Democrats in the House moved closer Thursday night to impeaching President Trump for abusing the power of his office and obstructing Congress, finishing more than 14 hours of debate before scheduling a final vote in the Judiciary Committee for Friday morning.
Committee recessed until Friday morning after extensive debate over articles of impeachment
After debate over articles of impeachment lasted well into Thursday night, Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, the committee chairman, recessed until Friday morning, when he said a final vote would be taken.
The committee is considering two articles of impeachment accusing President Trump of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress for pressuring Ukraine to conduct politically motivated investigations and blocking the congressional inquiry into his actions.
When they vote to approve the articles, as both sides expect, they will be acting for only the third time in modern history to recommend impeachment to the full House, likely to be followed by a trial in the Senate to determine if he should be removed from office.
The recess came after more than 14 hours of debate during which Republicans repeatedly sought to derail or water down the articles of impeachment drafted by the Democratic majority in the House. The committee rejected all five amendments proposed by Republicans.
Article I accuses Mr. Trump of “abusing his high office to enlist a foreign power in corrupting democratic elections,” a key argument that Democrats made repeatedly during impassioned and sometimes rancorous debate.
Article II charges the president with “unprecedented, categorical and indiscriminate defiance of subpoenas issued by the House of Representatives” and said that Mr. Trump “abused the powers of the presidency in a manner offensive to and subversive of the Constitution.”
The committee rejected all of the Republican amendments. Here are the ones the committee debated.
Republicans made five attempts to derail or water down the articles of impeachment with amendments.
All of them were rejected on a party-line vote, failing 17 to 23:
1) Representative Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio, offered an amendment to strike Article I, which accuses Mr. Trump of abuse of power because, he said, “Article I ignores the truth.”
2) Representative Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida, offered a proposal meant to justify the president’s conduct and cast aspersions on Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. Debate over the amendment turned bitterly personal.
3) Representative Andy Biggs, Republican of Arizona, proposed edits to the articles, which assert that Mr. Trump withheld Ukraine security aid because of lawful concerns about corruption in that country, not for corrupt personal purposes.
4) Representative Guy Reschenthaler, Republican of Pennsylvania, proposed eliminating the obstruction of Congress article, arguing Democrats had not been fair to the president.
5) Mr. Jordan proposed eliminating the conclusion that Mr. Trump should be impeached.
The debate turned ugly as Gaetz tried to shift the focus to Hunter Biden.
The debate turned bitterly personal after Mr. Gaetz offered a proposal meant to justify President Trump’s conduct and cast aspersions on Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.
Mr. Gaetz sought to remove the reference to the elder Mr. Biden, and the description of him as “a political opponent,” from the article charging Mr. Trump with abuse of power for pressing Ukraine for investigations. Instead, he proposed inserting the phrase “a well-known corrupt company, Burisma, and its corrupt hiring of Hunter Biden.”
The proposal was an attempt to argue that Mr. Trump was acting out of a concern for corruption, not political self-interest, when he asked President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to investigate the Bidens. The president and his Republican allies have maintained that it was inappropriate for Hunter Biden, who had no experience on energy issues, to serve on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company, and accused the former vice president of trying to protect his son and the company from being investigated for corruption.
In arguing in favor of his proposal, Mr. Gaetz read into the Congressional Record a graphic news article describing the younger Mr. Biden’s substance abuse, including cocaine.
“I don’t want to make light of anybody’s substance abuse issues,” Mr. Gaetz said, adding that “it’s a little hard to believe that Burisma hired Hunter Biden to resolve their international disputes when he could not resolve his own dispute with Hertz rental car over leaving cocaine and a crack pipe in the car.”
Democrats quickly, if obliquely, cried hypocrisy, making veiled references to Mr. Gaetz’s past arrest for driving under the influence.
“The pot calling the kettle black is not something we should do,” Representative Hank Johnson, Democrat of Georgia, shot back, looking toward the Republican side of the dais. Nervous laughter filled the hearing room.
“I don’t know what members, if any, have had any problems with substance abuse, been busted in D.U.I.,” Mr. Johnson continued. “I don’t know, but if I did, I wouldn’t raise it against anyone on this committee. I don’t think it’s proper.”
The amendment failed on a party-line vote after more than two-and-a-half hours of debate.