Democrats’ announcement over articles of impeachment is the first in a series of make-or-break moments expected to come in the next two weeks as they look to impeach President Donald Trump before Christmas.
Democrats said the articles of impeachment are for charges of “Abuse of Power” and “Obstruction of Congress,” in Tuesday morning.
They will then begin to debate them in the Judiciary Committee on Thursday, the sources said.
The announcement underscores the immediacy with which Democrats have pushed their inquiry of Trump as they officially pivot from investigating the President to prepping a formal impeachment vote. It’s a moment in which Democrats can’t afford a misstep as they try to convince a public that’s split on impeachment.
DOJ watchdog rejects Trump’s conspiracy theory
The Department of Justice Inspector General issued a massive report about whether the FBI spied on Trump’s 2016 campaign, as he has repeatedly alleged.
After reviewing a million documents and conducting more than 100 interviews, the watchdog concluded the 2016 investigation into Trump campaign aides who were in contact with Russians was justified and properly begun.
The Ivanka Trump/Christopher Steele connection
We also learned the absolutely bizarre tidbit that Steele, the former British agent who wrote the infamous dossier about Trump, was friends with the President’s daughter. Seriously. They emailed. He once gave her a tartan in the family pattern.
Criticism of the FBI
But their report was far from a glowing review of the FBI. They identified multiple inaccuracies in FISA warrant applications, reported on an FBI attorney who changed a document and could be referred for prosecution, and recommended more oversight for the FBI by the Department of Justice.
There was plenty of meat there for FBI critics, but the most important takeaway is that the President is wrong when he says the FBI spied on his campaign.
That wasn’t good enough for Attorney General William Barr, who has overseen a separate — but broader in scope — look at the beginnings of the Russia investigation.
Barr said, “The inspector general’s report now makes clear that the FBI launched an intrusive investigation of a U.S. presidential campaign on the thinnest of suspicions, that, in my view, were insufficient to justify the steps taken.”
James Comey, the FBI director Trump fired over the Russia investigation, was arguing near-complete vindication in The Washington Post and said the painful part is that his mother-in-law, after watching Fox News, had been convinced he was going to jail.
Another fired former FBI official, Andrew McCabe, told CNN’s Erin Burnett Monday night: “I expected this result.”
“I was there. I know that we didn’t do anything wrong,” McCabe said on “Erin Burnett OutFront.” “Rather than do something wrong, rather than, you know, plot the coup that the President and the Republicans have been talking about for two years, what we did was our jobs.”
John Durham, Barr’s appointee to lead the separate review of the Russia investigation, flat out said he didn’t agree with some of the conclusions of the IG report. So we’ll have plenty more debate about this.
Meanwhile, FBI Director Christopher Wray said he’s ordered “more than 40 corrective steps to address the report’s recommendations.”
‘Brazen’ scheme vs. ‘baloney’ investigation
Democrats on Monday recapped weeks of testimony from before Thanksgiving, summarizing their investigation as they move toward impeaching Trump this month. But the moment, devoid of the fresh revelations and searing witness accounts that characterized November’s hearings, felt anticlimactic as Democratic lawyers for the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees made the case that many Americans might be able to recite by heart.
Republicans, meanwhile, attacked the process. They veered from accusing Democrats of plotting to impeach Trump since the first day of his presidency and to quoting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi earlier this year arguing the case for impeachment should be overwhelming and bipartisan.
In other words, as Trump’s impeachment approaches, anyone who hasn’t made up their mind probably has not been paying attention.
“Brazen” and a “big deal”
Trump’s scheme to get Ukraine to investigate the Bidens “was so brazen, so clear, supported by documents, actions, sworn testimony, un-contradicted contemporaneous records that it’s hard to imagine that anybody could dispute those acts, let alone argue that conduct does not constitute an impeachable offense or offenses,” said Barry Berke, the counsel who presented for the House Judiciary Committee. “This is a big deal.”
Compare the slam dunk described by Berke with this quote from Steve Castor, the Republican attorney representing the minority on the Intelligence Committee.
It feels like a foregone conclusion at this point that Trump will be impeached. The House Judiciary Committee will write and amend articles this week and a vote to impeach the President could come next week.
This hearing was more notable for its frustrations. Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz had an outburst and interrupted Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler and his own ranking member to attack the process. Ranking member Rep. Doug Collins and others repeatedly complained that Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff did not attend the hearing; they wanted to ask him questions and not staff attorneys.
Impeachment next steps
CNN’s Manu Raju and Jeremy Herb report that Pelosi will have to give approval to articles of impeachment that Nadler and his staff are drafting. What those articles look like are a closely guarded secret in the Capitol. And the exact timing is uncertain. Only a handful of people know, and no one outside of Nadler-Pelosi-Schiff.
When can the committee vote? Under the rules, Nadler has to give just 24 hours notice before the committee votes. That committee session — known as a markup — could take more than one day, per committee sources.
Will Democrats need to meet and discuss all of this? At the moment, there are no special Democratic caucus meetings dedicated to talking about the articles. That could change. However, there are plenty of opportunities for members to discuss next steps.
Pelosi will conduct a series of normal meetings with her leadership team and a larger group of her steering committee. Pelosi meets Monday night with her leadership team and a larger group of members in the steering committee, as she does weekly. She’ll meet with the full caucus of Democrats at 9 a.m. on Wednesday. And she meets with the whip team — the people in charge of counting votes — at 9 a.m. on Thursday.
Special guest at the White House Tuesday
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who famously posed for the Russian press with Trump in the Oval Office the day after Trump fired Comey, will be back at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue on Tuesday. He and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will now meet with Trump to discuss the US-Russia relationship. We found out, naturally, from the Russian media.