At precisely 10 a.m. on Friday morning, House Judiciary chairman Jerrold Nadler gaveled his committee to order and immediately proceeded to votes on two articles of impeachment for President Donald Trump. The vote was entirely partisan, will all 23 Democrats voting in favor and all 17 Republicans against. There was no debate, as that was all handled during a 14-hour hearing on Thursday.
Without the ability to give speeches, the members had little opportunity to stand out. On the Republican side, Rep. Louis Gohmert of Texas tried to add a little flourish by saying “my vote is no” on the first article rather than just “no.” He then asked the clerk to verify that his vote had been recorded as a no “just to make sure.” On the Democratic side, Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington appeared to hold up a pocket Constitution as she cast her two “aye” votes. Otherwise, the members appeared to be suitably somber and serious.
The two impeachment articles, one for abuse of power and the other for contempt of Congress, will now be sent to the full floor of the House where a vote will be held early next week. There will probably be a small number of cross-party votes, although it’s not clear that any Republicans will vote in favor of impeaching President Trump. Both articles will be approved, and a Senate trial will be conducted in the Senate starting in January.
Chief Justice John Roberts will preside over the trial, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already indicated that the White House’s lawyers will really be running the show.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is indicating he’ll endeavor to give the White House whatever kind of trial it wants.
Appearing on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show on Thursday night, McConnell made a point of saying that he would be coordinating with White House counsel Pat Cipollone every step of the way.
“Everything I do during this, I’m coordinating with the White House counsel,” McConnell said. “There will be no difference between the president’s position and our position as to how to handle this to the extent that we can.”
He added later that “exactly how we go forward I’m going to coordinate with the president’s lawyers, so there won’t be any difference between us on how to do this.”
And then he said that “I’m going to take my cues from the president’s lawyers.”
Per usual, even these comments from McConnell were misleading. In truth, the president wanted a long trial and he wanted to call witnesses, including Hunter Biden and the original whistleblower who filed a complaint about Trump’s activities with Inspector General for the Intelligence Community. The Republican leadership of the Senate nixed that idea in favor of a short trial in which no witnesses will be allowed. But they don’t intend to lock themselves in to that decision, just in case things do not go well.
The party is uniting around a strategy that could quickly acquit President Donald Trump of articles of impeachment while giving them the opportunity to call witnesses later in the trial if Republicans and the president are not satisfied with how things are going, according to interviews with nearly a dozen Republican senators on Thursday…
“The direction we appear to be headed is to let the House managers present their prima facie case which would mean no witnesses, to let the president’s counsel do the same thing,” said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a member of leadership. “And then to decide if there’s a reason to go forward from there.”
Ultimately, McConnell can only dictate what happens up to a point. He can overrule Chief Justice John Roberts only if he can muster 51 votes. Vice President Mike Pence is not allowed to participate or cast tie-breaking votes. The Democrats can also force witnesses to appear if they can attract at least four Republicans to join them.
The Republicans may not be sufficiently united to block all witnesses from appearing or to approve only their preferred witnesses while denying witnesses to the prosecution.
There’s really no pretense here on McConnell’s part that he’ll seek a fair trial. The more heat his party feels for that, the more likely it will be that he can’t hold his caucus in line and keep control of the process. This is something the House Democrats should focus on during the debate on impeachment next week.
For now, Trump will be the defendant, but also effectively the judge and the jury. I don’t think that will be acceptable to most Americans,