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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.

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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.

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4 takeaways from the hearing so far

We're still in what we'd describe as an intermission of today's Judiciary Committee markup, so here are some of the bigger takeaways from this morning's action — or lack thereof.

  1. Republicans echo Trump in their lead defense: "No crimes" being alleged in the articles of impeachment. Democrats pointed to similar articles drafted during the Nixon impeachment proceedings.
  2. We're moving at a very slow pace. Through the first four hours, there have only been two amendments debated. So far, only one of those amendments has earned a vote, and it was shot down.
  3. Republicans insist there's no evidence Ukraine knew of the hold on aid until it became widely known. That runs counter to evidence provided by the Pentagon's Laura Cooper, who testified that Ukrainians emailed her staff as early as July 25 asking what was going on with the aid.
  4. Trump's watching closely. He already tweeted in direct response to little-noticed comments made by Democratic lawmakers during the proceedings.

Markup is in recess. So far, it's been 4 hours, 2 amendments and 1 vote.

Members are taking an extended break from today's hearing, which just hit the four-hour mark.

In those four hours, we've seen debate over just two amendments that were introduced so far. And only one of those amendments reached the point of being voted on. It was shot down.

Buckle up, folks. It looks like it's going to be a long day.

Democrats jockeying for coveted House manager appointments

Once impeachment deliberations move to the Senate, it will be up to House “managers” — or prosecutors — to present the case against President Trump at trial.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has sole discretion to appoint House managers, and sources tells us members have already started campaigning and jockeying for what will be a career-defining appointment.

As Jon Allen notes today, “It's a complicated task for the politically ambitious because the picks will be made solely at the discretion of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and many House members presume that it could be disqualifying to lobby too hard — especially publicly — for posts that require the utmost solemnity.”

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler are almost certain to make the cut as managers. (As Garrett Haake notes: Republicans who want Schiff to appear as a witness in a Senate trial may get their wish, in that Schiff would be in a position to answer questions.)

Pelosi has privately signaled that she wants the group to represent a range of regional, gender and racial diversity – two sources familiar tell NBC News.

Pelosi, one source says, is especially interested in “regional diversity,” to help counter the Republican criticism that the House process is being led by a “coastal impeachment squad.” 

During the Clinton impeachment, 13 House Republicans served as managers, all of whom were on the Judiciary Committee.

This time, according to a second source familiar, it will likely be a mix of House Intelligence and House Judiciary members.

Among the Democratic representatives whose names are circulating (and this is not meant to be a complete list):

  • Schiff, Calif.
  • Nadler, N.Y.
  • Hakeem Jeffries, N.Y.; House Democratic Caucus chairman
  • Zoe Lofgren, Calif.
  • Jamie Raskin, Md.
  • Jackie Speier, Calif.
  • Eric Swalwell, Calif.
  • Val Demings, Fla.
  • Raja Krishnamoorthi, Ill.

Gaetz brings up Hunter Biden's past substance issues — and it immediately backfired

Debate surrounding the next amendment to be introduced quickly divulged into a tit-for-tat involving allegations of cocaine usage and driving under the influence charges.

It began with Gaetz introducing an amendment to strike former Vice President Joe Biden from the articles of impeachment as the subject of an investigation Trump wanted Ukraine to launch and replace him with Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company, and Hunter Biden, who sat on the board of that company.

Gaetz said the purpose of Trump's ask was clear: probe Hunter Biden's conduct. In the July phone call with Zelenskiy, Trump asked his counterpart to investigate "the Bidens."

But then Gaetz went into an extensive speech in which he highlighted Hunter Biden's past cocaine and crack abuse.

 

"I don't want to make light of anybody's substance abuse issues," Gaetz said. "But it's a little hard to believe that Burisma hired Hunter Biden to resolve their international disputes when he could not resolve his own dispute with Hertz over leaving cocaine and a crack pipe in the car."

Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., took note of Gaetz highlighting Hunter Biden's past substance abuse and said it was rather hypocritical to hear such commentary, alluding to Gaetz's 2008 arrest on a charge of driving under the influence.

Gaetz calling out Hunter Biden's substance abuse was like the "pot calling the kettle black," Johnson said, adding that if someone had a DUI, it would not be something he'd bring up. The charge against Gaetz was eventually dropped.  

"I would say that the pot calling the kettle black is not something that we should do," Johnson said. "I don't know what members, if any, have had any problems with substance abuse, been busted in DUI, I don't know."

"But if I did, I wouldn't raise it against anyone on this committee," he continued. "I don't think it's proper."

Collins: Democrats have 'lowered the standard' for impeachment

 

Jordan's effort to eliminate first article of impeachment is defeated

After nearly three hours of debate, Jordan's amendment to eliminate the first article of impeachment against Trump — the one charging him with abuse of power — was voted down along party lines.

Raskin criticizes Republican defense of Trump: 'They don't accept the facts'

 

Pelosi says Democrats are not whipping members to support impeachment articles

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Thursday that Democratic leaders are not whipping their members in favor of the articles of impeachment, assuming they come out of the Judiciary Committee and to the floor. 

“We are not whipping this legislation, nor do we ever whip something like this. People have to come to their own conclusions,” she said at her weekly press conference when asked if she had a message to moderate Democrats who may be undecided about how to vote next week. 

Pelosi added that she “rather not ask anybody what their vote is.” 

 

Though, she said emphatically, “The facts are clear — irrefutable, in fact.” 

Asked to react to Trump calling the articles of impeachment against him “impeachment lite,” Pelosi said. “The president is wrong.” 

The president made the comment this week suggesting he expected Democrats to introduce more articles than just abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. 

When asked why bribery wasn’t another article, Pelosi said that she’s not a lawyer.

"The articles are what they are. They're very powerful, they're very strong."

Inside the jockeying to prosecute Donald Trump's impeachment

WASHINGTON — In furtive conversations with senior colleagues on the House floor, with their own aides and in private conclaves like Wednesday's weekly Congressional Black Caucus luncheon, Democratic lawmakers have been quietly trying to game out how to become one of the "managers" who will prosecute the case in the Senate if the House impeaches President Donald Trump.

"There are a lot of discussions going on and rumors," Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., a member of the House Judiciary Committee and the CBC, said after the panel's impeachment session Wednesday night. "I’m told that my name is on the list [for consideration], but I have not actively sought to be one of the floor managers. ... If the speaker would like for me to do that, I would be happy to do it."

The allure of being named to a select group for a historic mission — no matter the cautionary tale provided by the last Senate trial of a president — is as self-evident as most lawmakers' desire to carve out a personal legacy, get more airtime on television and raise more campaign money.

At the same time, it's a complicated task for the politically ambitious because the picks will be made solely at the discretion of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and many House members presume that it could be disqualifying to lobby too hard — especially publicly — for posts that require the utmost solemnity.

Read the full article here

‘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.

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.