- The House Rules Committee met Tuesday to set the terms for debate over impeachment on the House floor, with a final vote likely on Wednesday.
- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
- Download the free CBS News app to stream live coverage of the impeachment proceedings, or watch in the player above.
Washington — House lawmakers wrapped up a contentious but comparatively collegial hearing to determine the length and terms of floor debate on two articles of impeachment against President Trump, who lashed out against Democrats in a lengthy written tirade on Tuesday.
The House Rules Committee voted 9 to 4 along party lines to allow no amendments on the floor during the six hours of debate. The debate will be equally divided between the majority and minority, and controlled by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler and Ranking Member Doug Collins or those they designate to do so. There will be separate votes on Article I and Article II, and if the House votes to impeach, the House can consider a resolution appointing and authorizing the impeachment managers for the Senate trial.
If Mr. Trump is impeached Wednesday, it would be just the third impeachment of a president in U.S. history.
Elsewhere in the Capitol, senators looked ahead to a potential trial in the upper chamber if the House votes to impeach. On Sunday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumerto Majority Leader Mitch McConnell demanding several witnesses be called. McConnell responded to Schumer from the Senate floor on Tuesday, saying it was not the Senate's role to go on a fact-finding mission.
Committee adopts rule governing floor debate
The House Rules Committee has voted along party lines 9 to 4 to adopt the rule governing floor debate for the impeachment of President Trump on Wednesday. Here are some highlights from the rule:
- There will be no amendments allowed on the floor — this is what's known as a "closed rule"
- Six hours of debate will be equally divided between the majority and minority and controlled by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler and Ranking Member Doug Collins or those they designate to do so
- There will be separate votes on Article I and Article II
- After impeachment, the articles will be adopted, and the House can consider a resolution appointing and authorizing the impeachment managers for the Senate trial.
Pelosi urges Democrats to vote for impeachment
On the eve of the impeachment vote, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent a letter to Democrats, urging them to vote to impeach President Trump.
"No Member came to Congress to impeach a President. But every one of us, as our first act as a Member of Congress, stood on the House Floor, raised our hand and took a sacred oath," she wrote. "That oath makes us Custodians of the Constitution. If we do not act, we will be derelict in our duty."
Last week, before a House committee voted on the articles of impeachment, Pelosi said she
"We're not whipping this legislation, nor do we ever whip something like this. People have to come to their own conclusions," she had said.
Democrat Jared Golden will vote yes on one article of impeachment, no on the other
Congressman Jared Golden is the first Democrat who says he will split his vote and support one article of impeachment but not both.
The Bangor Daily News reported that the Maine representative will vote to impeach Mr. Trump for abusing his power but not for obstructing Congress. He said he wanted to put the military aid in as a separate article, but thought Trump shouldn't have asked Zelensky for the investigation.
"Given that the sought-after investigation was solicited from a foreign government, the president's actions are a realization of the Framers' greatest fears: foreign corruption of our electoral process, and a president willing to leverage the powers of his office to benefit his own reelection," Golden wrote on Facebook. "This action crossed a clear red line, and in my view, there is no doubt that this is an impeachable act. For this reason, I will vote for Article I of the House resolution to impeach President Trump for an abuse of power."
Golden is the latest of several freshman Democrats who flipped Republican seats in 2018 and announced that they will support at least one article of impeachment. — Rebecca Kaplan contributed reporting.
First-term Michigan Democrat backs impeachment: "The facts are clear"
Freshman Congresswoman Haley Stevens of Michigan joined the cascade of Democrats coming out in favor of impeaching Mr. Trump ahead of the House's upcoming vote.
"The facts are clear that President Trump abused the powers of his office and deliberately obstructed the congressional investigation into this abuse," she said in a statement. "I love our country and I am truly heartbroken that the president's actions have led to this."
Stevens said that by pressuring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden in exchange for military aide, Mr. Trump "jeopardized our national security by leaving a strategic ally vulnerable to Russian aggression."
Last week, Stevens told Politico she was "keeping an open mind" and speaking with constituents.
Stevens defeated Republican Lena Epstein last year in the race to represent Michigan's 11th Congressional District, flipping the seat. Mr. Trump bested Hillary Clinton in the district by 5 points in 2016.
McConnell: "I'm not an impartial juror"
Speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill, McConnell responded to criticism that he couldn't approach an impeachment trial as a neutral observer.
"I'm not an impartial juror. This is a political process," McConnell said. "There is not anything judicial about it. Impeachment is a political decision. The House made a partisan political decision to impeach. I would anticipate we will have a largely partisan outcome in the Senate. I'm not impartial about it at all."
The Republican leader responded to questions from CBS News about comments he made during the Clinton impeachment in 1999, when he said it was "not unusual" to have witnesses in an impeachment trial.
"I think it's pretty safe to say, in a partisan exercise like this, people sort of sign up with their own side, and what we may have felt 20 years ago may not be the same as today," he said. "And you can quote virtually any of us who were here during that period to be on the opposite side, because of the nature of the process." — Nancy Cordes and Robert Legare
Trump rails against impeachment in letter to Pelosi
In a six-page letter to Pelosi released by the White House, Mr. Trump railed against the impeachment process, accusing Democrats of "declaring open war on American Democracy."
The president said he wrote the letter "for the purpose of history and to put my thoughts on a permanent and indelible record."
"The articles of impeachment introduced by the House Judiciary Committee are not recognizable under any standard of constitutional theory, interpretation, or jurisprudence," Mr. Trump wrote. "They include no crimes, misdemeanors, and no offenses whatsoever. You have cheapened the importance of the very ugly word, impeachment!"
The president insisted he did nothing wrong in his July 25 conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, and falsely alleged former Vice President Joe Biden "used his office and $1 billion dollars of U.S. aid money to coerce Ukraine into firing the prosecutor who was digging into the company paying his son millions of dollars."
Mr. Trump also reiterated that Zelensky has publicly said he didn't feel pressure to open investigations, even as Zelensky has also said he didn't want to become involved in U.S. domestic politics.
The president said claim Pelosi simply wants to undermine his election and his agenda accomplishments.
"There is nothing I would rather do than stop referring to your party as the Do-Nothing Democrats," the letter said. "Unfortunately, I don't know that you will ever give me a chance to do so."
Mr. Trump decried the impeachment process, insisting "more due process was afforded to those accused in the Salem Witch Trials," in which 19 people were executed.
"I have no doubt the American people will hold you and the Democrats fully responsible in the upcoming 2020 election," Mr. Trump wrote. "They will not soon forgive your perversion of justice and abuse of power."
Committee breaks to vote on funding bills
The committee is taking a break so members can vote on two appropriations bills on the House floor. The break is likely to last about 40 minutes.
Another vulnerable Democrat will vote to impeach
Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer, a freshman Democrat from Iowa, will support both articles of impeachment against Mr. Trump. Finkenauer, who represents Iowa's 1st Congressional District, announced the decision on Twitter.
"This decision is not, and was never about politics, and this shouldn't be about political parties or elections," she said. "It's about facts, dignity in public service, and honoring those who fought and continue to fight to protect our sacred democracy."
Finkenauer bested Republican Congressman Rod Blum in November, with 51% of the vote. Mr. Trump won Iowa's 1st District by 4 points in 2016.
McConnell: Witnesses in Senate trial would mean "mutual assured destruction"
McConnell said in an interview with Fox News Radio that calling the witnesses requested by Democrats would lead to "mutual assured destruction."
McConnell told radio host Brian Kilmeade that if the Senate called witnesses requested by Schumer, they would also call witnesses the president has suggested.
"If we go down in the witness path, we're going to want the whistleblower. We're going to want Hunter. You can see here that this is the kind of mutual assured destruction episode that will go on for a long time," McConnell said, referring to Hunter Biden.
"We know how it's going to end. The president's not going to be removed from office. The only issue is how long do we want to take to get a final decision," McConnell continued. "I think what we've heard enough, we're going to listen to arguments. But my view is it's time to vote and move on and get back to get back to the business the American people sent us all here to do."
House Intel renews request to declassify Pence aide's testimony
The House Intelligence Committee has renewed its request to Vice President Mike Pence's office to declassify additional testimony from Pence aide Jennifer Williams, who works on issues related to Europe and Russia andbehind closed doors in early November.
In a letter to Pence, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff said the additional testimony is "directly relevant to Congress's consideration of articles of impeachment against President Trump and the Committee's ongoing investigation of the President's Ukraine scheme."
"[Y]our unwillingness to declassify the Supplemental Submission raises the serious question of whether your continuing efforts to obstruct the House's impeachment inquiry are intended not just to protect President Trump, but yourself as well," Schiff wrote.
Williams, who listened in on the president's July 25 call with the president of Ukraine, testified publicly before the House Intelligence Committee last month. — Sara Cook
After more than an hour, Rules Committee yet to consider rules
The House Rules Committee's ostensible mandate is pretty straightforward: debate and establish the rules governing the impending floor vote on impeachment.
But more than an hour into the hearing, the committee has yet to debate and discuss the parameters for the floor vote. Instead, the members are continuing to address the president's conduct and merit of impeachment.
