The House Judiciary Committee on Thursday contentiously debated the wording of the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump for 14 hours before Democrats postponed a final vote on the charges until Friday.
Chairman Jerry Nadler suddenly recessed the panel shortly before midnight, angering Republicans who were preparing to drop their amendments and vote against the articles.
For hours, Democrats and Republicans bitterly argued over the charges that have made Trump the fourth president to ever face impeachment: that he abused his power by withholding military aid, pressured Ukraine to investigate a political rival and obstructed Congress by refusing to cooperate with subpoenas for documents and testimony.
Nadler's decision to delay the vote until Friday rankled many on the other side of the aisle.
“The chairman just ambushed the entire committee. He did not have any consultation with the ranking members," said Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., the committee's top Republican. "I guess they didn't think enough today of spreading their very paper thin impeachment process for over 12 to 14 hours was enough.”
Republicans offered five amendments over the course of the day to rebut Democrats' case, and spent hours slamming Democrats' management of proceedings. They warned that Democrats risked an impeachment backlash in the upcoming presidential election.
"I think the American people, next November, will remember this Christmas present," Collins said.
More than 14 hours after starting their day, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler recessed the impeachment markup for the evening.December 13, 2019
Democrats accused Republicans of violating their oaths of office, and acting in political self-interest to defend Trump from their charges of abuse of power.
"This was personal," Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., said. "It was all for President Trump's personal political gain to benefit his own campaign and his reelection. He abused his power. He abused the power entrusted to him by we the people and he placed our safety, millions of dollars of taxpayer money on the table. That is an abuse of power. We must impeach Donald J. Trump."
"What exactly will history say about us?" Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., said.
Debate also became personal at points, with Republicans bringing up details of Hunter Biden's personal life and struggle with drugs, and Democrats raising one Republican's past DUI arrest and adult film star Stormy Daniels' alleged affair with the president.
The long day of impassioned constitutional arguments and political theater plowed along well into the evening despite predictions that it would end early Thursday afternoon. The markup turned into a game of chicken, with Democrats wary of ending debate and facing accusations of steamrolling the minority, and Republicans incensed by Democrats suggestion that they wanted an early vote so they could attend the annual White House Christmas ball for lawmakers.
"I have not a new point or original thought from either side in three hours," Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif.
"Amen," Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., shouted out.
Once the committee votes, the House is expected to take up both impeachment articles as early as Wednesday, in what is expected to be a series of nearly party-line votes.
Here is how the rest of the hearing unfolded:
ABC News' Benjamin Siegel reports from the hearing room:
Democrats vote down the fourth amendment.
GOP Rep. Jim Jordan introduces another amendment -- striking the last eight lines in both articles of impeachment, that describe Trump as unfit for office.
And so the hearing continues -- more than 24 hours after Chairman Nadler first gaveled it in Wednesday evening, and after nearly ten hours in session today.
Republicans appeared to have made their peace with missing the White House Christmas party that began at 7 p.m.
Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, the top Republican, was seen briefly sitting with his spouse in the hearing room.
(Spouses traditionally travel to Washington for the White House Christmas party.)
Democrats have voted down the third Republican amendment.
Rep. Guy Reschenthaler, R-Penn., has introduced another amendment, the fourth of the day.
It would strike "all of Article II."
"The facts simply do not align," he said, in explaining the proposal to strike the obstruction charge, as some people in the hearing room groaned at the prospect of continued debate.
At points, debate has slowed down, with some members losing steam. But others are still in rare form: Just over an hour ago, Democratic Rep. Cedric Richmond of Louisiana, likened Republicans on the committee to Judas, and accused them of betraying their oaths of office as Judas betrayed Jesus Christ.
"Today, I'm reminded of Judas, because Judas for 30 pieces of silver betrayed Jesus. For 30 positive tweets, for easy re-election, the other side is willing to betray the American people their precious right to vote and the future of our great country," he said.
Dem. Rep. Cedric Richmond: "Judas, for 30 pieces of silver, betrayed Jesus. For 30 positive tweets...the other side is willing to betray the American people, their precious right to vote and the future of our great country." https://t.co/CCLfKM043a pic.twitter.com/8ObKEIw45y— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) December 12, 2019
Once again raising his voice at Democrats, Ranking Member Doug Collins makes the argument that Republicans have made central to their case today.
"My question is, where's your crimes?" he asks. "You talk about them, you want people to think they're there. You want people to come out and say, well, there's bribery, extortion, high-minded words. And you do it over and over and over again. The problem is, if you had it, you would have put articles on it. You don't have it so you didn't put articles on it. That's the stain on your articles. That's the stain on this committee.
"This committee couldn't make their case, so they came up with abuse of power. So they could put anything in it, and today we've heard that over and over and over again. Why? Because at the end of the day, the aid was delivered. Nothing was held," he says.
ABC News' Katherine Faulders in the hearing room reports: Republicans offer a third amendment -- this one from Rep. Andy Biggs -- is about the military aid to Ukraine eventually being released. (That happened after Trump and the White House learned of the whistleblower complaint about the July 25 call.)
