Impeachment Briefing: Late-Night Vote Is Postponed

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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.

  • After more than 12 hours of deliberation, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee abruptly postponed a vote to approve two impeachment articles against President Trump. The committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. Friday.

  • The Judiciary Committee spent the day proposing and debating changes to the articles that Democrats introduced on Tuesday. Republicans asked for a number of amendments, in an attempt to both delay the articles’ approval and muster a fight against Democrats, though they were all voted down.

Read our full story on the day, some key takeaways, and about the rather sleepy scene inside the room. Here’s a graphic that shows where every member of the House stands on impeachment.

The seemingly endless back-and-forth between members of the House Judiciary Committee was far from spontaneous — House rules outline how impeachment markups function, even as they allow for resolutions adding to those rules.

I asked my colleague Carl Hulse, who has now covered two presidential impeachment inquiries, why those rules exist.

Carl, there was so much talking! What explains this daylong markup extravaganza?

For an event this big, members of Congress believe that every one of them should have a chance to make their points several times over. They’re allowed to speak at length because the leadership doesn’t want people to feel like they weren’t given adequate opportunity. People think this is crazy, and want it over in a second, with our demand for instant gratification. But there is a process that has to be followed to make an impeachment legitimate.

What is it about congressional culture that dictates a meeting like this?

There are a lot of musty, dusty rules up there. There’s even a committee in the House specifically devoted to designating and drawing up the rules. There’s a long history of how these things are done. If this was a markup about a bill, it would seem interminable, too. This isn’t out of the ordinary in any way. This is how business is done. They really do go line by line. But it just so happens that this is for impeachment.

The dozens of members of the committee got to deliver mini speeches several times over. Could they have expected the public to be engaged with that style of meeting?

This was much more for the members than the public. This was for them to all get their moment in the sun. At the same time, they think there’s a real public process here, and they want to have their chance to influence it. It’s a big committee full of members who like to talk. They’re not the types to say, “I’ve said enough today.”

Read more from Carl about the fear that impeachment could become an increasingly common tool in a polarized political environment.

While Democrats hewed closely to the language they had written for the draft articles, Republicans asked for several changes. Here’s a sampling of what they requested.

1. Killing both articles of impeachment

The committee debated slashing the first article, on abuse of power, for almost two hours. Representative Jim Jordan, who offered the amendment, said his proposal “strikes Article I, because Article I ignores the truth.” Hours later, Representative Guy Reschenthaler called for eliminating the obstruction of Congress article, saying that Mr. Trump has in fact cooperated with the inquiry and that Democrats have not been fair to him.

2. Adding in language about why Mr. Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine

Mr. Biggs introduced an amendment that argued there was no proof that Mr. Trump held up money in exchange for investigations of his political rivals, and that he allowed the aid to flow after the president of Ukraine signed “two major anti-corruption measures into law, convincing President Trump that the new Ukrainian administration was serious about reform measures.”

3. Inserting Hunter Biden’s name into the first article of impeachment

Representative Matt Gaetz offered this proposal, which asked to replace a reference to Joe Biden with one to his son, Hunter, and his “corrupt hiring” by the Ukrainian energy company Burisma. But it also turned the debate ugly, as Mr. Gaetz read into the record a news article about Hunter Biden’s history of drug abuse. One Democrat responded by referencing Mr. Gaetz’s arrest on charges of driving under the influence.

  • Mr. Trump’s lawyers are discussing hiring Alan Dershowitz, the law professor the president has frequently asked for advice, to help with aspects of his impeachment defense in an almost inevitable Senate trial, people familiar with the discussions said.

  • Advisers say Mr. Trump genuinely does not want to be impeached, viewing it as a personal humiliation. Even in private, he accepts no blame and expresses no regret. But his mood has actually improved in the last couple of weeks, advisers say, as Republicans have risen to his defense.

  • At a morning news conference, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she is not asking Democrats to vote to impeach Mr. Trump, and will allow them to follow their conscience when impeachment articles come to the House floor. She said she had “no message” to moderate Democrats who might be wavering.

  • At a 2020 state-of-the-race briefing, Mr. Trump’s campaign manager, Brad Parscale, told reporters that the impeachment inquiry “lit up our base” and boosted every metric it measures, from volunteer recruitment to small-dollar donations.

  • In an interview on Fox News, Senator Mitch McConnell said he planned to work through the impeachment process “in total coordination” with the White House Counsel’s Office. “There will be no difference between the president’s position and our position as to how to handle this,” he said.

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

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