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House Judiciary Committee Continues Impeachment Hearings


The House Judiciary Committee is right now debating the two articles of impeachment against President Trump.


UNIDENTIFIED CLERK: Resolution - impeaching Donald John Trump, president of the United States, for high crimes and misdemeanors. Resolved - that Donald J. Trump, president of the United States, is impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors, and that the following articles of impeachment be exhibited to the United States Senate. Articles of impeachment...

KING: That was a clerk speaking there. Some members of the committee are haggling over the words in the articles of impeachment, but the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, Doug Collins, says the words matter less than the entire process.


DOUG COLLINS: And today, we're going to spend plenty of time for you listening here. We're going to talk about this (unintelligible). We're going to talk about the factual basis that are - have absolutely no factual underpinning to impeach this president.

KING: NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales is on Capitol Hill, watching. Hey there, Claudia.


KING: So what has happened so far this morning?

GRISALES: So, so far, it's a preview of what's to come today. These are very technical hearings known as markups on Capitol Hill that can cover very specific wording and phrasing to hammer out a final version of the legislation they can approve at the committee level before heading to the House floor.

Now, in this case, it's much bigger stakes since the legislation is the articles of impeachment - abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. But as an example of how technical this hearing can get, one amendment considered was whether to include President Trump's full middle name, John, in the articles of impeachment.

KING: Why did that come up?

GRISALES: So this is how thorough and very specific these lawmakers can get during these hearings. Usually, we're not following these kind of detailed hearings as closely, but now we're seeing it up close how technical they are. And they will go to every word, every phrase and make sure everything looks as correct as possible before it's presented to the House floor.

KING: That's really fascinating insight. Claudia, for some Democrats, this is an easy decision. They're going to support the articles of impeachment, or so they say, but it is not for all Democrats. Tell me what those people are saying, the undecided.

GRISALES: Yes. So this is a different story for some moderates. I spoke to Representative Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania, who says he's still forming an opinion and not ready to say yet if he will vote for impeachment. And he's worried about bipartisan bills passed in the House that aren't moving in the Senate. Let's take a listen to him.

MATT CARTWRIGHT: That's bills that are supported by House Republicans sitting on Mitch McConnell's desk and not moving, all of which he is doing to forward this false narrative, this lie that all we're doing in the House is impeaching Donald Trump.

GRISALES: And Cartwright is not alone in his deliberations. Here's freshman Representative Max Rose. He's a military veteran who represents New York.


MAX ROSE: We are giving this the level of seriousness that it is deserving of - second-most-serious thing I could ever do in this institution.

GRISALES: He said the first was considering an act of war. And he's not alone in taking time to make this decision and publicly rush to judgment. Some, like Representative Elissa Slotkin of Michigan, aren't quite ready to announce either. And she's planning to meet with constituents on Monday in her Michigan district ahead of the potential impeachment vote next week.

KING: Ultimately, though, we do expect the committee to approve both articles. So what does a full House vote then look like, and when do we expect that to happen?

GRISALES: Yes. We could see this historic impeachment vote on the House floor next week. This would make President Trump the third sitting president in history to be impeached. We're expecting an extended floor debate that could last several hours. And it's also expected to wrap up next week, as well as lawmakers' race to leave for the holiday recess, which begins next Friday.

KING: All right. So we don't expect anything to be happening during the holidays.

GRISALES: Not at this moment.

KING: OK. So after that, we'd be looking at the Senate trial, a trial in the Senate. And Republicans I know you've been talking to have been signaling some interesting things about what they want. What are they saying?

GRISALES: Yes. They're saying that, with this impeachment trial, they're supporting President Trump's demands for a robust defense. However, he has some specific asks that he's putting into this plan for this robust defense. Among them - and he's tweeted about this several times - is a long list of witnesses, from the whistleblower at the center of the House impeachment inquiry to the Bidens to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff or even House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

And we've already seen pushback from Senate Republicans. We're seeing that they may have limits with the president as well. And they say that if they're going to bring in a parade of live witnesses into the Senate chamber, it could extend this trial. Right now, they just have the month of January set aside for the trial, and they're shooting for about two weeks. And they don't want to take this into February, but when you're talking witnesses, that could happen.

KING: So one of the unknowns here is whether or not President Trump gets what he wants and gets those witnesses and gets that robust defense or whether they skip it and make this trial happen very quickly.

GRISALES: Exactly.

KING: NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales talking to us from Capitol Hill. Claudia, thanks so much. We appreciate it.

GRISALES: Thanks for having me - appreciate it. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Claudia Grisales is a congressional reporter assigned to NPR's Washington Desk.