Schiff: GOP will ‘rue the day’ they chose to protect Trump – live updates

WASHINGTON – Democrat and Republican lawmakers regularly borrowed the words of America’s Founding Fathers in justifying their position for or against the impeachment of President Donald Trump on Wednesday.

Starting right after noon, lawmakers took turns giving short speeches on the House floor defending their stance and speaking on the gravity of the moment.

“Our founders’ vision of a republic is under threat from actions from the White House,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. “If we do not act now, we would be derelict in our duty. It’s tragic the president’s reckless actions make impeachment necessary. He gave us no choice.”

The House is expected to vote Wednesday on Trump’s impeachment for alleged abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The House will debate the two articles for six hours and then vote separately on each of them. If the House approves the articles, Trump would be just the third president in U.S. history to be impeached. He would then face a trial in the Republican-controlled Senate, which could vote to convict and remove Trump from office. 

Democrats hold a 233-197 majority in the House, with one independent and four vacancies, and the votes on the articles are expected to largely follow party lines.

Follow along for live updates of the proceedings.

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Republicans boo Adam Schiff

Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., tried to rebut the Republican argument that there’s no impeachable offense because Ukraine eventually received the delayed military funds. 

“My colleagues continue to make the argument that the Ukrainians got the money,” Schiff said. “Yes, the president got caught but they got the money, no harm, no foul. It’s the equivalent of saying, `If you’re pulled over by a cop and you attempt to bribe the cop, and the cop doesn’t take the money but arrests you, where’s the crime in that?’”

Schiff’s comments drew booing from the Republican side of the chamber. 

– Nicholas Wu

A former Republican speaks

Michigan Rep. Justin Amash, an independent who left the Republican Party last summer, was welcomed on the Democratic side of the House with pats on the shoulder and handshakes from smiling colleagues after saying he would vote to impeach Trump.

“His actions reflect precisely the type of conduct the framers of the Constitution intended to remedy through the power of impeachment,” Amash said.

He was the only Republican in the House to call for Trump’s impeachment following the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 election and its aftermath earlier this year.

Amash said Wednesday that Trump abused and violated the public trust by soliciting the aid of a foreign power for his own personal and political gain.

He told USA TODAY after his floor remarks that he might have been able to convince his former Republican colleagues to vote for impeachment earlier in the process. But, Amash added, “The deeper we’ve gotten into it, the more people feel like they have to stick with their team, if you will, to survive.”

Some Democrats have approached Amash about helping present the case against Trump when the proceedings move to the Senate.

Asked if he’s interested in being an impeachment manager, Amash replied: “I’m happy to have a conversation with the speaker.”

– Maureen Groppe, Bart Jansen and Nicholas Wu

Schiff: ‘A chance to cheat in the next election’

While House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been the Democrats’ face of impeachment, Adam Schiff has been the workhorse of the effort.

As chair of the House Intelligence Committee, the California Democrat led the sharp questioning of key witnesses that laid out Trump’s role in Ukraine. And he has been able to succinctly articulate the complexities of the committee’s findings to the public.

Halfway through Wednesday’s floor debate, Schiff stepped up to the dais to summarize the testimony and characterize the president as someone consumed by personal advancement.

“He doesn’t care about Ukraine or the impact on our national security caused by withholding military aid to that country fighting for its democratic life,” he said. “All that matters to this president is what affects him personally: an investigation into his political rival and a chance to cheat in the next election.”

Later, Schiff turned to his GOP colleagues and chided them for choosing party over country.

“Many of my colleagues appear to have made their choice to protect the president, to enable him to be above the law, to empower this president to cheat again as long as it is in the service of their party and their power,” he said. “They have made their choice and I believe they will rue the day that they did.”

Getting testy

One of the most fiery exchanges came after Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, accused Democrats of using impeachment to stop an investigation into Ukraine’s interference in the 2016 election.

Democrats have noted that U.S. intelligence services found that Russia meddled in the election and FBI Director Christopher Wray told ABC News that there is “no information that indicates that Ukraine interfered with the 2016 presidential election.”

Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., said it was “deeply concerned that any member of the House would spout Russian propaganda on the floor of the House.”

Russia has blamed Ukraine for its own interference in the election.

Gohmert, who was still at his lectern, pointed at Nadler and said he should get a chance to respond, but he wasn’t recognized.

“He calls me guilty of Russian propaganda,” Gohmert shouted over the pounding of the gavel. Gohmert walked past Nadler as he left the chamber for a brief exchange.

– Bart Jansen

Rep. Jeff Van Drew plans to vote as a Democrat against impeachment

Rep. Jeff Van Drew, D-N.J., told reporters an announcement on his party change was coming soon.

“I’m thinking this through, how I want to announce it,” he said. “Then I’m going to announce whatever I do, and at that point in time, I will make a decision and make an announcement.

“We’ll see,” he said when asked if he had requested a ceremony at the White House to switch parties.

Van Drew said he would still be voting as a Democrat against impeachment today.

It was a clumsy way, a serious way to remove a president from office, and we should be careful,” he said. “Let’s just have an election. Let the people decide on this.”

– Nicholas Wu

Republican: Crucifixion of Christ was fairer

Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Ga., upped the ante on Republicans’ argument that the impeachment process has been unfair to Trump. 

“One month before Christmas, I want you to keep this in mind,” Loudermilk said during floor debate. “Pontius Pilate afforded more rights to Jesus than the Democrats have afforded this president.”

Specifically, Loudermilk said, Pilate gave Jesus the opportunity to face his accusers.

The House committees didn’t allow Trump or his representatives to participate in the closed-door depositions or public hearings. The Judiciary Committee invited Trump to participate in its hearings, but White House counsel Pat Cipollone declined, calling the inquiry partisan and biased.

Trump compared the impeachment process to the Salem witch trials in a Tuesday letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“More due process was afforded to those accused in the Salem Witch Trials,” Trump complained in the six-page letter.

– Maureen Groppe

Graham wants ‘shortest trial possible’ in Senate

Speaking at a press conference, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said he wanted the “shortest trial possible” for Trump.

Graham, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he would not support witnesses called by only one side.

“I’m not going to support witnesses being called for by the president,” he said. “I’m not going to support witnesses being called for by Senator Schumer,” referring the Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

He said he would invite Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani to testify before his committee, adding, “It’s just not good for your country to make these accusations on national television.”

Graham said he talked to the president and the First Lady today.

When he asked Trump how he was doing, Graham said Trump replied, “Well I’m being impeached. Other than that I’m doing okay.”

– Nicholas Wu

GOP critic of Trump to oppose impeachment

Florida Rep. Francis Rooney, one of the few Republicans to publicly criticize President Donald Trump’s conduct concerning Ukraine, has decided not to support impeachment, his spokesman confirmed Wednesday.

In October, Rooney told CNN the situation was “certainly very, very serious and troubling. I don’t think you can rule (impeachment) out until you know all the facts.”

The next day, he told Fox News he would not seek a third term in 2020, following a torrent of criticism from Republicans who view his willingness to question Trump’s conduct as tantamount to betrayal.

Rooney’s decision to oppose both articles of impeachment, denies Democrats a chance to lure a House Republican to their side.

– Ledyard King 

Trump calls impeachment ‘assault on America’

In the middle of impeachment debate on the House floor, Trump attacked Democrats and their effort to impeach him on Twitter.

“SUCH ATROCIOUS LIES BY THE RADICAL LEFT, DO NOTHING DEMOCRATS. THIS IS AN ASSAULT ON AMERICA, AND AN ASSAULT ON THE REPUBLICAN PARTY!!!!,” he tweeted.

The president steadily tweeted and re-tweeted – mostly about impeachment – at least two dozen times by 1 p.m. EST

– Courtney Subramanian

Tulsi Gabbard, others miss rules vote

Five House members missed the vote on setting the rules for the impeachment debate, including Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, one of the Democrats seeking the presidential nomination to take on Trump in 2020.

Gabbard’s office didn’t immediately explain her absence. Gabbard hasn’t voted on the House floor since Dec. 11 and has missed more than one-third of floor votes this year.

Gabbard, who has declined to say whether she supports either article of impeachment, introduced a resolution Wednesday to censure Trump. (A censure resolution expresses strong disapproval of conduct, whereas impeachment could result in removal from office.)

Among the others who missed one of the day’s major votes, retiring Rep. Jose Serrano, D-N.Y., has been absent due to illness; Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., was barred from voting after pleading guilty this month to campaign finance violations; and retiring Rep. John Shimkus is visiting his son in Tanzania.

While Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., missed the vote on approving the debate rules, he sided with his party minutes before in the procedural step calling for the vote.

 – Maureen Groppe and Nicholas Wu

Pelosi: ‘He gave us no choice’

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “solemnly and sadly” opened the debate with a floor speech that drew on the nation’s founders and the reason they enshrined impeachment in the Constitution.

“Our founders’ vision of a republic is under threat from acts of the White House,” she said. “If we do not act now, we’ll be derelict in our duties. It’s tragic the president’s reckless actions make impeachment necessary. He gave us no choice.”

As she spoke about the danger of foreign interference in U.S. elections, the speaker stood next to a white poster board of a fluttering American flag with the words: “To the Republic for which it stands…”

“Today, we are here to defend democracy for the people,” she said. “May god bless America.”

As she finished, Democrats in the chamber applauded. Republicans did not.

– Ledyard King 

Collins: The people ‘see through this’

Democratic lawmakers emptied out of the chamber after Pelosi’s speech, leaving mostly members of the House Judiciary Committee and their aides.

Leading off the GOP rebuttal, Georgia Rep. Doug Collins said the Founding Fathers were concerned about a partisan impeachment process in which the majority could do what it wants.

Collins dismissed the first article of impeachment – abuse of power – by saying Trump did nothing wrong. He described the second article – obstruction of Congress – as akin to petulant children saying they didn’t get what they wanted when they didn’t ask in the right way.

Fellow Republicans nodded as Collins said the GOP will take their case to American voters.

“It is a matter for the voters, not this House. Not in this way,” Collins said. “The people of America see through this.”

– Maureen Groppe

In Michigan, Pence pushes back

As debate on the impeachment articles got underway, Vice President Mike Pence began making the case to Michigan voters that will be amplified at Trump’s rally tonight in Battle Creek.

“Truthfully, friends, what’s happening on Capitol Hill today is a disgrace,” Pence said at an event organized by the Trump campaign at a Sheraton in Saginaw. Dozens of rank-and-file union members were invited to attend by a Workers for Trump Coalition.

A man holding an “Impeach Trump” sign stood alone at the hotel entrance when reporters traveling with the vice president arrived at the site. A small group of onlookers snapped photos of the Trump-Pence mega bus.

Inside the hotel, Pence said Democrats are trying to impeach Trump because they can’t defeat him.

Michigan was one of the three “blue wall” states that fell to Trump in 2016, assuring his victory.

Trump will take the stage tonight around the time the House could be holding the final impeachment votes.

Debate rules approved

After about an hour of discussion, the House voted 228 to 197 to set the rules for debating the two articles of impeachment against Trump. There will be up to six hours of debate with no amendments allowed.

The rules were approved after Democrats rejected Republicans” attempts to block debate on the impeachment articles until certain conditions are met  – including allowing Republicans to have their own impeachment hearing.

Lawmakers voted along party lines with the exception of the two Democrats who opposed the impeachment inquiry from the start: Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson and New Jersey Rep. Jefferson Van Drew, who is expected to switch parties.

Before the vote, Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole, the Rules Committee’s top Republican, gave a rare compliment in the intensely-partisan debate by thanking Chairman Jim McGovern, D-Mass., for how he conducted Tuesday’s committee hearing on the rules package.

“Let me thank my friend for his kind words,” McGovern responded, before likewise thanking Cole for his leadership.

But there the friendliness ended.

Cole called the impeachment inquiry unfair, rushed, closed and a “complete charade.”

McGovern said that the central question is whether a president should be allowed to ask a foreign nation to interfere in an election.

“I ask my colleagues to search their souls before casting their votes,” McGovern said.

– Maureen Groppe

Protesters descend on Capitol

Outside the Capitol, a hearty crowd of about 200 demonstrators – bundled up in hats and scarves to brave the 33-degree winter day – waved homemade signs labeling Trump a “criminal-in-chief” and a “fake president.”  

“What a beautiful day … A beautiful day for our democracy,” declared Nathaly Arriola, executive director of Need to Impeach, whose mission is self-explanatory. The organization was founded and is funded by Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer.

“This has never been about the politics,” she said. “This has always been about the American people, and about protecting the democracy that allows us to live freely as Americans in this nation.”

But she quickly pivoted to politics, declaring that her group would be delivering hand-held mirrors to vulnerable Republican senators – such as Colorado’s Cory Gardner and Maine’s Susan Collins – adorned with the message: “Senator, how corrupt is too corrupt for you?”

The purpose of the mirrors was obvious, but she spelled it out for anyone who might need elaboration.

“Soon they will have to look at themselves in the mirror and ask themselves” whether they convict or acquit Trump.  A failure to convict, she said, would amount to a betrayal of the U.S. Constitution.

“And Americans will hold them accountable,” she added.

Debate begins on how to proceed

Massachusetts Rep. Jim McGovern, the chairman of the House Rules Committee, introduced the rules for the debate, calling the proceedings a “Democracy defining moment.”

“We are being tested on something greater than our ability to toe the party line,” McGovern said.

Dismissing as “absurd” the GOP charge that Democrats are trying to overturn the results of the 2016 election, McGovern said failing to rebuke Trump would set a dangerous precedent.

Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole, the Rules Committee’s top Republican, countered that the premise of the impeachment articles is based on a “pause of 55 days” on military assistance to Ukraine. Cole argued there’s no evidence that the aid was a “quid pro quo” to get Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.

“I oppose this limited and unfair process,” Cole said, “and I certainly oppose impeaching the president of the United States.”

Another GOP protest fails

After failing to stop the proceedings, House Republicans sought a vote on a resolution accusing the Democrats who led the impeachment inquiry of abusing their power.

The resolution included a litany of complaints against Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who ran the impeachment hearings, and Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., who oversaw debate over the impeachment articles.

The House voted 226 to 191 to block the resolution.

An hour into the proceedings, the spectator galleries overlooking the floor were not full.

Outside the Capitol, journalists with large cameras patrolled the entrances while a handful of protesters held signs, one reading, “too much corruption to fit on one sign!”

– Maureen Groppe, Bart Jansen and Christal Hayes

GOP motion to adjourn fails

Shortly after the House gaveled in, Republicans unsuccessfully tried to stop the proceedings.

Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., asked that the House adjourn “so we can stop wasting America’s time for impeachment.”

The motion was dismissed on a party-line vote of 226 to 188.

It was just the first of many procedural votes Republicans could force throughout the all-day impeachment debate. 

A vote on both articles of impeachment isn’t expected until later this evening. 

“Help them, and help us all,” House Chaplain Patrick Conroy said of House members when he opened the day’s session with a prayer.

Pelosi: ‘Join me on the floor’

Expect a full House when the chamber convenes at 9 a.m. 

In a letter to colleagues Tuesday night, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged everyone to “join me on the floor.” The letter also aims to set a tone of solemnity. 

“Our constituents look to us to be respectful of the Constitution and Defenders of our Democracy and to proceed in a manner worthy of our oath of office to support and defend the Constitution of the United States,” Pelosi wrote.

In other words, no cheering or clapping during the votes.

Trump weighed in early with his usual mode of communication, a tweet.

“Can you believe that I will be impeached today by the Radical Left, Do Nothing Democrats, AND I DID NOTHING WRONG!” he tweeted at 7:34 a.m.

House Republicans signaled they are likely to press for a procedural vote even before the House officially begins debate on impeachment.

Among the first to arrive was Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern, D-Mass., who took a seat behind the Democratic lectern, preparing to debate the rules for floor debate on the two articles of impeachment.

Two Judiciary Committee Democrats who sent the articles to the floor – Reps. Sylvia Garcia of Texas and Steve Cohen of Tennessee – grabbed front-row seats in the chamber, chatting.

Rep. Al Green, D-Texas, one of the earliest advocates of an impeachment inquiry, walked over to shake hands with Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., one of the president’s most vocal defenders.

– Maureen Groppe, Bart Jansen

Tulsi Gabbard introduces censure resolution

On the day the House of Representatives was to debate and vote on articles of impeachment against Trump, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, introduced a resolution to censure him.

A censure resolution expresses strong disapproval of conduct, whereas impeachment could result in removal from office.

The resolution was referred to the Judiciary Committee and is unlikely to get a vote in the House.

The introduction of the resolution comes as even most moderate Democrats in the House have announced their intention to vote for the articles of impeachment. Nearly a dozen House Democrats had floated censure as an option, as reported by Politico but have since backed away from it.

Gabbard has declined to say whether she will vote for either article of impeachment. 

– Nicholas Wu

Colorado lawmaker to preside over floor debate

Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., will preside over much of the impeachment proceedings on the House floor Wednesday.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tapped the 12-term legislator from Denver for the prestigious task of what’s known as “speaker pro tempore,” which includes ruling on the points of order that guide floor debate. 

“None of us came to Congress to impeach a president, but every one of us – when we assumed office – took an oath to uphold the constitution,” DeGette said. “This is a sad and somber moment in our nation’s history and the responsibility to preside over this important debate is something I will not take lightly.”

– Ledyard King

How the vote will happen

Democrats hold a 233-197 majority in the House, with one independent and four vacancies, and the votes on the articles are expected to largely follow party lines. Republican leaders have said they expect all of their members to oppose impeachment.

Rep. Justin Amash, an independent from Michigan, is expected to vote with Democrats in favor of impeachment. One Democrat, Rep. Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey, announced he would vote against it and he might switch parties. Another Democrat, Rep. Jared Golden of Maine, told the Bangor Daily News he would support impeachment for abuse of power, but not obstruction of Congress. And a few Democrats, including Reps. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, Ron Kind of Wisconsin and Collin Peterson of Minnesota, haven’t announced how they will vote. 

The Judiciary Committee recommended by party-line vote the articles that accused Trump of pressuring Ukraine to investigate his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden. The committee also accused Trump of obstructing their work by directing aides and agencies to defy congressional subpoenas for documents and testimony.

“He acted in a way that rises to the level of impeachment,” said House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern, D-Mass., whose panel set the rules Tuesday for floor debate.

But Trump attacked the investigation Tuesday as an attempted partisan coup and urged House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to call off the vote. Congressional Republicans called the Intelligence Committee investigation “flawed” and “defective,” in the words of Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma.

The three committees investigating Ukraine – Foreign Affairs, Intelligence, and Oversight and Reform – didn’t allow Trump or his representatives to participate in their closed-door depositions or public hearings, but the time for Democratic and Republican questions was equally divided. The Judiciary Committee invited Trump to participate in its hearings, but White House counsel Pat Cipollone declined, calling the inquiry partisan and biased.

“The entire circus has been politically motivated from the very beginning,” said Cole, the top Republican on the Rules Committee.

If the House approves one or both of the articles, the Senate will hold a trial to decide whether to convict Trump and remove him from office. A two-thirds majority of the Senate is required for removal, which is considered unlikely with Republicans holding a 53-47 majority in the chamber.

Only two other presidents have faced Senate impeachment trials – Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1999 – and neither was removed from office. Former President Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 before a House vote on articles of impeachment.

Anti-impeachment ad blitz: Donald Trump’s allies target Democrats in swing districts

Trump sent Pelosi a six-page letter expressing his “most powerful protest against the partisan impeachment crusade” and urging her not to hold a vote on “this impeachment fantasy.”

“This impeachment represents an unprecedented and unconstitutional abuse of power by Democrat Lawmakers, unequaled in nearly two and a half centuries of American legislative history,” Trump said.

The president said more due process was provided during the Salem witch trials than during this inquiry, which he called “nothing more than an illegal, partisan attempted coup.”

“They include no crimes, no misdemeanors, and no offenses whatsoever,” Trump said. “You have cheapened the importance of the very ugly word, impeachment!”

But Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., who presented the Judiciary Committee’s report to the Rules Committee, said the investigation by the Foreign Affairs, Intelligence, and Oversight and Reform panels gathered overwhelming evidence against Trump from thousands of pages of documents and 100 hours of depositions with 17 sworn witnesses.

“These articles charge that President Trump has engaged in systematic abuse of his powers, obstructed Congress, and realized the worst fears of the Framers by subordinating our national security and dragging foreign powers into American politics to corrupt our elections, all for the greater cause of his own personal gain and ambition,” Raskin said.