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As impeachment vote nears, Republicans urged to support Trump while Pelosi tells Democrats "to come to their own conclusions"

Lawmakers debate articles of impeachment

Washington — As a historic vote on whether to make Donald Trump the third U.S. president to be impeached nears, Democrats and Republicans are taking opposite approaches.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters on Thursday that Democrats won't try to gauge how their colleagues plan to vote or try to sway them in either direction.

"We're not whipping this legislation, nor do we ever whip something like this. People have to come to their own conclusions," she said. "They've seen the facts as presented from the Intelligence Committee. They've seen the Constitution as they know it. They took an oath to protect and defend it."

Republicans, on the other hand, are urging their members to vote "no." House Minority Whip Steve Scalise monitored their expected decisions throughout the day that the House Judiciary Committee debated the articles of impeachment. They were approved on Friday but without any Republican support. The full House is expected to vote on them next week.

In a letter sent to Republicans on Wednesday recommending a "no" vote, Scalise said "the impeachment inquiry has been rigged from the start, lacking fairness, transparency and most importantly, facts. The sham articles of impeachment were written based on a report that was drafted with presumptions, cherry-picked witnesses, lack of input by the minority and the president, and contested facts."

The House Intelligence Committee heard hundreds of hours of testimony from more than a dozen witnesses — some called by Republicans. Mr. Trump was invited to participate in the hearings but declined. Three of the four constitutional law experts who testified in the House Judiciary Committee said Mr. Trump should be impeached based upon the evidence and constitutional precedent. All four agreed that the Constitution allows for a president to be impeached even if he didn't break a law. 

The two articles of impeachment approved on Friday accuse Mr. Trump of abusing his power by withholding U.S. aid from Ukraine to pressure the country to announce investigations that would benefit his 2020 reelection campaign and of obstructing Congress by blocking witnesses from following congressional subpoenas to testify in the impeachment inquiry.

House Judiciary Committee Meets For Markup On Articles Of Impeachment
Representative Doug Collins, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, speaks as Chairman Jerry Nadler listens during a debate on the articles of impeachment against President Trump on December 12, 2019. Andrew Harrer / Getty Images

Neither party expects a large number of defections in the full House impeachment vote.

While some moderate Democrats have said they will support impeachment, others are undecided. Just two Democrats, Representatives Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey and Colin Peterson of Minnesota, voted against the resolution that laid the groundwork for the impeachment inquiry to go public. 

Van Drew indicated this week that he would vote against impeachment. He said there's "nothing new here" and that the articles are "not particularly strong or intense." 

But Peterson has not yet revealed how he will vote. Neither has Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, who had floated the idea of censuring Mr. Trump as an alternative.

Republicans, meanwhile, "feel very confident," a GOP leadership aide told CBS News when asked about potential defections.

If the House approves the articles of impeachment as expected, the decision to remove the president from office would be up to the Senate. No U.S. president has ever been removed from office.

Lauren Peller contributed reporting.

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