WASHINGTON — The U.S. House Judiciary Committee approved two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump Friday morning along party lines.
That sets up a likely vote next week in the full House — which could be on Wednesday, the day Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are scheduled to hold a “Merry Christmas” rally in Battle Creek. This will be Trump’s first trip to Michigan since kicking off his 2020 campaign in Grand Rapids in March.
The Judiciary Committee voted 23-17 entirely along party lines to advance the two articles, which charge Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress in response to allegations that he improperly pressured Ukraine’s president to interfere in the 2020 U.S. presidential election and blocked lawmakers’ efforts to investigate the incident.
This week, two Michigan Republicans who were considered outside possibilities to vote for impeachment declared they would not.
U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) is a prime Dem target for 2020 who has broken ranks with the GOP on votes to condemn Trump for his emergency declaration for his border wall. But Upton issued a statement Wednesday that charges didn’t meet the “standard” set by the founding fathers.
“The President’s behavior was wrongheaded, inappropriate, and ill-advised, but was it impeachable? My answer is no,” Upton said.
“Regrettably the impeachment process has become exactly what our great founding fathers warned us against,” he added. “It has been highly partisan and clearly motivated by what I believe is an attempt to overturn the last election. I get it. Democrats aren’t happy with the result. But the time to vote on the next President is next November, not next week.”
U.S. Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-Dryden), a two-term congressman representing Macomb County and the Thumb, is retiring next year. He asked for a personal meeting with the president this summer to protest Trump’s supporters chanting “Send her back” in reference to U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), a Somali refugee.
But Mitchell’s statement on impeachment was similar to that of Upton’s and in keeping with his previous comments.
“I believe the Founders intended impeachment to be a safety valve to allow removal of a President that acted in such a blatantly immoral and illegal manner as to threaten the basis of our Republic,” Mitchell said. “After careful examination of the evidence presented throughout this inquiry, I do not believe President Trump’s actions constitute high crimes and misdemeanors. I fear the standards used today set a dangerous precedent for the use of impeachment as a political weapon, and therefore do not support these articles of impeachment.”
U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Holly), who hails from a key swing district in Southeast Michigan, is expected to announce her voting intentions at an event at Oakland University on Monday.
The panel’s roll call came after two days of heated sparring among members on the committee. Democrats declared that Trump gave them no choice but to move ahead on the impeachment articles. Republicans, meanwhile, remained steadfast in their defense of the president, arguing that Democrats had their sights set on impeachment since Trump’s inauguration.
The full House is expected to pass the articles on the House floor next week ahead of a congressional recess. That vote is also expected to be largely partisan, with the likely defection of some moderate Democrats.
If the articles pass the House, Trump will become the third president in U.S. history to be impeached by the House, following Presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. President Richard Nixon resigned after the Judiciary Committee approved articles of impeachment against him, but before the full House held a vote.
The U.S. Senate is expected to hold an impeachment trial early next year. Trump is almost certain to be acquitted by the GOP-led chamber, but the vote is likely to be a difficult one for some vulnerable Republican senators facing tough reelection fights in 2020.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on Fox News Thursday night that there’s “no chance the President is going to be removed from office.”
Ahead of Friday’s committee vote, Democrats called impeachment their solemn duty, arguing that Congress couldn’t let Trump’s behavior stand.
“The reason that we’re moving forward on articles of impeachment is that the president of the United States abused his power by soliciting foreign interference in his own reelection, thereby cheating American voters,” said U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.).
“Look, if President Trump’s abuse of power and obstruction of Congress are not impeachable, nothing is,” said U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Pa.). “The primary check on a president becoming a king is elections. This president abused his powers to undermine our elections.”
Republicans accused their colleagues in the majority of failing to provide convincing evidence against the president, and they introduced a series of amendments attacking the articles, all of which were voted down Thursday by the Democratic majority.
U.S. Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), the top Republican on the committee, called the panel a “rubber stamp” for Democrats’ agenda. He accused Democrats of defining the abuse of power as “anything they want it to mean.” Democrats “don’t care, facts be damned,” he said.
As the epic vote headed into its 12th hour on Thursday night, U.S. Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) lamented, “I have not heard a new point or an original thought from either side in the last three hours. The same talking points have been repeated over and over again, ad nauseum, by both sides.” He offered a suggestion: “If no one has anything new to add they resist the temptation to inflict what we’ve already heard over and over again.”
U.S. House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) surprised the GOP by adjourning the vote late Thursday night, declaring that the vote would be held Friday morning. Republicans on the committee were furious, accusing Nadler of upending schedules and failing to consult them about their plans.
‘We were sent here to obstruct this Congress’
As for the charge that Trump obstructed Congress, at least one Republican congressman appeared to welcome the president’s defiance of Democrats’ demands.
“We were sent here to obstruct this Congress, we were sent here to make sure that this power of the purse is actually exercised around this place,” said U.S. Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.).
Congress’ approval rating, Buck said, ranks somewhere between shingles and an all-expense-paid trip to North Korea.
“If you issue an article of impeachment for obstructing Congress, you’re going to make this president more popular, not less popular. Congress is an embarrassment,” Buck said.
U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) warned that Democrats in swing districts will pay the price for the impeachment.
“I’d tell them for the upcoming year, ‘Rent, don’t buy, here in Washington, D.C.’”
If the Democrats “who promised to come here and work with us on health care and infrastructure vote for this impeachment, they won’t be back. We’ll be holding the gavels.”
Trump’s campaign manager said Thursday that the impeachment proceedings are boosting the president’s re-election prospects.
“This lit up our base, lit up the people that are supporters of the president. They’re frustrated; they’re upset, and that motivates voters,” said campaign manager Brad Parscale, according to the Washington Post. “They have ignited a flame underneath them.”
Trump wrote on Twitter Friday morning, “How do you get Impeached when you have done NOTHING wrong (a perfect call), have created the best economy in the history of our Country, rebuilt our Military, fixed the V.A. (Choice!), cut Taxes & Regs, protected your 2nd A, created Jobs, Jobs, Jobs, and soooo much more? Crazy!”