Subscribe to Here’s the Deal, our politics
newsletter for analysis you won’t find anywhere else.
Thank you. Please check your inbox to confirm.
The House of Representatives voted Thursday to approve rules governing the impeachment process. Every House Republican opposed the resolution, while all but two Democrats supported it. Lisa Desjardins reports and joins Yamiche Alcindor and Nick Schifrin to discuss procedural details, reaction from both sides of the aisle and the impeachment inquiry's latest witness.
In U.S. history, the House of Representatives has only pursued impeachment of the president three times. Today, the House took a major step toward initiating the fourth impeachment effort, and it laid out where the process proceeds from here.
Lisa Desjardins begins our coverage.
It is the rarest of congressional debates, about procedures for the possible impeachment of a president.
Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass.:
I truly believe that, 100 years from now, historians will look back at this moment and judge us by the decisions we make here today. This moment calls for more than politics.
Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga.:
No matter what is said by the other side today, this is a dark day, and a cloud has fallen on this House.
This was the House opening a new, far more defined phase in impeachment, voting on the process ahead, and putting lawmakers on the record for the first time since concerns rose about President Trump's requests to Ukraine's president.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.:
On this vote, the yeas are 232, the nays are 196.
It was almost a straight party split, with the exception of two Democrats who broke ranks. The two sides do agree on something, the stakes involved. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi:
Rep. Nancy Pelosi:
The times have found each and every one of us in this room and in our country to pay attention to how we protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. What is at stake in all of this is nothing less than our democracy.
Republicans are blasting Democrats' impeachment process, held behind closed doors so far, as unfair to the president.
Rep. Liz Cheney, D-Wyo.:
It is absolutely the case that it has been a secret process that has denied rights to the minority, that has involved leaking selectively things that the majority would like to have leaked, in which rights have absolutely been denied.
The resolution today sets up a two-part process, first with public hearings by the Intelligence Committee, led by Adam Schiff, to gather facts, he says.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.:
The resolution, from the perspective of the Intelligence Committee, sets out important procedures for how we may conduct our open hearings.
Then, if impeachment is recommended, the House Judiciary Committee, led by Jerry Nadler, would take it up, and at that point allow for the president and his lawyers to be involved.
But Republicans say that is too late, that initial hearings without that ability will taint the process.
Rep. Doug Collins:
The problem I'm having here is, the resolution before us today is not about transparency; it's about control.
At the White House, Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham accused Democrats of having — quote — "an unhinged obsession with this illegitimate impeachment proceeding."
For his part, President Trump turned to his favored retort during the Russia investigation, calling the impeachment inquiry a witch-hunt.
Meanwhile, House investigators heard from Tim Morrison, the top Russia expert on the national security staff. He gave a closed-door deposition and said he is leaving his post after his testimony. Morrison was repeatedly mentioned in earlier testimony from William Taylor, currently the top diplomat in Ukraine.
And Lisa Desjardins joins us now, with White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor.
Welcome to you both.
Yamiche, let's start with you, and let's where Lisa left off.
What did Tim Morrison say behind closed doors, as far as we know, today in the impeachment proceeding?
Tim Morrison, an aide to the National Security Council, essentially corroborated much of what William Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, told lawmakers yesterday — told lawmakers last week, rather.
And, essentially, Democrats are saying that this was stunning testimony, that William Taylor was saying that people were very concerned about what people in the U.S. government was telling Ukraine about this investigation into the Bidens.
The way that Tim Morrison fits into this is that he was the person who alerted William Taylor. He says he went to him twice. The first time was, he had a conversation that said, look, I think Gordon Sondland is going to the Ukrainian officials and telling them that they need to have an investigation into the Bidens in order to secure $391 million in military aid that was already appropriated by Congress.
He then goes to William Taylor a second time and says, I'm having a sinking feeling, because Gordon Sondland said that he talked to the president, and the president says there's no quid pro quo, but he's still demanding that the Ukrainian officials open an investigation into the Bidens.
So what you have here is really Tim Morrison saying, most of what William Taylor told you last week is true.
And you know what is interesting? Really quick.
Standing outside that room, both parties thought he said something that helped them.
Well, he said that he didn't hear anything illegal, per se, in the call. Republicans like that.
And everything Yamiche was talking about was also something Democrats mentioned.
And, Yamiche, let's just come back to you quickly.
