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National Govt & Politics
Congress returns with focus on impeachment push by Democrats
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Congress returns with focus on impeachment push by Democrats

Congress returns with focus on impeachment push by Democrats

Congress returns with focus on impeachment push by Democrats

Returning to Capitol Hill from a Thanksgiving break, House Democrats are showing no signs of backing away from their efforts to impeach President Donald Trump, with plans this week to release a new report on the Ukraine investigation and hold the first hearing in the House Judiciary Committee, a process which could ultimately lead to a historic vote before Christmas to impeach President Trump.

After wrapping up five public days of impeachment hearings in November, House Democrats spent the last ten days releasing more testimony about the Ukraine investigation, and writing a report on the findings.

Here is some of what we learned over the Thanksgiving break, and some of what to expect in the days and weeks ahead:

1. Democrats to forge ahead on impeachment. Since the end of public impeachment hearings, Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee have been writing a report to summarize the findings from the panel's Ukraine investigation.  That report - based on information from a series of closed door depositions and public impeachment hearings on President Trump's actions regarding Ukraine - is expected to be voted on by the Intelligence panel in a Tuesday evening meeting. On Wednesday, the focus shifts to the House Judiciary Committee, which will hold its first impeachment hearing with a group of constitutional scholars. In other words, Democrats are not wondering what they should do on impeachment.

2. Will Trump legal team join in impeachment hearings? As House Democrats signaled last week that they were ready to push ahead with impeachment efforts, they also gave the White House until this Friday to decide whether to join the proceedings. In letter, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) set the December 6 deadline for an answer.  Republicans have complained about the inability of the President's lawyers to be involved in the process, but on Sunday night, the President's White House Counsel told Democrats they would not join in a hearing set for Wednesday.  It's a scathing five page letter.

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Congress returns with focus on impeachment push by Democrats

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Congress returns with focus on impeachment push by Democrats

3. Two White House budget officials quit over Ukraine aid delay. In a deposition released to the public just before Thanksgiving, there were some new nuggets from the impeachment testimony of career OMB official Mark Sandy. Sandy - who was the only OMB employee not to defy a subpoena for testimony - confirmed that he knew of two different White House budget staffers who had quit their jobs over the delay in Ukraine military aid. This wasn't a policy dispute. It was partly over concern that the White House was breaking the law by not spending money approved by the Congress for Ukraine. It's very interesting to note that in a city which is renowned for leaks to the press, the news of these Ukraine-related resignations at the White House never became public, until now.

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Congress returns with focus on impeachment push by Democrats

4. Testimony reveals more pieces to Ukraine puzzle. The Sandy testimony also brought out more evidence of how important July 25, 2019 has become in the Ukraine investigation. That morning, President Trump spoke by phone with the leader of Ukraine, and asked the President of Ukraine to announce investigations into the Bidens and the debunked conspiracy theory about Ukraine interfering in the 2016 U.S. elections. We also now know from the impeachment testimony that a few hours after that phone call, Ukraine government officials were already sending emails to counterparts at the Pentagon and State Department, worried the Trump Administration was delaying military aid for Ukraine. And Sandy confirmed in his testimony that on the evening of July 25, the White House officially put the aid money on hold, two weeks after basically deciding that would be the decision. "Things seem to keep coming back to July 25th," said Rep. Val Demings (D-FL).

5. Have you read any impeachment transcripts? Here is a link to all 17 of the impeachment deposition transcripts released by the House Intelligence Committee. There are three tweets in this thread with all of the links. Don't tell anyone you didn't have a chance to read some of the evidence for yourself.

6. Republicans still want to hear from the whistleblower. In the five days of public hearings before the House Intelligence Committee, GOP lawmakers repeatedly demanded to hear from the person who first raised red flags through the chain of command about the delay in Ukraine aid. So far, Democrats have stiff-armed those Republican requests. But don't look for the GOP to be silent about the matter in coming weeks.

7. Republicans also want testimony by Rep. Schiff. GOP lawmakers also are likely to keep up a steady drumbeat of jabs at Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. While Republicans charge that Schiff met with the unidentified whistleblower, and that he knows the identify of that person, Schiff has publicly denied that. For GOP lawmakers and the President, Schiff has become their impeachment pinata - and one would expect that to continue as this effort from Democrats continues in the House.

8. Trump echoes GOP broadsides on impeachment. Over the Thanksgiving break President Trump joined Republicans in Congress in continuing to belittle the impeachment investigation from Democrats in Congress. "Schiff’s impeachment hearings wasting time when Congress must do real work," the President tweeted.  "Trump did nothing impeachable," he added in another post. "Sen. Tim Scott Says Trump 'Innocent,' 'No Way' Senate Convicts," was another Twitter missive from Mr. Trump. And as the impeachment proceedings continue, one should not expect the President to be silent.

9. The impeachment schedule was similar 21 years ago. Rewind to December of 1998. The story I wrote on this day said, "The White House and Democrats are demanding that GOP leaders bring impeachment proceedings to a quick finish." That sort of sounds familiar. Back then, it was Republicans pursuing a historic impeachment vote against President Bill Clinton. The partisan battle resumed after a Thanksgiving break, and raged until the Saturday before Christmas, when the House approved two articles of impeachment against Mr. Clinton. Given the calendar, an impeachment vote in 2019 against President Trump - by the Saturday before Christmas - would be a possibility this time as well.

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  • Already facing significant opposition back home from within his own party for refusing to support the impeachment of President Donald Trump, freshman Rep. Jeff Van Drew (D-NJ) is reportedly ready to switch to the Republican Party with the backing of the President, a politically embarrassing development for Democrats in advance of this week's House impeachment vote. 'Wow, that would be big,' President Trump tweeted over the weekend about news reports on Van Drew's future. 'Always heard Jeff is very smart!' As of Sunday evening, Van Drew had not publicly confirmed his plans, as the reported move enraged Democrats on Capitol Hill and back in the Garden State. 'Betraying our party by siding with Donald Trump is the final straw,' said New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, who made clear his disappointment in Van Drew in a series of weekend tweets, calling the switch 'cynical and desperate.' The five staffers who resigned from Van Drew's office on Sunday included two Deputy Chiefs of Staff, his Communications Director, Legislative Director, and Legislative Assistant. An experienced former state lawmaker in New Jersey who won a GOP House seat in 2018, Van Drew set himself apart from fellow Democrats repeatedly over the past year, opposing Nancy Pelosi's election as Speaker, voting against starting an impeachment inquiry, and opposing a resolution to hold the Attorney General and Secretary of Commerce in Contempt of Congress. 'I'm always true to my word,' Van Drew told reporters in mid November of 2018, as he explained why he would vote against Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House. Less than a year later, Van Drew - who served sixteen years in the New Jersey state House and Senate as a Democrat - is evidently ready to switch to the GOP. Democrats said the real story was that Van Drew - because of his opposition to an impeachment investigation - was in danger of being defeated in the 2020 Democratic primary, as they quickly leaked recent polling showing exactly that outcome. The possibility of a party switch left questions for Republicans as well. In a story in the Press of Atlantic City newspaper on Sunday, one GOP candidate who had already announced a bid to run against Van Drew called the lawmaker, an 'absolute weasel,' as even former Vice President Joe Biden piled on. 'The leading Democrat opposed to impeachment is switching parties to protect Trump,' Biden tweeted, using the Van Drew story as part of a fundraising effort. The current Congress has already seen one party switch, in part because of the impeachment inquiry, as Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan switched from the GOP to Independent. President Trump is holding a campaign rally in Amash's district on Wednesday evening, likely just after the House votes on two impeachment charges.
  • A New Jersey town council approved a resolution last week that proclaimed it a “sanctuary township” for law-abiding gun owners. Lawmakers in West Milford passed a non-binding resolution that “opposes further interference with, or abridging of, the rights of lawful gun owners,” NJ.com reported. Pete McGuinness, council president in the rural town of 26,000 people, said the resolution was approved by a 5-0 vote Dec. 4, the website reported. “We’re just letting the community know we are a gun-friendly, Second Amendment-positive township,” McGuinness told NJ.com. The resolution declares West Milford a “Second Amendment/lawful gun owner sanctuary township' and criticizes “red flag laws” that have been adopted by at least 17 states, including New Jersey, rthe website reported. Adoption of the resolution came six days before a shooting in Jersey City that killed four people, including a police officer, NJ.com reported.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court announced on Friday that it will hear arguments on an effort by President Donald Trump to prevent Congress and investigators in New York from using subpoenas to access his tax, banking, and other financial records, items which the President has fought to keep from being released. Lower courts had ordered Mazar's, the President's accounting firm, and two major banks, Deutche Bank and Capital One, to turn over financial records - those orders will stay on hold until the cases are resolved before the High Court. Attorneys for the President have lost at every level in state and federal court in all three cases, making the argument that Congress does not need Mr. Trump's financial information for any legitimate legislative purpose, casting it as a fishing expedition. The subpoenas were not to sent to the President - but rather to Mazar's, Deutche Bank, and Capital One - making the case somewhat different than a simple subpoena to Mr. Trump. 'Having considered the weighty interests at stake in this case, we conclude that the subpoena issued by the Committee to Mazars is valid and enforceable,' a three judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals wrote earlier this year in the Mazars case.  'We affirm the district court’s judgment in favor of the Oversight Committee and against the Trump Plaintiffs,' the judges added. With the arguments in March of 2020, that timing would suggest that a final decision could be one of the biggest cases to be decided in the 2019-2020 term - possibly being saved for late June, when the Court ends its work before a summer break. That would put the results squarely into the midst of the 2020 campaign for the White House. As for why the U.S. Supreme Court intervened, a number of legal experts said the Justices could have done that as a favor to President Trump - not necessarily indicating that Mr. Trump is going to prevail. 'These cases involve the President and his tax returns, and they may have felt no choice but to take the cases and decide them on the merits given their political importance,' said Aswin Phatak, a lawyer with the Constitutional Accountability Center.
  • Forecasts are still showing a chance for a wintry mix Sunday night into Monday morning. Meteorologists with the National Weather Service say a light wintry mix will be possible along the I-44 corridor later Sunday night. Temperatures may cool enough to support all snow near the Kansas border.  They don’t expect much accumulation, although some issues could develop along elevated surfaces such as bridges and overpasses.  The FOX23 and KRMG Severe Weather Team will be keeping a close eye on the data.

Washington Insider

  • Already facing significant opposition back home from within his own party for refusing to support the impeachment of President Donald Trump, freshman Rep. Jeff Van Drew (D-NJ) is reportedly ready to switch to the Republican Party with the backing of the President, a politically embarrassing development for Democrats in advance of this week's House impeachment vote. 'Wow, that would be big,' President Trump tweeted over the weekend about news reports on Van Drew's future. 'Always heard Jeff is very smart!' As of Sunday evening, Van Drew had not publicly confirmed his plans, as the reported move enraged Democrats on Capitol Hill and back in the Garden State. 'Betraying our party by siding with Donald Trump is the final straw,' said New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, who made clear his disappointment in Van Drew in a series of weekend tweets, calling the switch 'cynical and desperate.' The five staffers who resigned from Van Drew's office on Sunday included two Deputy Chiefs of Staff, his Communications Director, Legislative Director, and Legislative Assistant. An experienced former state lawmaker in New Jersey who won a GOP House seat in 2018, Van Drew set himself apart from fellow Democrats repeatedly over the past year, opposing Nancy Pelosi's election as Speaker, voting against starting an impeachment inquiry, and opposing a resolution to hold the Attorney General and Secretary of Commerce in Contempt of Congress. 'I'm always true to my word,' Van Drew told reporters in mid November of 2018, as he explained why he would vote against Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House. Less than a year later, Van Drew - who served sixteen years in the New Jersey state House and Senate as a Democrat - is evidently ready to switch to the GOP. Democrats said the real story was that Van Drew - because of his opposition to an impeachment investigation - was in danger of being defeated in the 2020 Democratic primary, as they quickly leaked recent polling showing exactly that outcome. The possibility of a party switch left questions for Republicans as well. In a story in the Press of Atlantic City newspaper on Sunday, one GOP candidate who had already announced a bid to run against Van Drew called the lawmaker, an 'absolute weasel,' as even former Vice President Joe Biden piled on. 'The leading Democrat opposed to impeachment is switching parties to protect Trump,' Biden tweeted, using the Van Drew story as part of a fundraising effort. The current Congress has already seen one party switch, in part because of the impeachment inquiry, as Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan switched from the GOP to Independent. President Trump is holding a campaign rally in Amash's district on Wednesday evening, likely just after the House votes on two impeachment charges.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court announced on Friday that it will hear arguments on an effort by President Donald Trump to prevent Congress and investigators in New York from using subpoenas to access his tax, banking, and other financial records, items which the President has fought to keep from being released. Lower courts had ordered Mazar's, the President's accounting firm, and two major banks, Deutche Bank and Capital One, to turn over financial records - those orders will stay on hold until the cases are resolved before the High Court. Attorneys for the President have lost at every level in state and federal court in all three cases, making the argument that Congress does not need Mr. Trump's financial information for any legitimate legislative purpose, casting it as a fishing expedition. The subpoenas were not to sent to the President - but rather to Mazar's, Deutche Bank, and Capital One - making the case somewhat different than a simple subpoena to Mr. Trump. 'Having considered the weighty interests at stake in this case, we conclude that the subpoena issued by the Committee to Mazars is valid and enforceable,' a three judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals wrote earlier this year in the Mazars case.  'We affirm the district court’s judgment in favor of the Oversight Committee and against the Trump Plaintiffs,' the judges added. With the arguments in March of 2020, that timing would suggest that a final decision could be one of the biggest cases to be decided in the 2019-2020 term - possibly being saved for late June, when the Court ends its work before a summer break. That would put the results squarely into the midst of the 2020 campaign for the White House. As for why the U.S. Supreme Court intervened, a number of legal experts said the Justices could have done that as a favor to President Trump - not necessarily indicating that Mr. Trump is going to prevail. 'These cases involve the President and his tax returns, and they may have felt no choice but to take the cases and decide them on the merits given their political importance,' said Aswin Phatak, a lawyer with the Constitutional Accountability Center.
  • The U.S. House Judiciary Committee voted along party lines on Friday morning in support of two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, sending the issue to the House floor for a historic vote next week. After Democrats had recessed the hearing late on Thursday night, lawmakers reconvened for two quick votes on impeachment articles dealing with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. “Mr. Chairman, there are 23 ayes and 17 noes,” the committee clerk said twice, as Democrats moved in rapid fire fashion to report the impeachment articles to the full House. Republicans denounced the outcome. You don't get to remove a President because you don't like him,” said Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA).    “They did not produce a scintilla of evidence to support a charge of impeachment.” “This is really a travesty for America and it’s really tearing America apart,” said Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-AZ), who called the effort a 'railroad job.' “It was a witch hunt,” said Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX). The President used his office for his private benefit. He jeopardized our national security, and elections. He covered it up. Democrats said the case for action was simple. “The President used his office for his private benefit. He jeopardized our national security, and elections. He covered it up,” said Rep. Val Demings (D-FL). “Today is a solemn and said day,” said House Judiciary Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY).  “The House will act expeditiously.” The committee vote sends the issue to the full House, where a vote is expected next week. If the House votes to impeach, the Senate would be required to hold a historic impeachment trial, which is expected to start in January. President Trump would be the third President subjected to such a trial under the Constitution, joining Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. As for the President, his Press Secretary joined GOP lawmakers in ridiculing the impeachment effort. “This desperate charade of an impeachment inquiry in the House Judiciary Committee has reached its shameful end,” Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a written statement. “The President looks forward to receiving in the Senate the fair treatment and due process which continues to be disgracefully denied to him by the House,” she added. A Senate impeachment trial is expected to start in January.
  • After over 14 hours of debate, Democrats surprised Republicans by holding off a final vote in the House Judiciary Committee until Friday morning on two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, as Democrats charged the President was clearly trying to get Ukraine to announce investigations which would benefit Mr. Trump's 2020 re-election bid. 'President Trump used his office to serve himself,' said Rep. Val Demings (D-FL), as Democrats said the evidence was clear that President Trump was trying to get foreign help for 2020. 'The President is an imminent threat,' said Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-TX). 'We have to take action, we must impeach the President.'  'One of my colleagues said that we are lowering the bar on impeachment,' said Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA). 'I believe we are lowering the bar on the Presidency.' Republicans denounced the impeachment effort as a political vendetta by a party which was still upset about losing the 2016 election. 'This impeachment is going to fail, and the Democrats are justly going to pay a heavy political price for it,' said Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA). 'This is a day that will live in infamy for the Judiciary Committee,' said Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX). 'It's a focus group impeachment,' said Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA), as Republicans decried the lack of detail in the articles of impeachment. The delay in the committee vote until Friday left Republicans spitting mad, as GOP lawmakers were caught completely off guard. “Stalinesque,” said Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX). Republicans had prolonged debate until after 11 pm - and the immediate thought on Capitol Hill was that Democrats did not want to be accused of voting on impeachment 'in the middle of the night' - so they delayed action until Friday. The panel will meet at 10 am ET.
  • Already over two months behind schedule, key lawmakers in Congress said Thursday they had reached a tentative agreement which would hopefully bring $1.3 trillion in funding bills to a vote next week in the House and Senate, avoiding a government shutdown deadline of December 20. 'There's a meeting of the minds,' said Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), the Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, as lawmakers scrambled to wrap up a dozen unfinished funding bills for the federal government - work which should have been finished by October 1. With no details readily available - and House leaders talking about holding a vote by Tuesday on a single giant bill, or maybe a pair of funding plans - the familiar year-end rush caused furrowed brows for some in the Congress. 'Two minibuses = an omnibus,' tweeted Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), using the familiar name for large funding measures, in which up to a dozen spending bills are jammed into one catch-all funding plan. Congress is supposed to be finished with the 12 different funding bills for the federal government by September 30 of each year - as the new fiscal year begins October 1. But over the past 45 years, it has become standard procedure for lawmakers in both parties to use temporary funding measures - known as 'continuing resolutions' - to fund operations of the government while final spending deals are worked out by the House and Senate. Only four times since a big change in Congressional budget rules in 1974 has the Congress finished the funding work on time - in 1976, 1988, 1994, and 1996.