UPDATE, 3:11 PM PT: President Donald Trump left the White House for a campaign rally in Battle Creek, Michigan without taking any questions from reporters.
The House debate over two articles of impeachment has continued to early evening, but one estimate is that a vote will take place between 4:30 PM. and 5 PM PT.
That would create an interesting TV moment if Trump is speaking at the Michigan rally at the same time as members are voting. Axios called it a potential “split screen for the ages.”
Members began to get a bit punchy as the day went on. As Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) claimed that Republicans did not want to talk about the facts behind impeachment, some in the GOP yelled, “There are no facts.”
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One Democrat yelled “No diversity!” as another white male Republican speaker got up to argue against the impeachment articles.
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) acknowledged that she called for Trump’s impeachment early on, but said, “this is our country. Our foremothers and our forefathers shed their blood to build and defend this democracy. I refuse to have it undermined.” Some Republicans shouted as she left the lectern, while some Democrats clapped.
Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH) held a moment of silence for the 63 million voters who cast ballots for Trump in 2016.
Reporters looked up from their screens as Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) finished his speech by saying, “It’s a total Schiff show, I encourage all my colleagues to vote no.” Schiff, who led the impeachment inquiry, laughed a bit.
PREVIOUSLY, 1:54 PM PT: Rep. Justin Amash, an independent who left the Republican party during the summer, said on the floor of the House that President Donald Trump should be impeached.
“Impeachment is about maintaining the integrity of the office of the presidency, and ensuring that executive power is directed toward proper ends in accordance with the law,” he said.
He said that Trump has “abused the violated the public trust, by using the high office to solicit the aid of a foreign power, not for the benefit of the United States of America, but instead for his personal and political gain. His actions reflect precisely the type of conduct the framers of the Constitution intended to remedy through the power of impeachment, and it is our duty to impeach him.”
Amash may be the closest Democrats get to garnering non-party support for impeachment. Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX), who had been critical of Trump’s conduct, still decried the use of impeachment as a “weaponized political tool.” Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN) and Rep. Jeff Van Drew (D-NJ) are likely to vote against impeachment, and Van Drew reportedly plans to switch parties.
PREVIOUSLY, 11:38 AM PT: The impeachment debate on the House floor has included an array of talking points that have been repeated and recycled from those made in hearings over the past few weeks.
But one lawmaker offered up a new twist to Republican opposition to impeaching Donald Trump: Even Jesus Christ got more due process than the president is getting.
“When Jesus was falsely accused of treason, Pontius Pilate gave Jesus the opportunity to face his accusers,” said Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-GA). “During that sham trial, Pontius Pilate afforded more rights to Jesus than the Democrats have afforded this president in this process.”
House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) responded by noting that Trump and his attorneys were given the opportunity to attend Judiciary hearings and question witnesses, but they declined.
Nadler has been offering a rebuttal as Republicans, one after the other, blasted the process in various tones of indignation.
At one point, Nadler pushed back on the idea that the Democrats were trying to reverse the results of the 2020 election, noting that removing Trump from office would mean Mike Pence would be president, not Hillary Cljnton.
Some Republicans began to cheer at the remark.
Others framed the debate in the context of equal rights.
As some Republicans chided Democrats for taking on such a divisive issue as impeachment, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) said that “there is a difference between division and clarification.”
“Slavery once divided the nation, but emancipators rose up to clarify that all men are created equally,” he said. “Suffrage once divided the nation, but women rose up to clarify that all voices must be heard in our democracy. Jim Crow once divided the nation, but civil rights champions rose up to clarify that all are entitled to equal protection under the law.”
Impeachment, he suggested, was a way of clarifying “that in America, no one is above the law.”
There was one especially caustic exchange after Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) made a reference to a debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election. Nadler responded, “I am deeply concerned that any member of the House would spout Russian propaganda.” Gohmert then began shouting on the floor.
Save for that moment and a few other flare ups on the floor, the mood on the Hill was strangely serene. About two dozen Democrats listened as the debate played out on the floor, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi; about half as many Republicans were there. Outside the House chamber, in an area known as the Speaker’s Lobby, only a smattering of reporters were gathered, as some House members sat before a fire in a fireplace to take a break from the proceedings.”
The House public gallery was only about half full, meaning there were plenty of seats for anyone who wanted to witness history playing out on the floor.
PREVIOUSLY, 9:18 AM PT: Shortly after noon, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi opened what will be six hours of debate on articles of impeachment against Donald Trump.
That raises the possibility that the House will ultimately vote between 4 PM PT and 5 PM PT, just as Trump is scheduled to take the stage at a Michigan campaign rally. There are still many variables — the debate could be delayed even longer, or the president could wait until taking the stage. But the current estimated schedule could make for an unusual and even surreal split-screen moment for the networks.
