Impeachment: House panel strikes down Republican amendments

Dec. 12 (UPI) — The House judiciary committee on Thursday voted against four Republican amendments to the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump.

The votes came as the panel resumed debating the two articles of impeachment ahead of an expected vote on the full chamber floor.

The committee began debating the charges in a marathon session Wednesday, with panel members from both parties arguing for and against their validity. The Democratic-held committee is expected to approve both articles, along party lines, and shift them to the full House for a vote next week.

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, introduced an amendment to strike the abuse of power charge, but the panel struck it down.

“[The charge] ignores the truth. It ignores the facts, It ignores what happened and what has been laid out for the American people over the last three weeks,” Jordan said.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., also introduced an amendment to remove a reference to former Vice President Joe Biden in the articles and instead include his son, Hunter Biden‘s name and the Ukrainian company Burisma.

“This amendment strikes the reference of Joe Biden as the center of the proposed investigation and replaces it with the true topic of the investigation, Burisma and Hunter Biden,” Gaetz said. “An essential element of the Democrats’ case on abuse of power is that the Bidens did nothing wrong.”

Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., introduced a third amendment to include language that the United States released military aid to Ukraine after the new government of President Volodymyr Zelensky signed anti-corruption laws.

Rep. Guy Reschenthaler, R-Pa., proposed a fourth amendment to strike the obstruction of Congress article of impeachment.

All four were defeated in votes along party lines, 23-17.

The panel combed over the nine-page resolution that charges Trump with two offenses — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — stemming from his pressing the Ukraine government to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, a former board member at Ukrainian gas company Burisma.

The first charge contends the president leveraged a White House meeting for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to pressure Kiev for the inquiries. The second charges Trump with stonewalling Congress by ordering his administration to defy all congressional subpoenas for documents and testimony as part of the inquiry.

Trump, who called the hearing “phony” in a tweet Thursday, has maintained he withheld the aid due to concerns about corruption in the Ukrainian government, and how the money would be spent.

Thursday’s hearing began with a read-out of the articles, after which panel members proceeded to table amendments. Gaetz called the proceedings “a total joke.”

“I’ve got a lot of constituents who think Barack Obama abused his power but you know what? We didn’t do this to the country,” Gaetz said. “We didn’t put him through this nonsense in this impeachment.

“You said this [impeachment process] would have to be bipartisan, compelling and overwhelming. It ain’t that, and this looks pretty bad.”

Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., answered by reciting a list of evidence collected by the House intelligence committee — including public comments from Trump asking for investigations of the Bidens.

Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., called the impeachment process “a railroad job,” while Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee argued it’s clear Trump abused power and “is a continuing threat to democracy.”

Once the articles arrive on the House floor, they need only a simple majority to pass, and make Trump the third U.S. president in history to be impeached. The charges would then move to the GOP-controlled Senate for trial.

If enough Republicans join Democrats in the upper chamber — as it needs a two-thirds majority — and find Trump guilty of either charge, he would be removed from office. No U.S. president in history has ever been removed in such fashion.

At Wednesday’s late hearing, judiciary committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said evidence has proven that Trump’s requests for investigating the Bidens were not legitimate, or based in concerns about Ukrainian corruption.

“President Trump eagerly does business with corrupt governments every day,” he said.

Nadler also said Congress must act to impeach Trump, or it will be responsible for potential future misconduct.

“If the president can first abuse his power and then stonewall all congressional requests for information, Congress cannot fulfill its duty to act as a check and balance against the executive — and the president becomes a dictator,” he said.

Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, the panel’s ranking Republican, accused Democrats of attempting to discredit Zelensky — who has said Trump did not pressure him for the investigations — as a liar.

“We’re tearing down the newly elected leader of the Ukraine. This is amazing to me,” Collins said.

This week in Washington

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., holds her weekly press conference on Capitol Hill on Thursday, the same day Forbes named her third on its list of 100 “Most Powerful Women.” Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo