5 things Republicans tried to change in the impeachment articles against Trump

5 things Republicans tried to change in the impeachment articles against Trump
5 things Republicans tried to change in the impeachment articles against Trump  

WASHINGTON - Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee considered amendments to the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump during a Thursday session that lasted more than 14 hours ahead of Friday's expected vote.

Trump is accused of abuse of power and the obstruction of Congress, due to his alleged pressure campaign to get Ukraine to investigate his domestic political rivals leveraging military aid, and blocking of Congressional committees from pursuing the inquiry.

Here's some of what Republicans tried to change about the articles.

Remove 'abuse of power' article

Right off the bat, GOP Rep. Jim Jordan, Ohio, moved to strike the entire first article of impeachment-abuse of power-on the grounds that it "ignores the truth" about Trump's dealings with Ukraine.

"Article one in this resolution ignores the truth, it ignores the facts, it ignores what happened and what was laid out for the American people over the last three weeks," Jordan said. "I hope this committee will come to its senses."

He pointed to Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky's public comments that he was not under pressure to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, the allegation against Trump, and that the aid money was eventually released without investigations.

More: An abrupt ending that inspired GOP fury and other takeaways from Thursday's marathon impeachment debate

Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., said Trump asked for the investigation of Biden during a July 25 call with Zelensky. Cicilline leafed through pages of documents quoting several diplomatic administration officials who testified that Trump was pressuring Ukraine in his requests during July and August.

"There is overwhelming evidence of the existence of a 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 an announcement was made that would smear the president's chief political rival," Cicilline said.

After much debate, the committee rejected the amendment on a party-line vote of 23 to 17.

Focus on investigations into Hunter Biden and Burisma, not Joe Biden

Another prominent committee Republican and Trump ally, Matt Gaetz of Florida, presented an amendment that would replace a reference to investigations into Joe Biden with "the true topic of the investigation, Burisma and Hunter Biden."

Gaetz said Trump's target in the Ukraine investigations was Hunter Biden and the Ukraine energy company that hired him, Burisma Holdings.

He argued that because there was justification for Trump to pursue investigations into "a well-known corrupt company, Burisma, and its corrupt hiring of Hunter Biden," abuse of power did not hold up as an article.

Explainer: Biden, allies pushed out Ukrainian prosecutor because he didn't pursue corruption cases

"It can only be an abuse of power and not a correct use of power if the president was pursuing something under which there was no reasonable basis to ask a question about Hunter Biden and Burisma," Gaetz said.

Reading excerpts from a New Yorker magazine profile of Hunter Biden that described his drug use, Gaetz questioned why Burisma would have hired Biden to resolve its international disputes.

"We have the ability to show that Burisma is corrupt," Gaetz said. "We have the ability to show that Hunter Biden is corrupt. That totally exculpates the president."

This amendment failed, also 23-17 along party lines.

Change the reason Ukraine aid money was finally released

Arizona Republican Rep. Andy Biggs had the third GOP amendment discussed Thursday, to insert language into the impeachment articles asserting the aid to Ukraine was eventually released following Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's signing of anti-corruption measures into law.

This diverges from Democrats' view, which is that Trump only released the aid money once knowledge of the anonymous whistleblower complaint began surfacing.

"The bottom line is the aid was lawfully delayed and lawfully delivered, and that means this entire process has been a sham," Biggs said.

"The administration never intended to or actually violated the law," Biggs said, adding the aid's release "destroys Democrats' case for impeachment."

"They got their material on time," Biggs concluded.

Once again, the amendment was shot down by Democrats, 23-17.

More: Read USA TODAY's coverage of the impeachment articles voting session

Remove 'obstruction of Congress' article

Rep. Guy Reschenthaler, R-Pa., proposed another amendment to remove the article accusing Trump of obstructing Congress. Reschenthaler said there are three branches of government for a reason. The legislative and executive branches must reach compromises on oversight, with the judicial branch resolving disputes.

"The facts simply do not align with Democrats' claims of obstruction," Reschenthaler said. "Democrats have not afforded the president basic procedural protections."

Reschenthaler also accused Democrats on the committees investigating impeachment of railroading their Republican counterparts in the inquiry.

"The Democrats have no case when it comes to obstruction. This obstruction charge is completely baseless and bogus. If they really wanted to charge someone with obstruction, how about they start with [Intelligence Committee Chairman] Adam Schiff?" Reschenthaler said.

Nadler said Trump's White House refused to comply with subpoenas during the inquiry. Nadler called that a "large step toward dictatorship" because it would remove any check on the president.

The vote against the Reschenthaler amendment was 23 to 17.

No recommendation for removal from office

Jordan also proposed the fifth Republican amendment, to remove the final eight lines of each of the two articles of impeachment. Those are the sections that conclude Trump's misconduct described earlier in each article should be punished with removal from office.

The articles say that Trump "has demonstrated that he will remain a threat to the Constitution if allowed to remain in office, and has acted in a manner grossly incompatible with self-governance and the rule of law."

The articles also conclude Trump should be disqualified to hold public office in the future.

"They are afraid they cannot beat him at the ballot box so they're going to do this rigged, rushed and wrong impeachment process," Jordan said of Democrats.

Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., said the facts amply justify the charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Nadler said the amendment would render the articles a catalog of misconduct without punishment.

"It is silly," Nadler said.

Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., said the decision over whether Trump should hold office should belong to the American people rather than Democrats in Congress.

Contributing: Bart Jansen and Christal Hayes, USA TODAY

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump Impeachment: Judiciary Republicans tried to change articles


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