House panel sets rules for impeachment debate

By Meg Wagner, Mike Hayes and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 2:37 AM ET, Wed December 18, 2019
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11:33 a.m. ET, December 17, 2019

Schumer says Trump is "afraid" to let witnesses who might corroborate evidence testify

Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, responded to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's objections to Schumer's request that four White House witnesses testify at an impeachment trial.

Schumer argued that "the House has built a very strong case against the President."

Schumer continued:

"Maybe that's why Leader McConnell doesn't seem to want witnesses — at least not agree to them now. Maybe that's why the President is afraid: because the House case is so strong that they don't want witnesses that might corroborate it."

Watch more:

11:42 a.m. ET, December 17, 2019

Schumer: "The American people are fair. They don't want a cover-up."

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is now addressing Republicans' rejection of Democrats' request for witnesses at the looming impeachment trial.

“A fair trial is one that allows senators to get all the relevant facts and adjudicate the case impartially," Schumer said on the Senate floor. "There’s a grand tradition in America, speedy and fair trials. We want both."

Moments ago, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell rejected calls from Schumer to allow at least four witnesses at an expected Senate impeachment trial. Schumer accused McConnell of prioritizing a "speedy" trial over a fair one.

“The leader seems obsessed with speedy and wants to throw fair out the window. To simply repeat the arguments that were made in the House and Senate when there are witnesses and documents that could shed light on what actually happened, why not have them?” he asked.

"The American people are fair. They don't want a cover-up. They don't want concealment," Schumer added.


10:56 a.m. ET, December 17, 2019

SOON: House committee meets to debate impeachment rules

The House Rules Committee is scheduled to meet at 11 a.m. ET to approve the parameters for tomorrow's floor debate on the articles of impeachment. 

Remember: They're voting on the rules for the debate about impeachment — not impeachment itself.

Here's what we know about today's session:

  • Committee Chair Jim McGovern will make an opening statement, followed by one from Tom Cole, the ranking Republican.
  • After that, Judiciary Committee representatives are expected to deliver opening remarks. 
  • The members of the Rules Committee — nine Democrats and four Republicans — will then be able to question the Judiciary Committee members. The committee typically does not enforce time limits for members to speak in hearings, so this is likely to be a long and contentious hearing. 
  • At the end of the session, the committee will vote to approve the rules.
10:44 a.m. ET, December 17, 2019

McConnell: It's not the Senate's job to "search desperately for ways to get to guilty"

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, addressing Senate Democrats' request for witness testimony during the possible impeachment trial, said the Senate is not the place to investigate.

The House is the legislative body that is tasked with building the case against the President, he said.

"If they fail, they fail. It's not the Senate's job to leap into the breach and search desperately for ways to get to guilty. That would hardly be impartial justice," McConnell said.

He then referenced Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer's proposal to hear from at least four witnesses at the trial. The House had moved ahead with the impeachment inquiry without some of the testimony, saying the process of waiting on court decisions could take months.

"The fact that my colleague is already desperate to sign up the Senate for new fact finding — which House Democrats themselves were too impatient to see through — well, that suggests something to me," McConnell said. "It suggests that even Democrats who do not like this President are beginning to realize how dramatically insufficient the house's rushed process has been."

McConnell continued:

"Well, look, I hope the House of Representatives sees that too. If House Democrats' case is this deficient, this thin, the answer is not for the judge and jury to cure it over here in the Senate. The answer is the house should not impeach on this basis in the first place."

10:43 a.m. ET, December 17, 2019

McConnell said he is working with the White House on impeachment. Now he's accusing Democrats of unfair coordination.

In a speech on the Senate floor moments ago, majority leader Mitch McConnell appeared to suggest Sen. Chuck Schumer was "coordinating" with others when the Democratic minority leader requested this week that four White House witnesses testify at Trump's impeachment trial.