It's unclear how long Tuesday's hearing will run.
Raskin rejects GOP arguments as "heads I win, tails you lose"
Congressman Jamie Raskin, who is appearing on behalf of Democrats on the Judiciary Committee, pushed back against GOP Representative Doug Collins' argument that the impeachment articles were illegitimate in part because they did not accuse the president of an actual crime, only abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
Collins, who presented the Republicans' case, noted that Democrats accused the president of bribery during the impeachment inquiry, but omitted mention of it in the impeachment articles.
Raskin noted that members of Congress are not criminal prosecutors, and then accused Republicans of making a hypocritical argument. He said Republicans had argued the president could not be indicted while in office, an opinion bolstered by Attorney General William Barr.
Raskin said Republicans could not say it's impossible for the president to be indicted for a crime, then condemn Democrats for not accusing the president of a crime.
"'Heads I win, tails you lose' is the essence of the argument," Raskin said.
Rules committee chair: "Congress has no other choice but to act with urgency"
In his opening statement, Rules Committee Chairman James McGovern said Congress "has no other choice but to act with urgency" on the two articles of impeachment against the president.
"What shocks me, quite frankly, about so many of my Republican friends is their inability to acknowledge that President Trump acted improperly," McGovern said in prepared remarks. "It seems the only Republican members willing to admit the president did something wrong have either already retired or announced plans they intend to retire at the end of this Congress. I get it. It's hard to criticize a president of your own party. But that shouldn't matter here."
McGovern continued: "Moments like this call for more than just reflexive partisanship. They require honesty. And they require courage. Are any Republicans today willing to muster that strength to say that what this president did was wrong?"
Oklahoma's only Democrat in Congress, Kendra Horn, backs impeachment
Congresswoman Kendra Horn, a freshman Democrat from Oklahoma, joined the growing number of House Democrats who have announced they'll vote in favor of the two articles of impeachment against Mr. Trump.
"It is with a heavy heart, but with clarity of conviction that I have made my decision," Horn said in a statement Tuesday. "The oath I took to protect and defend the Constitution requires a vote for impeachment. This is not a decision I came to lightly, but I must do my part to ensure our democracy remains strong."
Horn is the latest vulnerable Democrat to support impeachment of Mr. Trump. The House is expected to vote on the two articles of impeachment Wednesday.
"Protecting and defending our Constitution is about preserving our democracy and systems for generations to come," she said. "We cannot allow any president of either party to abuse the power of their office or to obstruct Congress. Therefore, we must act to protect our Constitution, the integrity of our elections, and our national security."
Horn narrowly defeated Republican Congressman Steve Russell in the race for Oklahoma's 5th Congressional District in November 2018, garnering 50.7% of the vote. She was the first Democrat to win the seat in 40 years. Mr. Trump won the district by 13.7 points in the 2016 presidential election.
Phillips says Amash would serve as impeachment manager if asked
Minnesota Democratic Congressman Dean Phillips reiterated his call for Pelosi to choose independent Congressman Justin Amash as an impeachment manager to for make the case for impeachment in a Senate trial.
Phillips told reporters on Capitol Hill that he had spoken to Amash and said he would agree to be an impeachment manager if asked.
"He's an attorney, he's a constitutionalist. I believe he has framed the rationale for why we're doing this better than any person in this entire body — Democrat, Republican, libertarian or independent," Phillips said. "And I do believe that the one independent in this whole chamber should be on the impeachment managers team."
McConnell rejects calls for witnesses in Senate trial: "The House chose this road"
House Majority Leader Mitch McConnell responded to Minority Leader Chuck Schumer's request for more witnesses and production of evidence in an eventual Senate impeachment trial, saying it's the House's job to build the case for impeachment and the Senate's role to judge the results.
"The Senate is meant to act as judge and jury, to hear a trial, not to re-run the entire fact-finding investigation because angry partisans rushed sloppily through it," McConnell said from the Senate floor.
McConnell said Democrats were pursuing the "thinnest, least thorough presidential impeachment in our nation's history," and called the evidence collected in the House inquiry "woefully inadequate to prove what they want to allege." He said Schumer's proposal would "set a nightmarish precedent for our institution."
"The House chose this road. It is their duty to investigate. It is their duty to meet the very high bar for undoing a national election. As Speaker Pelosi herself once said, it is the House's obligation to, quote, 'build an ironclad case to act,'" McConnell said.
"If they fail, they fail. It's not the Senate's job to leap into the breach and search desperately for ways to 'get to guilty.' That would hardly be impartial justice," McConnell continued.
"The fact that my colleague is already desperate to sign up the Senate for new fact-finding, which House Democrats themselves were too impatient to see through — well, that suggests something to me," McConnell said. "It suggests that even Democrats who do not like this president are beginning to realize how dramatically insufficient the House's rushed process has been."
Freshman New Jersey Democrat announces support for impeachment
New Jersey Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill became the latest freshman Democrat who flipped a Republican seat in 2018 to announce her support for the impeachment articles Tuesday morning.
"My military service taught me to put our country — not politics — first, and my time as a federal prosecutor taught me about the importance of the rule of law and of justice," Sherrill said in a statement posted to Twitter.
7 in 10 Americans believe Mr. Trump should let top officials testify
A new ABC News/Washington Post poll found that 71% of Americans believe Mr. Trump should allow top administration officials to testify in the Senate's impeachment trial, including 64% of Republicans.
Sixty-two percent, meanwhile, believe the president will have a fair trial in the Senate, while 55% of Americans polled think Mr. Trump was treated fairly by the House during its impeachment inquiry.
But the country remains divided on whether Mr. Trump should be impeached and removed from office. According to the poll released Tuesday, 49% support impeaching and removing the president, while 46% are opposed.
While the Senate blocked off the month of January for an impeachment trial, the details still remain unclear, including how long it will last and whether witnesses will be called.
Democrat on Rules Committee expects Republicans to try to "muck up" process
Representative Norma Torres, a Democrat from California who sits on the House Rules Committee, told CBS News in a phone interview she doesn't foresee any successful amendments to the current articles of impeachment.
"It's a very short read, there's no confusion, there's no clarifying, it is what it is," she said.
But that doesn't mean Republicans won't resort to procedural moves to stall the process, as they have over the last three months, she said.
"I think we have seen that play out, not only in the SCIF with the Intel Committee, but also on Judiciary, so I think that we can assume that they will probably behave in the same way," Torres said, adding she thinks Republicans will try to "muck up" the process.
Torres expects the articles to move out of the House Rules Committee Tuesday for a floor vote later this week.
As more and more of her Democratic colleagues in districts Mr. Trump won in 2016 came out in favor of impeachment Monday, Torres said she has "great admiration" for them.
"You have to admire, I think, their high ethical standards when they are willing to sacrifice their own political future to stand up for our Constitution, for our rule of law, and for our democracy," she said.
What comes next on the impeachment schedule
The stage is set for a vote on the two articles of impeachment later this week. Here's what comes next:
Rules Committee hearing
The House Rules Committee meets Tuesday at 11 a.m. to formulate a rule determining how long lawmakers will have to debate the articles of impeachment on the House floor.
House vote on articles of impeachment
Depending on what the Rules Committee decides, a period of debate and full votes on the articles of impeachment are expected on Wednesday. The timing of the vote won't be determined until the Rules Committee finalizes the outline for debate. Members will vote on each article separately, with a simple majority needed to impeach the president.
Selection of House managers
Assuming the articles of impeachment are adopted, the House will then need to appoint "managers" who will present the case before the Senate at trial. In modern impeachment cases, including the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, these managers have been selected through House resolutions.
Since Democrats control the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi will ultimately decide who represents the House at trial. Several dozen freshman Democrats have been pushing for independent Representative Justin Amash, a former Republican, to be included as a manager.
Congress is scheduled to go on a two-week break at the end of this week, returning after the Christmas and New Year holidays.
The official 2020 Senate calendar blocked off the month of January for a potential trial. Several Republicans, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, have indicated their intention to resolve the trial quickly, possibly without the appearance of witnesses.
While the chief justice of the Supreme Court presides over impeachment trials, a simple majority of 51 senators can rule on motions to introduce evidence or call witnesses. There are 53 Republicans in the upper chamber.
In his letter to McConnell on Sunday, Schumer, the Democratic leader, proposed a timeline for the trial:
- Monday, January 6: The adoption of "pretrial housekeeping measures."
- Tuesday, January 7: Swearing in of the chief justice and senators, followed by "a period for preparation and submission of trial briefs"
- Thursday, January 9: Recognition of the House managers for 24 hours to present the case against the president, followed by 24 hours for the president's counsel to present the defense.
Senate rules adopted in 1986 govern the proceedings at modern impeachment trials. Under these procedures, the Senate meets everyday after the House managers are introduced, with the exception of Sunday, until a final verdict is reached.
Schumer noted his proposed timeline is "modeled directly on the language of the two resolutions that set forth the 1999 trial rules" in the Clinton impeachment, which were adopted unanimously by the Senate.