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Panel Moves Toward Impeachment Vote    12/12 06:27

   The House Judiciary Committee has taken the first steps toward voting on 
articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, beginning a marathon 
two-day session to consider the historic charges with a lively prime-time 
hearing at the Capitol.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- The House Judiciary Committee has taken the first steps 
toward voting on articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, 
beginning a marathon two-day session to consider the historic charges with a 
lively prime-time hearing at the Capitol.

   Democrats and Republicans used the otherwise procedural meeting Wednesday 
evening to deliver sharp, poignant and, at times, personal arguments for and 
against impeachment. Both sides appealed to Americans' sense of history --- 
Democrats describing a strong sense of duty to stop what one called the 
president's "constitutional crime spree" and Republicans decrying the "hot 
garbage'' impeachment and what it means for the future of the country. 

   Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island asked Republicans standing by Trump to 
"wake up" and honor their oath of office. Republican Rep. Mike Johnson of 
Louisiana responded with his own request to "put your country over party." Rep. 
Lou Correa, D-Calif., shared his views in English and Spanish.

   One Democrat, Rep. Val Demings of Florida, told the panel that, as a 
descendant of slaves and now a member of Congress, she has faith in America 
because it is "government of the people" and in this country "nobody is above 
the law." Freshman Democratic Rep. Lucy McBath of Georgia emotionally talked 
about losing her son to gun violence and said that while impeachment was not 
why she came to Washington, she wants to "fight for an America that my son 
Jordan would be proud of."

   Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio said Democrats are impeaching because 
"they don't like us" and read out a long list of Trump's accomplishments. 

   "It's not just because they don't like the president, they don't like us," 
Jordan added. "They don't like the 63 million people who voted for this 
president, all of us in flyover country, all of us common folk in Ohio, 
Wisconsin, Tennessee and Texas."

   The committee is considering two articles of impeachment introduced by 
Democrats. They charge Trump with abuse of power for asking Ukraine to 
investigate Joe Biden while withholding aid as leverage and with obstruction of 
Congress for stonewalling the House's investigation. 

   On Thursday, the committee will likely vote to send the articles to the full 
House, which is expected to vote next week. That could come after hours of 
debate over Republican amendments, though the articles aren't likely to be 
changed. Democrats are unlikely to accept any amendments proposed by 
Republicans unified against Trump's impeachment. 

   Democrats are also unified. They have agreed to the language, which spans 
only nine pages and says that Trump acted "corruptly" and "betrayed the nation" 
when he asked Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and the 2016 U.S. election. 
Hamstrung in the minority, Republicans wouldn't have the votes to make changes 
without support from at least some Democrats.

   The Wednesday evening session of the 41-member panel lasted more than three 
hours, with opening statements from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. 

   House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler opened the hearing by 
making a final argument for impeachment and urging his Republican colleagues to 
reconsider. He said the committee should consider whether the evidence shows 
that Trump committed these acts, if they rise to the level of impeachable high 
crimes and misdemeanors and what the consequences are if they fail to act. 

   "When his time has passed, when his grip on our politics is gone, when our 
country returns, as surely it will, to calmer times and stronger leadership, 
history will look back on our actions here today," Nadler said. "How would you 
be remembered?"

   Republicans are also messaging to the American people --- and to Trump 
himself --- as they argue that the articles show Democrats are out to get the 
president. Most Republicans contend, as Trump does, that he has done nothing 
wrong, and all of them are expected to vote against the articles. 

   The top Republican on the panel, Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, argued that 
Democrats are impeaching the president because they think they can't beat him 
in the 2020 election. 

   Democrats think the only thing they need is a "32-second commercial saying 
we impeached him," Collins said. 

   "That's the wrong reason to impeach somebody, and the American people are 
seeing through this," Collins said. "But at the end of the day, my heart breaks 
for a committee that has trashed this institution."

   Republicans are expected to offer an array of amendments and make procedural 
motions on Thursday, even if they know none of them will pass. The Judiciary 
panel is made up of some of the most partisan members on both sides, and 
Republicans will launch animated arguments in Trump's defense. 

   Earlier Wednesday, Collins said the GOP would offer amendments but said 
they'd mainly be about allowing more time to debate. 

   "Remember, you can't fix bad," Collins said. "These are bad, you're not 
going to fix it." 

   In the formal articles announced Tuesday, the Democrats said Trump enlisted 
a foreign power in "corrupting" the U.S. election process and endangered 
national security by asking Ukraine to investigate his political rivals, 
including Biden, while withholding U.S. military aid as leverage. That 
benefited Russia over the U.S. as America's ally fought Russian aggression, the 
Democrats said. 

   Trump then obstructed Congress by ordering current and former officials to 
defy House subpoenas for testimony and by blocking access to documents, the 
charges say. 

   Trump tweeted that to impeach a president "who has done NOTHING wrong, is 
sheer Political Madness."

   The House is expected to vote on the articles next week, in the days before 
Christmas. That would send them to the Senate for a 2020 trial.

   Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that he would be 
"totally surprised'' if there were the necessary 67 votes in the chamber to 
convict Trump, and signaled options for a swift trial. He said no decision had 
been made about whether to call witnesses.


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