"So why does the Democratic leader here in the Senate want to predetermine the House impeachment managers' witness request for them before the House has even impeached the president?" McConnell said. "Might he just might he be coordinating these questions with people outside the Senate?"

Keep in mind: McConnell himself said last week that he is "coordinating" with the White House on how to approach a potential impeachment trial. McConnell told Fox's Sean Hannity that there will "be no difference between the President's position and our position as to how to handle this." Schumer called these comments by McConnell "totally out of line."

10:22 a.m. ET, December 17, 2019

McConnell: The Senate doesn't "create impeachments ... We judge them."

From CNN's Ted Barrett

Senate Majority Leader McConnell is speaking on the Senate floor as the impeachment proceedings continue.

McConnell, according to a copy of his prepared remarks, will say that the House is tasked with investigating possible impeachable offenses, and the Senate has the duty to judge them.

Some background: Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer has requested testimony from at least four witnesses at the looming impeachment trial.

"We don’t create impeachments," he'll say. "We judge them."

He will continue:

"The House chose this road. It is their duty to investigate. It is their duty to meet the very high bar for undoing a national election. As Speaker Pelosi herself once said, it is the House’s obligation to, quote, “build an ironclad case to act.” End quote."
9:45 a.m. ET, December 17, 2019

Another moderate House Democrat just announced she'll vote to impeach Trump

Democratic Rep. Mikie Sherrill, a moderate from New Jersey, put out a statement this morning that she's a "yes" on impeachment.

"My military service taught me to put our country — not politics — first, and my time as a federal prosecutor taught me about the importance of the rule of law and of justice," Sherill said. "I will be voting in favor of the Articles of Impeachment."

Sherrill's declaration that she's planning to vote to impeach Trump comes one day after another moderate from a swing district, Rep. Elissa Slotkin, a Democrat from Michigan, announced that she plans to vote yes on both articles of impeachment.

Here's a tweet with the announcement by Sherrill:

9:30 a.m. ET, December 17, 2019

Schiff on Rudy Giuliani: "The effort to secure foreign interference in our elections hasn’t stopped"

From CNN's Manu Raju 

House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, Democrat of California, announces articles of impeachment against President Trump
House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, Democrat of California, announces articles of impeachment against President Trump Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff was just asked about Rudy Giuliani comments about telling Trump he wanted Marie Yovanovitch out because she was getting in the way of the investigations they sought.

Here's how Schiff responded:

“The plot continues ... the effort to secure foreign interference in our elections hasn’t stopped. ...what I found most striking about Giuliani’s comments was the admission, confession that they needed to push Yovanovitch out of the way because she was going to get into the way of these corrupt investigations that Giuliani was pushing.”

While he criticized Giuliani’s “daily admissions of guilt,” he said he would place a “higher priority” on the Senate securing testimony of acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, national security advisor John Bolton and others — not Giuliani.

He also called on senators to demand the documents in the Senate trial that the White House has withheld.

“I think every senator is going to have to answer the question: do they want to see the facts or are they just going to sweep it under the rug?" he asked.
1:21 p.m. ET, December 17, 2019

Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Trump's calls to stop impeachment: "The President is not a lawyer"

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg talked about the impeachment process last night at an event in New York City.

She said the Senate’s role is to be the triers. 

“We have a process to select jurors. If a juror reveals a bias they will be disqualified,” Ginsburg said when asked if they should be impartial.

Her comments come as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell faces backlash for coordinating with the White House on the looming impeachment trial.

She was also asked for her thoughts on President Trump’s assertion that the impeachment process should stop.

“The President is not a lawyer, he's not law-trained," she said. "But the truth is the judiciary is a reactive institution. We don't have a program or an agenda.”  

Ginsburg made the remarks at The New York Public Library while receiving the Berggruen Institute Prize for Philosophy and Culture. 

CORRECTION: CNN originally quoted Ginsberg as saying the President is not "well trained." Ginsberg said "he's not law-trained."