Biggs wants to add the following language: "The aid was released within days of Ukrainian President Zelenskiy signing two major anti-corruption measures into law, convincing President Trump that the new Ukrainian administration was serious about reform measures, and consistent with Administration policy to ensure foreign aid is not used for corrupt purposes."
A second GOP amendment that would have removed a reference to former Vice President Joe Biden and inserted language about the Ukrainian Energy company Burisma and Hunter Biden fails on a party-line vote.
Nadler responds strongly to Republicans arguing against the obstruction of justice article, saying "there are two basic protections we have for our democracy" -- the first being "free and fair elections."
"And the president in Article 1 is charged with trying to subvert the free and fair elections by extorting a foreign power into interfering in that election, to give him help in his campaign. We cannot tolerate a president subverting the fairness and integrity of our elections. The second major safeguard of our liberties designed by the framers of the Constitution, is the separation of powers.
"The second article of impeachment charges that the president sought and seeks to destroy the power of Congress," Nadler continues.
"Congress may be unpopular and maybe we should be re-elected or maybe we shouldn't be re-elected, that's a question for the voters. But the institutional power of Congress to safeguard our liberties by providing a check and a balance on the executive is crucial to the constitutional scheme to protect our liberties. Second to that is the ability to investigate the actions of the executive branch, to see what's going on, and to hold the executive, the president, or people working for him, accountable. The second article of impeachment says that the president sought to destroy that by categorically with holding all information from an impeachment inquiry. That is different from contesting some subpoenas on the basis of privilege, some may be contestable, some may not be." he says.
"Whether you think Congress is behaving well or badly, if you want a dictator, then you subvert the ability of Congress to hold the executive in check. What is central here is do we want a dictator, no matter how popular he may be, no matter how good or bad the results of his policies may be, no president is supposed to be a dictator in the United States. When I hear colleagues of mine arguing that Congress is unpopular and therefore obstruction of Congress is a good thing, this shows terrible ignorance or lack of care for our institutions, for our democracy, for our form of government, for our liberties. I, for one, will protect our liberties, will do everything I can to protect our liberties, our democracy, our free and fair elections, and the separation of powers that says Congress and the president and the judiciary check each other and nobody can be a dictator. I yield back," he says.
Chairman Nadler gavels the hearing back into session.
Nadler calls a recess so members can go vote.
It's expected that will take about an hour.
Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz proposes an amendment that would remove a reference to former Vice President Joe Biden, a Democratic rival of the president in the 2020 election, and replace it with a reference to his son Hunter Biden and his work on the board of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma. The language of the amendment describes both the company and its decision to hire Hunter Biden as "corrupt."
The first article of impeachment accuses Trump of abuse of power for requests the Ukrainian government investigate Joe Biden and a discredited theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election despite unanimous findings from the intelligence community that Russia interfered in the election. It does not specifically mention Hunter Biden or Burisma.
Democrats have said allegations of wrongdoing against the Bidens are not credible and officials have said they found no wrongdoing by Hunter Biden, despite a possible appearance of a conflict of interest.
GOP Rep. Jim Jordan's amendment to strike the abuse of power charge against Trump is defeated 23-17.
Before calling a vote on Jordan's proposed amendment, Chairman Jerry Nadler says: "The United States is a powerful nation on which his nation is dependent. He has a gun to his head. The gun is the fact that the president of the United States, upon whom he depends for military aid, for help in many different ways, has shown himself willing to withhold that aid and to do other things based on what he says, based on what he says, based on whether he's willing to play along with the president for his personal, political goals, so of course he denies he was pressured.
"If he didn't deny that, there might be heavy consequences to pay, and you cannot credit that denial without any aspersions on his character, but simply on the fact that the president of the United States holds a gun to his head," Nadler says.
Ranking member Doug Collins argues Democrats keep saying Trump asked Ukraine's president to do "me a favor."
"Quit saying, 'I want you to do me a favor.' It's not in the transcript. It must be hard to read. I guess "me" and "us" gets confused when you're trying to make up facts. That's what's happening here."
"The moment I saw that they decided to use abuse of power, what they did is they gave their whole conference (all House Democrats) carte blanche to make up anything they want and call it abuse of power because they don't have anything else to give."
After Democratic Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee and Veronica Escobar, both of Texas, each forget the word "us" when reading the transcript of the president's call, Trump responds with a tweet, repeating his claim that by "us" he meant the United States, not himself.
"Dems Veronica Escobar and Jackson Lee purposely misquoted my call. I said I want you to do us (our Country!) a favor, not me a favor. They know that but decided to LIE in order to make a fraudulent point! Very sad."
Dems Veronica Escobar and Jackson Lee purposely misquoted my call. I said I want you to do us (our Country!) a favor, not me a favor. They know that but decided to LIE in order to make a fraudulent point! Very sad.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 12, 2019
Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., responds to the GOP defense that Trump never used the word "demand" in his July 25 phone call with the president of Ukraine, providing her own hypothetical for why, she says, that defense fails.
"When a robber points a gun at you to take your money, they usually don't walk up and say I'm robbing you right now," she says. "We can talk about alternative facts all day long but the facts are really pretty clear -- that the president abused his power, the precious power of his office to coerce a country that was dependent on us. A country who's fighting Russian aggression because when Ukraine fights Russian aggression, they're helping us fight Russian aggression. And he did it for personal gain. He should be held accountable," she argues.
To be recognized by the chair, each member moves to "strike the last word" of the pending amendment, language used to help keep proper parliamentary order.
Republicans continue to argue that the articles don't accuse the president of committing any crimes and Democrats haven't proven that be broke the law.
They say the allegations of abuse of power and obstruction of justice don't meet the constitutional requirement of "high crimes and misdemeanors." Democrats argue the president doesn't have to commit a crime to abuse his office.
Republican Rep. Steve Chabot, argues that abuse of power wasn't one of the articles of impeachment against Presidents Bill Clinton or Richard Nixon.
"The facts speak for themselves. There was no impeachable offense here and that's why Article 1 of the impeachment ended up falling flat on its face and that it should be stricken," Republican Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner says.
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., referring to his Democratic colleagues, says, "I hear them, you know, crying these alligator tears, clutching their pearls, over this notion that 'Trump didn't give this aid. We gotta go impeach him for it.' Where was all this concern when Obama was president?"
After several Republican note that no specific crimes such as bribery are alleged in the articles, Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif, asks rhetorically: "There are no crimes here? That is the defense my colleagues across the aisle are putting forward?
"How about the highest crime that one who holds public office could commit, a crime against our Constitution. After all, the Constitution is the highest, most supreme law of the land. Every other law, statutory laws included, derive from the Constitution, not the other way around. The president committed the highest crime against the Constitution by abusing his office, cheating in an election, inviting foreign interference for a purely personal gain while jeopardizing our national security and the integrity of our elections," Swalwell says.
"Since my colleagues keep bringing up what potential crimes you could charge a president with, let's go through some of them because President Trump's conduct overlaps with criminal acts,"
Republicans criticized the impeachment articles, saying they don't accuse the president of committing any crimes and that Democrats haven't proven that be broke the law. They say the allegations of abuse of power and obstruction of justice don't meet the constitutional requirement of "high crimes and misdemeanors," though Democrats argue the president doesn't have to commit a crime to abuse his office.
Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Ariz, joins Collins' criticism of Nadler for refusing to hold a minority hearing day before the Judiciary Committee holds a vote Thursday evening.
"All we heard from was a bunch of liberal law professors that you called here that have a known record of disliking President Trump," she says.
GOP Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio proposes an amendment to strike the first article that states the president abused his power in his actions toward Ukraine and asking for the investigation of his political rivals.
Jordan argued the evidence doesn't show a 'quid pro quo' between Trump and Ukrainian President Zelenskiy in the July 25 call, pointing out that both Trump and Zelenskiy have said there was no agreement that military aid to Ukraine would be conditioned on the announcement of an investigation into the Bidens and the 2016 election.
"This strikes Article 1 because Article 1 ignores the truth. Four facts, five meetings. We've known there have been four facts that have not changed, will not change, will never change and we've known it since September 25th when the call transcript was released," Jordan says. "It shows no quid pro quo. What's interesting is the day the transcript came out, even chairman Nadler said there was no quid pro quo in the transcript," Jordan said.
"Article 1 in this resolution ignores the truth, the facts. It ignores what happened and what has been laid out for the American people over the last three weeks. So I hope that this committee will come to its senses, that it will adopt the amendment and strike article 1 from the resolution," Jordan says.
Democratic Rep, David Cicilline of Rhode Island responds by saying the evidence is "overwhelming" and clear that the quid pro quo happened, reading from previous witness testimony and texts exchanged between American diplomats.
"So, this claim that this is the thinnest of evidence is simply not true. There is overwhelming evidence of the scheme led by the president, led by his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to corrupt the American elections to continue to withhold military aid until such time as a public announcement was made that would sphere the president's chief political rival," Cicilline says.
"The president had two phone calls with Pres. Zelenskiy. He never once even uttered the word 'corruption.'"December 12, 2019
Within seconds of Chairman Jerry Nadler gaveling the hearing in, Ranking Member Doug Collins again calls for a "minority hearing" at which Republicans could present their own witnesses before the articles are debated.
ABC News' Katherine Faulders reports from the hearing room: Nadler ruled against Collins and after Collins appealed the ruling and after a vote, his motion was tabled -- or set aside. Nadler has said a minority hearing could take place after today's hearing.
House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler calls up resolution of impeachment against Pres. Trump "for high crimes and misdemeanors."December 12, 2019
Nadler offered the first amendment on the resolution to change the president's name in Article 1 from Donald J Trump to Donald John Trump.
Collins called the change irrelevant and absurd and continued to attack Democrats for moving too quickly and "rubber stamping" impeachment without listening to Republicans.