In her remarks, Pelosi stood next to a poster with an image of the American flag and the words from the Pledge of Allegiance, “To the republic for which it stands…”
“I solemnly and sadly open the debate on the impeachment of the president of the United States,” she said . “If we don’t act, we would be derelict in our duty.”
She added, “It is a matter of fact that the president is on ongoing threat to our national security and the integrity of our elections, the basis of our democracy.”
She said that Trump’s actions “gave us no choice.”
Democrats in the chamber gave her a standing ovation after her remarks.
Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA), the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, asked, “Why do we keep calling this a solemn occasion when you have been wanting to do this ever since the gentleman was elected?”
He accused Democrats of moving on impeachment so that it does not spill over into another presidential election year.
“They do not care about anything except getting the time done and the calendar fixed. They do not care about facts. They do not care about time, and one day the clock and the calendar will hang along this body in a very detrimental way.”
White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said that Trump would be working all day, and would be briefed by staff on the proceedings but could catch some of them between meetings.
Trump later tweeted, in all caps, SUCH ATROCIOUS LIES BY THE RADICAL LEFT, DO NOTHING DEMOCRATS. THIS IS AN ASSAULT ON AMERICA, AND AN ASSAULT ON THE REPUBLICAN PARTY!!!”
PREVIOUSLY, 6:18 AM PT: The House of Representatives were set to start debate on Wednesday before an expected vote to impeach President Donald Trump, who would be only the third president in U.S. history to face such a rebuke.
The broadcast and cable networks covered as the House convened at about 9 a.m ET, and planned to come back to the debate throughout the day and provide coverage the final vote. ABC, NBC and ABC broke in for special reports, but an hour later went back to regular daytime programming.
“We are being tested on something greater than our ability to toe a party line,” said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), who is chairman of the House Rules Committee, said in the chamber as members discussed the rules for the day. “Something more than our ability to score the next great television soundbite. This is a democracy defining moment.”
Republicans complained that Democrats were about to impeach on a party line vote with a predetermined outcome, and blasted the process as “rigged,” a “sham” and a “charade.”
“It was a closed process, an unfair process and a rushed process,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK).
Democrats have the 216 votes needed to pass two articles of impeachment, one for abuse of power and the other for obstructing Congress, according to a tally from the Associated Press. According to ABC News, that so far includes 27 of 31 Democratic members in districts that Trump won in 2016.
Trump lashed out at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats in a six-page irate letter on Tuesday, in which he compared the impeachment proceedings to the Salem witch trials and also doubted Pelosi’s contention that she had prayed for him. He plans to hold a rally in Michigan on Wednesday evening, and it could start just shortly after or during the impeachment vote.
Pelosi wore black, as did other members, to emphasize that they believe the proceedings are a somber moment.
Before the proceedings began, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), was asked by CNN’s Dana Bash whether Trump did anything wrong when it came to Ukraine. “He did nothing that rises to the level of impeachment,” McCarthy responded, sidestepping the propriety of Trump’s call with the president of Ukraine, in which the president asked Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.
Shortly after the House convened, Republicans quickly offered a couple of procedural votes, ones that had little chance of passing yet would delay the proceedings.
Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) called for a recorded vote on whether to adjourn, a motion that failed 226-188. That was followed by another vote on a resolution from McCarthy, objecting to the way that the Democratic majority has carried out impeachment. That, too, was sidelined, 226-191.
As the votes were being taken, House members chatted among themselves and read from their iPhones, but there was very little interaction between those on the Democratic and Republican sides of the aisle. The public gallery was initially just half full.
In his opening prayer, the House chaplain opened the proceedings by noting the historic moment. “Give them wisdom and discernment,” he said. “Help them to realize that your constituency is wider and broader than we ever could determine.”
News coverage reflected the predictability of the vote to impeach, but also the historic importance of what was about to happen.
On Fox News, Bret Baier said, “It’s important to take 30,000 feet here. This is a historic day. No matter what you think of the president, after today we will never talk about the 45th president of the United States the same way again. President Trump will always now be one of the three presidents in the history of the United States who has been impeached by the House of Representatives. Again, no matter what you think about him, history books will change.”
CBS News’ Norah O’Donnell noted that the vote was “one day short of when Clinton was impeached 21 years ago. It is a stain on a presidency.” But its chief Washington correspondent, Major Garrett, said “you can’t separate politics from this.”
“This could have taken longer, the clock and changes that could unify the Democratic caucus drove most of the process. That doesn’t mean it’s illegitimate. But you also have to acknowledge that politics and placement of this on the calendar we not incidental considerations.”
If the House votes in favor of impeachment and sends it to the Senate, the Senate then would hold a trial. But it’s unlikely that Trump would be removed from office, as it requires a 2/3 vote. That would mean 20 Republicans joining all Democrats and two independents in voting to convict.
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