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Lesson Plans

Lesson plan: House drafts impeachment articles

December 6, 2019

Full Lesson


Directions: Read the summary, watch the videos and answer the questions. You can turn on the “CC” (closed-captions) function and read along with the transcript here.

Impeachment hearing activity: As your students watch the hearings, you may want to have them complete this impeachment hearing activity (PDF here) which can be applied to any lawmaker, Democrat or Republican, and to any witness.

Summary: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has authorized House lawmakers to draft articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. In an announcement on Dec. 5, Pelosi said Trump’s actions “are in defiance of the vision of our founders and the oath of office that he takes to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” The announcement came a day after the House Judiciary Committee held its first hearing in the inquiry, consulting law professors on the legal arguments for and against impeachment.

Previously, a different committee, the House Intelligence Committee, held a series of public hearings and closed-door depositions, in which current and former diplomats, advisers and government officials testified about their knowledge of the president’s conversations and actions regarding Ukraine and a hold on military aid. Take a look at two different lawmakers’ perspectives on those hearings below. (Here’s a video summary of all of the key moments from Wednesday’s House Judiciary Committee.)

[How did we get here? Some background: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., announced an inquiry in September following a whistleblower complaint about a phone call between the White House and Ukraine. The House voted on conducting a formal inquiry on Oct. 28. Specifically, the phone call occurred between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Trump who asked for an investigation into a conspiracy theory related to the 2016 election, and into the son of potential  2020 political opponent former Vice President Joe Biden. The Trump administration is accused of withholding military aid to Ukraine for Trump’s personal political advantage. Trump says he has done nothing wrong.]

Summary of Rep. Doug Collins, R-GA perspective: The House Judiciary Committee held its first impeachment hearing Wednesday, receiving testimony from four legal scholars on the constitutional basis for impeachment. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., ranking Republican on the committee, is leading his party’s effort to defend President Trump in the impeachment inquiry. Rep. Collins joins Judy Woodruff to discuss disagreeing with Democrats on basic facts.

Summary of Rep. Doug Collins, R-GA perspective: Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Pa., sits on the House Judiciary Committee, which held its first hearing in the impeachment inquiry into President Trump Wednesday. The panel heard testimony from four legal scholars about the history and precedent for impeachment. Rep. Dean joins Judy Woodruff to discuss politics vs. patriotism and why the evidence of Trump’s wrongdoing is “undenied” by House Republicans.

Discussion questions:

  1. Essential question: What is the significance of Pelosi’s announcement that the House will draw up articles of impeachment?
  2. Why do the impeachment hearings happen in both the Senate and House sides of Congress?
  3. What is Trump’s reaction to the hearings? What is your reaction? How about people in your community?
  4. Republican committee members say there are not enough facts to make a judgment about impeachment. Democrats say the evidence is clear. If you had the opportunity to talk with committee members on whether there is enough evidence, what would you say?
  5. Take a quick look at NewsHour’s “5 key takeaways from the Judiciary impeachment hearing.” (Note: You may want to assign different groups one of the takeaways to save time). Ask them to summarize what they read. What did they agree with? What did they disagree with? What did they have questions about?
  6. Media literacy: Scan a few other news websites about Wednesday’s Judiciary Committee hearing or Pelosi’s announcement about drafting impeachment articles. Pick three articles. How are they similar to NewsHour’s coverage? How are they different?

Extension activity: 

Want to really wow your students? Watch this PBS recap of the Watergate hearings from 40 years ago. Ask your students if they see any familiar themes. What appears different about today’s impeachment hearings and the Watergate hearings? What is the tone of the Republican and Democrat lawmakers on the committee back then? What about now? Are there lessons from the Watergate hearings that could be applied today?

Source: WETA via American Archive of Broadcasting

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