No Common Ground Found As House Judiciary Committee Debates Articles Of Impeachment

Dec 12, 2019
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

The House Judiciary Committee is on track to approve, this evening, two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. The first article is for abuse of power. The second is for obstruction. NPR congressional correspondent Susan Davis is covering the hearing. She joins me now from Capitol Hill.

Hey there.

SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: Hey, Mary Louise.

KELLY: So today's hearing has been angry. It has been long. Has it resulted in any actual edits to these draft articles of impeachment?

DAVIS: It is expected to change the underlying articles in the most minor of ways. House Judiciary chairman Jerry Nadler has a technical correction. Instead of referring to the president as Donald J. Trump in the articles, it will refer to Donald John Trump before it is sent to the House floor.

KELLY: OK.

DAVIS: Democrats aren't offering any other changes to the underlying articles. All the amendment debates have been offered by Republicans. Their amendments would, essentially, gut the articles of impeachment, so, obviously, they do not have the votes to pass that in a Democratic-controlled committee. And as you said, it has been a - sort of an angrier tone up here today. I think it certainly reflects the fact that next week, the House is headed towards one of the most divisive votes a lawmaker can take - to impeach a president.

KELLY: Speaking of historic votes, I imagine it's on the minds of everybody in that hearing room that their political legacy, how they voted on impeachment, will follow them forever. How are both parties approaching this vote?

DAVIS: In very different ways - Democratic leaders have been very clear that they see this as a vote to go to war and that they will not whip or pressure their lawmakers to vote one way or another. They're calling it a vote of conscience. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was asked today what she was telling Democrats in competitive seats to do with this vote, and this is what she said.

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NANCY PELOSI: I have no message to them. We are not whipping this legislation, nor do we ever whip something like this. People have to come to their own conclusions.

DAVIS: That is in direct contrast to how Republicans are approaching this vote. Minority Whip Steve Scalise, the vote-getter for the party, said party leaders are pressuring the Republicans to vote against it, telling that it will be seen as a vote of party loyalty and a vote of loyalty to the president.

KELLY: Back to Democrats for a second, Sue - and one big question has, of course, been Democrats in swing districts...

DAVIS: Yeah.

KELLY: ...Where President Trump is very popular - whether they will cross party lines and actually vote for impeachment or not. Are we getting any more intel on that?

DAVIS: So a little bit of the impeachment math here - if no Republicans vote for impeachment - and at this point, we do not expect they will - Democrats can lose up to 17 of their own lawmakers and still have the votes to move forward with impeachment. And our reporting over the past few weeks has indicated they have - will have those votes. We talked to Elaine Luria today. She's one of those freshman Democrats from Virginia. She represents a district that Donald Trump won in 2016. And she told us today that she is a yes to impeach the president. And she said it was - she was very clear-eyed about what it could mean for her politically. This is what she said.

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ELAINE LURIA: If I don't get reelected in 2020 because of it, I'll know that I did the right thing. I was on the right side of history. And, you know, I'll be able to look at myself in the mirror and say, you made the right decision, and you stood up for the oath of office that you took and for our Constitution.

DAVIS: Luria is one of this group of freshmen that have these national security backgrounds. She's really helped move the caucus in favor of impeachment. I think that the expectation, when we started this back in September, is that this would be a lot of a tougher vote for a lot of lawmakers. But it's really coming down to pretty straight party lines. Most Democrats are expected to support it and all Republicans be against it.

KELLY: And in terms of timing, are we still looking at a vote in the House next Thursday? And then what does that tell us about what the Senate might do?

DAVIS: Hopefully, the Senate trial will not begin before Christmas, which is what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is indicating. It would start at the beginning of next year. Senate Republicans are already preparing for that trial. White House counsel was up here today, top White House advisers, trying to game out what they're going to do. The Senate Republicans we've talked to indicate that they are advocating for a short trial, maybe only a couple of weeks, no new witnesses. They need to get the White House on board for that, but that is what McConnell would like to do.

KELLY: So much to look forward to in 2020 - NPR congressional correspondent Susan Davis.

Thank you, Sue.

DAVIS: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.