Gordon Sondland, of course, U.S. ambassador to the E.U., someone who's close to President Trump. What is the significance of that story, him in the middle of it, the combined stories of Tim Morrison and acting Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor?
So, Tim Morrison really gives credibility to what William Taylor said.
So he essentially is saying most of what he said is accurate. Now, there's two big differences here. Lisa alluded to it a bit. The first is that Tim Morrison essentially says, I wasn't concerned that anything legal was discussed.
Then you have William Taylor, who says, actually, I thought it was crazy that military aid was held up for political means associated with the president.
So you have two people essentially saying, we heard the same thing, but we have different takes on what it means for U.S. policy and for national security.
So, Lisa, what we're talking about, of course, is the substance of the impeachment proceeding.
Let's talk about the procedure and what happened today. How did each side rally the troops on a real partisan vote?
There are not just high stakes, but high pressure for both parties.
And I think, when you talk about Democrats and how they're looking at this, they're thinking about two things. They're telling their members who are in vulnerable districts, first, they're trying to stress, this is the process. This is not a vote on impeachment itself yet.
Second, they're looking at the polling, Nick. And they're seeing polling moving in the direction of impeachment. In fact, a majority of Americans in most polls now want an impeachment inquiry to move forward. That's something Democrats feel good about in terms of what they're doing.
But the biggest deal here was that they only lost two of those vulnerable Democrats, both of them in major Trump districts, though that still is two Democrats who feel like this process may be unfair.
For Republicans, the pressure, the message, all of it is coming from the White House, something Yamiche knows a lot about. President Trump met with some of these Republicans yesterday from the House.
And, basically, I heard from one of them who was there. He said it was actually a very relaxed message, because we're not confident in this process. We are where the president is right now.
So, Yamiche, where is the president right now? What is the message coming out of the White House and Republicans? And how does that differ from a couple of the previous messages?
This was — today was a huge moment in the president's presidency.
It is really now him looking forward and saying, I'm looking at a formal impeachment inquiry process, and I need to really get my strategy together.
So, essentially, the president — today's message to the president and to Republicans who gathered at the White House both yesterday and today is, this is all a total sham. No matter what Democrats do from here on forward, they were — this — all of this is unfair to me.
That's an issue, because this has been an evolving message. Republicans first said the president didn't pressure Ukraine. Then they said this is all secondhand knowledge. Then they said, well, we really need a House floor vote on the impeachment inquiry.
Every single time that they have made up a message here, they have had to adjust to that because of all the things that we were talking about. There was a vote. There was the call memo that came out. There is people that were on the call saying, I had issues from the very moment I heard President Trump talk about Joe Biden in relation to this military aid.
Lisa, we have heard Republicans all day challenging these rules that were set today as different from those rules during the Clinton impeachment hearing.
So are they different?
This is complicated.
If viewers come away with one thing about the process today, I want them to understand that the difference is, there is a two-step process now. The House Intelligence Committee will have public hearings. That's something we didn't see in Watergate and Clinton, because there were previous investigations leading into impeachment.
Here, the Intelligence Committee is doing the first investigation. And Republicans are right that, in that portion of it, the president doesn't have rights to question testimony or to question witnesses.
But there's the second part of the process, which is House Judiciary Committee, should impeachment move forward. And that process, Nick, actually is almost exactly parallel to what we have seen in impeachments before.
Lisa, I want to come back to one more thing also that so many people here have been talking about today.
Freshman Democrat Katie Hill of California has resigned and gave a pretty incredible speech today.
Let's just listen to a brief part of it.
Rep. Katie Hill, D-Calif.:
This is bigger than me. I am leaving now because of a double standard. I'm leaving because I no longer want to be used as a bargaining chip.
I'm leaving because I didn't want to be peddled by papers and blogs and Web sites, used by shameless operatives for the dirtiest gutter politics that I have ever seen.
Why are people talking about this so much today?
This Congress is younger than it has been before.
There are two dozen members in their 20s and 30s now. This is a new kind of vulnerability, the idea of pictures you took of yourself in private on your iPhone being used against you. It's a new kind of scandal.
But, also, her defense was a new kind of defense. It was a more personal and assertive defense than I have ever seen from a departing member of Congress.
Lisa Desjardins, Yamiche Alcindor, thanks very much to you both.
Thanks so much.
Watch the Full Episode
Support Provided By: