American history is happening in the House of Representatives. The nation's 45th president is on track to become only the third commander in chief to be impeached as the House takes up charges that President Trump abused his power and obstructed Congress in pressuring Ukraine to investigate political rivals and refusing to cooperate with the ensuing congressional probe, reports the AP. Right around noon, the House passed the rule that will govern the six hours of debate scheduled for today; roughly 15 minutes later, Nancy Pelosi opened the debate. A final vote is expected to happen after 8pm. Coverage and standout lines:
- "Say a PRAYER!" tweeted the president early this morning. "Can you believe that I will be impeached today by the Radical Left, Do Nothing Democrats, AND I DID NOTHING WRONG! A terrible Thing. Read the Transcripts. This should never happen to another President again."
- Among Pelosi's comments as debate began: "This morning and every morning when we come together, members rise and up and pledge allegiance to the flag. ... Let us recall what that pledge says: I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, the republic for which it stands. ... The republic for which it stands is what we are here to talk about today. A republic, if we can keep it."
- One more line from Pelosi: "It is a matter of fact that the President is an ongoing threat to our national security and the integrity of our elections, the basis of our democracy."
- From GOP Rep. Doug Collins, ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, per CNN: "I will fight this on process, which has been deplorable to use a word of the majority. It has been awful. We don't care about rules because the chairman gets to determine what is relevant. Wow, that's pretty good, let the accuser determine what is relevant to the one being accused. The people of America see through this. The people of America understand due process and they understand when it is being trampled in the people's house."
- From GOP Rep. Mike Johnson: "They are trying to meet their own arbitrary, completely reckless and Machiavellian timeline to take down a president that they loathe."
- From Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu: "Whether Donald Trump leaves in one month, one year, or five years, this impeachment is permanent, it will follow him around for the rest of his life and the history books and people will know why we impeached."
- The president chimed in with another tweet at 12:44pm: "SUCH ATROCIOUS LIES BY THE RADICAL LEFT, DO NOTHING DEMOCRATS. THIS IS AN ASSAULT ON AMERICA, AND AN ASSAULT ON THE REPUBLICAN PARTY!!!"
- The Washington Post notes the tweet came just after White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said the president "will be working all day" and "could catch some of the proceedings between meetings." The Guardian notes Trump had logged more than 40 tweets by noon.
- From GOP Rep. Chris Stewart: "This vote, this day has nothing to do with Ukraine. ... This vote this day is about one thing and one thing only—they hate this president. They think we're stupid. They think we made a mistake. They think Hillary Clinton should be the president and they want to fix that. They want to take away my vote and throw it in the trash."
- Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, in response: "I hate no woman or man."
- Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler, pushing back against Republican colleagues, claimed that "after recovering millions of dollars in ill-gotten gains, the Mueller investigation was actually a net plus for the taxpayers." CNN points out that's not true; the probe cost $32 million and is only expected to recoup about $17 million. Republican Louie Gohmert later made his own factual error, claiming there was "Ukraine interference into [the] US election in 2016"; CNN notes that's Russian "propaganda," as it was actually Russia that interfered.
- A few more tidbits: Republican Paul Mitchell claimed Democrats are "weaponizing impeachment, making it another election tool." Democrat Al Green delivered his remarks in front of the well-known photo of a 2-year-old Honduran girl crying in front of Texas border patrol agents. Republican Barry Loudermilk said Jesus Christ got more due process from Pontius Pilate during his own "sham trial" than Democrats are giving Trump. Democrat Peter DeFazio called Vladimir Putin "Trump's friend" and accused Trump of trying to "blackmail" Ukraine's president. And Republican Mike Kelly compared the proceedings to Pearl Harbor: "On December 7, 1941, a horrific act happened in the United States, and it's one that President Roosevelt said, 'This is a date that will live in infamy.' Today, December 18th, 2019, is another date that will live in infamy." (Democrats also got compared to Joseph McCarthy by Republican Kevin Brady.)
- Democrat Adam Schiff accused Trump of continuing to try and get foreign help with the 2020 election: "The president and his men plot on. The danger persists. The risk is real. Our democracy is at peril." Schiff was later booed as he challenged Republicans during their floor speeches, per this tweet.
- Impeachment will subject Trump to what former Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter called a “profound disgrace" that stains a president's legacy forever. Only two presidents have been impeached: Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998. Richard Nixon chose to resign instead.
- A factoid: The Guardian notes that 55 House members (41 of them Democrats) served in the House when Clinton was impeached.
- After votes on each of the two articles, the House is expected to authorize Pelosi to name a team of prosecutors for the Senate trial. Lobbying for the jobs is well underway. The wagering begins with the two lead House impeachment chairmen, Schiff of Intelligence and Nadler of Judiciary, playing roles. The trial is expected to begin in January, with Chief Justice John Roberts presiding.
- Sources tell CNN that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told GOP senators on Tuesday that he will announce the trial's start date by the end of the week, before senators leave for a two-week holiday recess. Sources expect the trial to start the week of Jan. 6.
- Sources also tell CNN Trump's advisers are working on the president's "messaging" to be used during that recess, to ensure his side of the story continues to be heard during what could otherwise be a "messaging void." Sen. Lindsey Graham said at a press conference he spoke to Trump Wednesday and the president told him, "Well I’m being impeached, other than that I’m doing OK."
- Sources tell the Washington Post a group of House Democrats is pushing Pelosi to withhold articles of impeachment from the Senate in order to delay a trial, possibly indefinitely, thus "denying Trump an expected acquittal" in an effort to force McConnell "to conduct a trial on more favorable terms for Democrats." But Nadler tells CNN he hasn't discussed the idea with Pelosi and doesn't even know if it's a possibility.
- Trump is holding a rally in Michigan Wednesday night, and Trump campaign spokesperson Tim Murtaugh tweeted a photo of the line to get in. "It’s 17 degrees in Battle Creek, Michigan as supporters line up for a @realDonaldTrump rally on Impeachment Day," he wrote. "The sham impeachment is an attack on these hardy folks and 63 million other Americans." Another campaign official had earlier told CBS, "The Trump Campaign is 'very excited' that the impeachment vote looks like it will be taking place just as he takes the stage at his Michigan rally tonight. A senior campaign official says 'it will be a remarkable split-screen moment and we will use it to great effect.'" The campaign also sent out a number of fundraising solicitations Wednesday centered around impeachment, with a goal of raising $2 million.
- What are White House staffers doing today? Here's a tweet from Sen. Chris Murphy: "True story: there is a White House staffer going around the Senate delivering to each office, as a package, the incoherent, scathing Pelosi letter AND...wait for it...a giant 16x12 White House Christmas card (along with, implausibly, a second smaller Christmas card). What a day."
- Asked about the "Jesus" quote, among other things, in the White House briefing room, Kellyanne Conway said she doesn't "like many Jesus comparisons because he is my Lord and Savior and the Messiah to me and many Christians around the world." She also told reporters Trump doesn't wish he had done anything differently: "He was always going to be impeached and you know that."
(Two Democrats say
they won't vote for impeachment on both charges.)