WASHINGTON — After two days of acrimonious hearings and an abrupt overnight delay, the House Judiciary Committee voted along party lines Friday to approve two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump and send those charges to the full House.
It is only the fourth time in U.S. history that the Judiciary Committee has taken such action, and it came after Republicans mounted a spirited defense and attacked Democrats over the impeachment process.
The committee twice voted 23-17 to pass articles of impeachment for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
After the vote, Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., called it a “sad day” but predicted the House would take up the articles of impeachment next week and move expeditiously to pass them.
All three Nevada Democrats in the House, Dina Titus, Steven Horsford and Susie Lee, have announced their intentions to vote for impeachment.
“The facts are clear,” Lee said. “The president abused the power of his office and blatantly obstructed Congress.”
Nevada’s lone Republican, Rep. Mark Amodei, said earlier this week he was still reviewing the articles of impeachment drawn up by the committee. But Amodei voted with Republicans on a bill that set out rules for the impeachment hearings.
Trump slams Democrats
Trump has praised Republicans for their defense, and he again railed against Democrats on Friday at the White House.
“It’s a witch hunt. It’s a sham. It’s a hoax. Nothing was done wrong,” Trump told reporters during an Oval Office meeting with the president of Paraguay.
Still, Trump said, fundraising for his campaign and the Republican Party “have gone through the roof.”
Republicans on the committee spent two days attacking Democrats, saying a rushed process failed to provide proof of the allegations in the two articles of impeachment.
The charges stem from a July 25 telephone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in which Trump asked the Ukrainian president to launch political investigations into Trump political rival Joe Biden while military aid was being withheld by the administration.
When that was discovered, Nadler said Trump ordered officials to disobey subpoenas for testimony and documents sought by Congress in their investigation to determine what happened.
Those actions were the basis of the two articles. Republicans said the Democrats’ case was built on presumptions and conjecture.
“There are no factual underpinnings to impeach this president,” Collins said during the partisan-tinged hearing.
Republican Rep. James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin said “it’s obvious to all Americans that this is a railroad job.”
GOP lawmakers also said Trump withheld the aid while the administration sought to determine whether the funds would be used as intended and not lost to corrupt Ukrainian politicians or unintended causes.
Democrats balk at defense
“The idea that Donald Trump was leading an anti-corruption effort is like Kim Jong Un leading a human rights effort. It’s just not credible,” said Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., with a reference to the North Korean dictator.
The committee voted after two days of heated hearings, lasting late into the evening on Thursday following 14 hours of debate that was marked by personal attacks, diversions and growing impatience.
After Democrats dispatched four Republican amendments on the same party-line vote margin, Nadler threw Republicans into a rage when he abruptly announced that he was going to delay a final vote on the two articles of impeachment until Friday morning.
Nadler made the decision without consulting Collins, prompting him to rush to the cameras in the hallway outside and denounce the decision as one aimed at garnering another day of television and media coverage.
“This is a kangaroo court,” Collins fumed.
But Nadler said he wanted members “on both sides of the aisle to think about what has happened over these past two days and search their consciences before they cast their final votes.”
After members voted on Friday, the White House reacted quickly to the partisan vote, with spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham saying, “This desperate charade of an impeachment inquiry in the House Judiciary Committee has reached its shameful end.”
“The president looks forward to receiving in the Senate the fair treatment and due process which continues to be disgracefully denied to him by the House,” she said.
Working with McConnell
Trump later said he was working with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Senate Judiciary Committee Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., on how to conduct a trial on the impeachment charges early next year in the GOP-led Senate, where Trump is expected to be acquitted if Democrats fail to get 67 votes, or a two-thirds majority. McConnell has said he sees no way Republicans will help Democrats reach that threshold.
Some senators prefer a quick trial without witnesses to avoid a circus atmosphere.
Trump said he would not mind a lengthy process in order to call witnesses, including the whistleblower who first alerted intelligence officials about the contents of the president’s call with the foreign leader.
“I wouldn’t mind a long process because I’d like to see the whistleblower, who’s a fraud,” Trump said.
But the president said he would go along with whatever McConnell and Graham want to do in the Senate.
“It’s an embarrassment to this country,” Trump said.
Trump is the fourth president to face articles of impeachment approved by the House Judiciary Committee: Andrew Johnson in 1868, Richard Nixon in 1974 and Bill Clinton in 1998.
This story has been updated to reflect the correct party affiliation for U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell.