The latest on the Trump impeachment inquiry

By Fernando Alfonso III, Veronica Rocha, Meg Wagner and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 4:43 AM ET, Thu December 12, 2019
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9:36 p.m. ET, December 11, 2019

Rep. Val Demings gets personal when describing her support for the impeachment inquiry

Pool
Pool

Rep. Val Demings, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, got personal tonight in her opening statement on Capitol Hill.

Demings shared the story of her parents as an example of America's resolve. Her mother cleaned houses and her father was a janitor, She explained how America "is great and decent" with great promise and capable of navigating adversity like this impeachment inquiry.

"This is a defining moment in our history. And it's challenging time for our nation. But America has been through tough times before. And I am sure that we will go through tough times again. So I do not fear this moment or this time," the Florida Democrat said. "I come before you tonight as an American dream realized."

9:38 p.m. ET, December 11, 2019

Democratic congressman urges members to "stand by the Constitution and take strong action for your country"

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Pool

Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Democrat from Maryland, implored his colleagues to denounce President Trump's actions with Ukraine during his opening speech tonight.

"I devoted my career to studying, teaching and defending the constitution of the United States. And my passion has been popular self-government and the democratic and voting rights of the people. And I confess that I am afraid if we allow presidents to invite foreign governments to participate overtly or covertly in our elections and this becomes in America a new normal," Raskin said.

Following Rep. Cedric Richmond, who quoted Thomas Paine earlier tonight, Raskin quoted a founding father: "Ben Franklin said, 'As long as I have known the world I have observed that wrong is always growing more wrong, till there is no bearing, and that right, however opposed, comes [out] right at last.'"

"So what must we do? Stand by the constitution and take strong action for your country. Let’s stand strong, America, for our democracy," Raskin said.

Watch here:

9:16 p.m. ET, December 11, 2019

Rep. Matt Gaetz calls the impeachment inquiry the "quickest, thinnest, weakest" in American history

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Pool

Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz called the impeachment of President Trump an exercise in "partisanship and politics" during his opening statement.

The Florida lawmaker went on to criticize the Democrats' case against the President.

"House Democrats aren't clarifying that no one is above the law. They're just clarifying that none of them are above partisanship and politics. This is the quickest, thinnest, weakest most partisan impeachment in all of American presidential history. And for all the radical left's attacks on the Presidents honesty, it's their lies that continue to fuel this scorched earth strategy of impeachment," Gaetz said.

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8:45 p.m. ET, December 11, 2019

Rep. Cedric Richmond: "There is no question, the President has abused his power"

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Pool

Rep. Cedric Richmond, a Democrat from Louisiana, said the case against President Trump is clear.

"There is no question, the President has abused his power," he said. "If we allow this to go the other way with this politics, what are we telling other nations about the rule of law? What are we saying about our democracy? What are we showing our children if we cower to a bully with a bully pulpit?"

During his opening statement tonight, Richmond also shared a quote from political activist and revolutionary Thomas Paine in his denouncement of Trump.

"During our darkest days of the revolution, Thomas Paine wrote, 'These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country,'" the congressman said. "To my Republican colleagues, fighting when it's comfortable is easy. Running and hiding is easy but it doesn't leave a legacy. How do you want to be remembered during this watershed moment in our nation's history?"

8:53 p.m. ET, December 11, 2019

Rep. John Ratcliffe says Trump is not "above the law" and "shouldn't be below" it either

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Pool

Rep. John Ratcliffe, a Republican from Texas, criticized the speed of the impeachment inquiry while questioning its fairness and due process.

"The Democrats keep repeating over and over again, 'the President is not above the law.' I've said it before, 'the President is not above the law' but he damn sure shouldn't be below it either. I've said it before because Democrats have tried this before," Ratcliffe said.

Rafcliffe continued: "The impeachment of President Donald J. Trump started with a hearing on Wednesday, Dec. 4th and handed with a markup that started seven days later on Wednesday, Dec. 11th. How does that sound for fairness? How does that sound for due process?"

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8:37 p.m. ET, December 11, 2019

Republican congressman says Democrats have "pre-judged" the case against Trump

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Pool

Rep. Ken Buck, a Republican from Colorado, said Democrats have "pre-judged" the President Trump and ignored his right to executive privilege.

It's clear that my Democratic colleagues have pre-judged this case. They ignored the President's rights to assert executive privilege, asserting that a court case to determine the bounds of the President's privilege will take too long to serve justice to the American people. Democrats are so righteous in their belief that President Trump must be impeached, that they ignore plain facts," Buck said during his opening statement tonight.

