesses and sharply criticized his Democratic colleagues during the impeachment hearings. 

 

1024d ago / 1:37 AM UTC

Gohmert publicly names person some Republicans say is whistleblower

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Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, speaking on Wednesday at a meeting of the House Judiciary Committee on impeachment, said the name of a person whom Republicans believe is the whistleblower who sparked the inquiry against President Donald Trump.

The Texas lawmaker said the person's name while rattling off a list of witnesses he said should have been called as fast witnesses in the impeachment inquiry.

"Now that we have the articles of impeachment — a vague abuse of power, obstruction of Congress — the very things the majority has done in preventing us from having the witness that could shed light on this, not opinion but fact witnesses, we need to hear from those witnesses,” he said. He then proceeded to say a list of names of witness he wanted to testify which included the person alleged to be the whistleblower.

Read the full story here

1024d ago / 1:25 AM UTC

Bass blasts Republicans for calling impeachment a 'coup'

Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., excoriated Republicans for calling the impeachment inquiry a coup to overthrow President Donald Trump

"This is not a coup, and it is irresponsible to label a constitutional process a coup," she said. 

Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., who is also on the House Judiciary Committee, previously called the process the "slowest-moving coup in history."

1024d ago / 12:50 AM UTC

1024d ago / 12:42 AM UTC

This is Rep. Lofgren's third impeachment

1024d ago / 12:40 AM UTC

Collins rails against Democrats, calls their impeachment effort a 'three-year vendetta'

Ranking Member Doug Collins, R-Ga., blasted Democrats for the articles of impeachment against the president, including one that targets his alleged abuse of power.

“Two articles? Like that? Abuse of power and obstruction of Congress? The only abuse of power is the majority” racing against the clock and the calendar “determining what impeachment looks like — that’s the abuse of power,” said Collins. 

 

He said that the real legacy of the impeachment hearing “will not be the removal of Donald Trump as president, which only the Senate has the power to do.

“In fact, they see the majority for what they are: a three-year vendetta to get somebody that they couldn't beat and they’re desperate to do it before he beats them against next year.”

Collins said that he predicts Trump will be president for five more years, winning re-election next year.

1024d ago / 12:34 AM UTC

Nadler makes case for impeachment, urges Republicans to honor their oath: 'How would you be remembered?'

Chairman Nadler opened the House Judiciary impeachment inquiry hearing to markup the articles of impeachment against President Trump by laying out the allegations against Trump and urging Republicans to honor their oath and remember their legacy. 

He argued that President Trump put his private interests above American national security and compromised the integrity of U.S. elections by pressuring a vulnerable ally. He also said that the House must use impeachment to hold Trump accountable despite the upcoming election because his abuse of power will continue unchecked. 

"Over the past 94 days since the House investigation began — indeed, over the past three years — one indisputable truth has emerged: if we do not respond to President Trump’s abuses of power, the abuses will continue," Nadler said. "We cannot rely on an election to solve our problems when the president threatens the very integrity of that election."

He also urged Republicans to consider their constitutional oath. 

"I hope every member of this committee will withstand the political pressures of the moment," he said. "When his time has passed, when his grip on our politics is gone, when our country returns, as surely it will, to calmer times and stronger leadership, history will look back on our actions here today. How would you be remembered?"

1024d ago / 12:02 AM UTC

The markup has started

There will be opening statements first from the Nadler, followed by the Collins and then the remaining 38 members alternating back and forth between Democrats and Republicans.

1024d ago / 11:43 PM UTC

House Intelligence Committe sends Pence aide's classified supplemental testimony to Judiciary

Ahead of the Judiciary Committee markup hearing, supplemental testimony from Vice President Pence's aide Jennifer Williams was declassified and sent to the Judiciary.   

Per a Committee official:

"Last week, the House Intelligence Committee requested that the Office of the Vice President declassify supplemental testimony provided by Jennifer Williams regarding the Vice President’s September 18, 2019 call with the Ukrainian President, so Members could see further corroborative evidence as it considers articles of impeachment, and provide the public further understanding of the events in question. The Office of the Vice President has not responded to our letter. 

"Today, the Committee informed the Judiciary Committee of the classified supplemental submission and is making it available for the Committee’s review and consideration during their markup of the articles of impeachment."

Williams, a special adviser on Europe and Russia to Pence who listened in on the July 25 call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskiy, said that call gave her cause for concern. 

Williams said she "found the July 25th phone call unusual because, in contrast to other presidential calls I had observed, it involved discussion of what appeared to be a domestic political matter."

1024d ago / 11:27 PM UTC

Article II: Inside Impeachment — The View from the White House

President Trump is facing two articles of impeachment and he’s mounted a strong defense in response. 

At a rally Tuesday night in Pennsylvania, President Trump’s tactics were on full display — play to the Republican base by attacking the Democrats and the process. NBC News Senior White House Reporter Shannon Pettypiece offers insight into how the President’s tactics are playing in the White House and whether they are effective with Republican voters.

Listen to the episode here

1024d ago / 10:38 PM UTC

Graham on a Senate impeachment trial: 'I think we should vote and end it'

 

1024d ago / 10:37 PM UTC

Rep. Lieu missing markup sessions following surgery

Judiciary Committee member Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., will not be attending the articles of impeachment markup this week due to a medical procedure, according to his chief of staff.

Lieu had chest pain on Monday and on Tuesday underwent stent surgery. He is now in recovery.

“He does plan to watch a lot of TV as he recovers,” Marc Cevasco said.

 

1024d ago / 10:36 PM UTC

Graham strongly rebuts Ukrainian meddling in 2016 election during Senate hearing

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, disputed a growing GOP-led conspiracy theory that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election at a panel hearing Wednesday to review the findings of the DOJ's inspector general report. 

"We know the Russians are messing in our election. And it was the Russians, ladies and gentlemen, who stole the Democratic National Committee emails, Podesta’s emails, and screwed around with Hillary Clinton. It wasn’t the Ukrainians — it was the Russians. And they’re coming after us again," Graham said. 

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz also agreed with Graham that it was the Russians who attacked the DNC and stole the committee's emails to hurt Clinton's campaign. 

The president and his allies have floated a debunked conspiracy theory that it was Ukraine — not the Kremlin — that interfered in the election in order to hurt Trump and help Clinton. The claim was also repeated by GOP lawmakers during the public impeachment hearings into Trump’s alleged attempt to pressure Ukraine into investigating former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, as well as a discredited conspiracy theory involving Democrats in 2016.

1024d ago / 10:35 PM UTC

How the markup sessions will go

The House Judiciary Committee will on Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET hold a public markup of the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. Committee members will deliver opening statements later this evening and lawmakers will then discuss the articles, debate amendments and ultimately vote beginning at 9 a.m. ET Thursday morning.

1024d ago / 10:34 PM UTC

Trump blasts articles as 'impeachment light'

At a campaign rally in Pennsylvania on Tuesday night, President Trump railed against the articles of impeachment, saying it was the lightest impeachment in the country’s history.

 

1024d ago / 10:34 PM UTC

Read the full text of the articles of impeachment

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., on Tuesday announced the introduction of two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump.

Read the full text of the articles here: