Impeachment Briefing: A Late-Night Meeting

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This is the Impeachment Briefing, The Times’s newsletter about the impeachment investigation. Sign up here to get it in your inbox every weeknight.

  • The House Judiciary Committee met at 7 p.m. Eastern for a somewhat unusual evening gathering, during which each of the 41 members of the committee got a chance to argue for or against Mr. Trump’s impeachment.

  • Wednesday’s session, which could go until after midnight, is part of a multiday meeting to debate, amend and vote on the articles of impeachment proposed by Democrats. The panel will reconvene Thursday morning, and is expected to approve the articles later in the day, sending them for a vote before the full House.

My colleague Michael Shear wrote a handy guide to the Judiciary Committee’s “markup” session. Here’s an abbreviated version.

Why on earth are they doing it so late?

House rules allow all 41 members of the committee — 24 Democrats and 17 Republicans — to make five-minute opening statements, which means it’s going to take hours just to get to the starting point of debate. Democrats wanted to get the speechifying over with Wednesday, then resume in the morning with the actual work of modifying the articles.

What will the lawmakers be doing?

They’re conducting an impeachment version of a typical legislative process called a “markup,” which gives members of Congress a chance to modify bills with amendments. Since the articles of impeachment we saw Tuesday were just drafts, lawmakers will use these sessions to finalize the text.

Thursday morning, members will actually propose changes to the articles. The committee will debate and then vote on whether to accept or reject those amendments, which could include major changes or minor tweaks, down to specific words. Few changes are expected.

What chance do Republicans have to actually influence the markup?

Republicans can make a fuss even without changing the articles. They can offer motions challenging the procedures, forcing delays by demanding that the committee vote on each of the motions. And they can propose amendments that are more symbolic than anything, showing Mr. Trump and Republican voters that they are fighting back.

How is this different from the Judiciary Committee hearings we’ve seen recently?

There won’t actually be witnesses. The discussion will be entirely between the members of the committee, with occasional input from staff lawyers and other aides.

What happens after this debate?

The committee is expected to approve the articles by the end of the day Thursday and send them to the full House for a vote as early as Tuesday.

The House Judiciary Committee is big, loud and chaotic, qualities that will almost certainly be on display in the markup sessions.

Known for its broad-ranging jurisdiction, the committee, which House rules designate as the arbiter of impeachment articles, has taken the case back from the smaller and more staid Intelligence Committee.

In the two hearings the Judiciary Committee has held in the past week, there has been gavel-banging and shouting across the wide rows where the 41 members sit. There have been spirited exchanges between witnesses and members, seamlessly cut into clips for cable news and social media.

Why has the committee become so messy? Julian Epstein, the chief counsel for the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee during the impeachment proceedings against Bill Clinton, attributes the noise to the committee’s attention to issues like immigration, civil rights and criminal justice — the substance of the “culture wars,” he told me.

“The politics changed. A lot of people who weren’t lawyers wanted a part of it,” he said. “High-profile issues tend to attract politicians.”

That meant members known for their television and Twitter presence took on vocal roles on the committee: Democrats such as Ted Lieu, Eric Swalwell and David Cicilline, and Republicans such as Matt Gaetz, Jim Jordan and Louie Gohmert.

“It used to be a more buttoned-up place that had the trappings of oak-paneled law firms. It had that sensibility. But when the culture wars exploded, it tended to attract the bomb throwers,” Mr. Epstein said. “The bomb throwers were the people driven by their respective bases, who were more interested in posturing than governing.”

  • At a rally in Hershey, Pa., last night, President Trump tore into Democrats for introducing articles of impeachment against him, calling the effort “flimsy” and “the lightest impeachment in the history of our country.”

  • Weeks ago, the idea of an impeachment “war room” was mocked inside the White House. Now, top West Wing aides meet daily to discuss defending Mr. Trump, including in an underground office, where two people hired specifically for the task go to work attacking House Democrats.

  • Bloomberg reports that there is a consensus building among Senate Republicans for a short impeachment trial, with a vote to acquit the president before hearing from any witnesses.

  • Prosecutors asked a judge to return Lev Parnas, the indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani, to jail, saying he was an “extreme” flight risk. They accused Mr. Parnas of lying about his income and hiding a $1 million payment he received from a bank account in Russia a month before he was charged for campaign finance violations in October.


The Impeachment Briefing is also available as a newsletter. Sign up here to get it in your inbox every weeknight.





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