Some background: On Tuesday, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, said the courts can take months to decide cases about witness testimony, and that's why the House hasn't used the courts more to resolve its standoffs with the White House.

Following more than an hour of arguments Tuesday afternoon, federal Judge Richard Leon didn't decide what to do with recalcitrant impeachment witness Charles Kupperman's court case, leaving major questions about congressional subpoena power and White House immunity during impeachment still far from a judicial resolution.

The House subpoenaed Kupperman, a former deputy national security adviser, in late October, and the White House told him not to testify. He went to court at that time, asking for the judge's intervention. He never testified, and the House withdrew his subpoena.

Throughout the hearing, Leon, a George W. Bush appointee with a sometimes unpredictable streak, repeated at least three times that the House "might not be in a hurry to have this court address the merits of this case."

Watch here:

8:52 p.m. ET, December 11, 2019

Mitch McConnell will move to acquit Trump, not merely dismiss charges, sources say

From CNN's Ted Barrett and Manu Raju

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is not expected to hold a vote on a motion to dismiss the impeachment articles against President Trump, but would instead move to a final vote acquitting the President when a majority of senators believe the trial has run its course, two GOP senators told CNN. 

That’s significant because Republicans want to have an actual vote on acquittal — to clear the President of the charges against him — and not simply rely on a 51-vote threshold procedural motion to dismiss the hotly-disputed case.  

The Constitution mandates 67 votes are required to convict the President and remove him from office, a barrier widely considered too high to be reached in this case. 

One vote McConnell can’t rely on is that of Vice President Mike Pence who has “no role in impeachment,” according to an GOP leadership aide, despite being President of the Senate with the mandate to break ties. 

But Pence’s power, which applies to legislation and nominations, doesn’t apply to when the Senate is weighing removing his boss, an obvious conflict of interest since he would ascend to replace Trump if he were removed. Instead, Chief Justice John Roberts would preside at the trial and any tie motions would fail. 

One of the senators, speaking anonymously, said McConnell would not call a vote on the motion to proceed to the impeachment articles unless he knew he had the 51 votes needed to succeed.    

The other senator, John Cornyn of Texas, said it “would make more sense” to move to vote on the actual articles of impeachment — with their 67-vote requirement — than a motion to dismiss and “decide this on a 51-vote threshold, with the potential tie and all the recriminations that would flow from that.”

McConnell hinted at this strategy when he spoke to reporters Tuesday and said the Senate would have two choices after hearing opening arguments from the House impeachment managers and the President’s defense counsel. 

“It could go down the path of calling witnesses and basically having another trial or it could decide — and again, 51 members could make that decision — that they’ve heard enough and believe they know what would happen and could move to vote on the two articles of impeachment,” he said. “Those are the options. Not decisions have been made yet.”

 

8:23 p.m. ET, December 11, 2019

Rep. Hank Johnson: America faces "one heck of an emergency"

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Pool

Rep. Hank Johnson, a Democrat from Georgia, said he believes President Trump's actions were too troubling to ignore and that's why he has decided to support the impeachment inquiry.

"I simply felt that impeachment should be reserved for moments when our democracy itself is in danger. When the sign says 'In case of emergency, break glass,' there better be one heck of an emergency. I did not call for impeachment before. But I call for impeachment today. Because this is one heck of an emergency," Johnson said tonight on the Hill.

Johnson added: "We are here because President Trump tried to sabotage that democratic process."

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8:04 p.m. ET, December 11, 2019

Democratic congressman: "President Trump's attempt to subvert an election was an attack on America"

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Pool

Rep. Steve Cohen, a Democrat from Tennessee, called President Trump's actions an "affront to our Constitution and free and fair elections" tonight during his opening statement.

"President Trump's subversive and illegal action in seeking foreign interference are an affront to our Constitution and free and fair elections. They are an affront to the founders and the suffragettes who fought for voting rights," Cohen said.

Cohen added: "President Trump's attempt to subvert an election was an attack on America."

More context on Trump and Ukraine: The President demanded that the newly-elected Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, publicly announce investigations into a political rival that he apparently feared the most, former Vice President Joe Biden, and into a discredited theory that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that interfered in the 2016 presidential election.

To compel the Ukrainian President to do his political bidding, Trump conditioned two official acts on the public announcement of the investigations: a coveted White House visit and critical US military assistance Ukraine needed to fight its Russian adversary.

Watch here: