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As House prepares for impeachment vote, Schumer proposes Senate trial rules

On Monday, the House Judiciary Committee released a report several hundred pages in length laying out the history, evidence and central argument behind its articles of impeachment. Members of Congress are deliberating over how they will vote when the articles come up before the entire House, expected to be this week. Lisa Desjardins reports and joins Judy Woodruff to discuss the politics at play.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The specter of impeachment looms larger than ever over President Trump tonight. The crucial votes in the U.S. House of Representatives are set for midweek.

    Congressional correspondent Lisa Desjardins begins our coverage.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    With a gray winter cloud over Washington, Congress is slowly returning to town.

    But news and events are moving more quickly. The House Judiciary Committee released a several-hundred-page report laying out the history, evidence and central argument behind its articles of impeachment. The committee wrote: "Where a president engages in a course of conduct involving serious betrayal of national interest through foreign entanglements, or corruption of office and elections, impeachment is justified."

    On Twitter, President Trump again rejected the charges, calling the process an impeachment hoax and a con job, this as key Democrats in Trump-leaning areas began to declare how they will vote.

  • Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich.:

    On the very basic facts…

    (SHOUTING)

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Michigan Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin faced an audibly conflicted crowd at a town hall today, including some vocal pro-Trump protesters.

  • Protesters:

    Four more years!

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Seen as an influential freshman, the former intelligence worker said she wrestled with the decision, but the president's requests to Ukraine made her feel she must impeach.

  • Rep. Elissa Slotkin:

    As a CIA officer and as someone who has sworn an oath to protect and defend the Constitution, reaching out to a foreign power is something fundamentally different.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    On CNN, Colorado's Jason Crow also said he will vote to impeach, but he stopped short of saying the president should be removed.

    But another moderate Democrat, New Jersey's Jeff Van Drew, reportedly disagrees. According to multiple outlets, he plans to vote against impeachment and switch to the Republican Party.

    As the House prepares for votes, the Senate prepares for an expected trial. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer today made an offer for how it could work. Schumer wrote Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last night, suggesting opening presentations by each side and four witnesses, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, former National Security Adviser John Bolton, senior White House adviser Robert Blair, and budget official Michael Duffey.

    All have declined House requests to testify, but other testimony indicates they all may have heard directly from the president about Ukraine.

  • Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.:

    These are the best four witnesses for that case. And, by the way, we don't want to be dilatory. We don't want to stress this out any longer than we have to. But these people are crucial and haven't been heard from. And, again, that's the difference with 1999. And it's a total difference.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    This as some Senate Republicans, like South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, are pushing for a short Senate trial.

  • Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.:

    The president was denied the ability to participate meaningful in the House hearing. And I want to end it. I have nothing but disdain for this.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    The House vote is expected Wednesday.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And Lisa joins me now at the table.

    Lisa, so much to keep track of here, but you reported on how several moderate Democrats are handling this. What do we know about any other moderate Democrats?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Just in the space of the last few hours, we have seen many more come out, Virginia's Abigail Spanberger, for example, also another Virginia, Jennifer Wexton, today.

    It seems, Judy, that, of the Democrats to think about, it's a group of about 18 to 20 that are probably the most vulnerable here, especially freshmen. So far, all of those vulnerable Democrats who have announced have announced for impeachment, except for the one that we pointed out, Jeff Van Drew, who reportedly will be for impeachment and switch parties.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    From New Jersey.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That's right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, now what more do we know about what's next in the House before this Wednesday vote?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Wednesday will be the big day.

    Tomorrow, however, will be a long and important day. The House Rules Committee will debate the rules for debate. How exactly will they talk about impeachment? On Wednesday, Judy, that's going to be a long day. They will start at 11:00 a.m., potentially go all day long, debating how to approach impeachment.

    In the end, we expect Democrats to get the rules that they want. And so it's just to say you can watch the process tomorrow, but Wednesday is really the big day.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And then what about in the Senate? It happens in January, but there are already preparations, as you reported.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Let's take a closer look at what Senator Schumer is proposing. And it's such an interesting political idea.

    He wants to sort of set the bar at the beginning. He would like the trial to begin there January 7, of course, assuming the House passes articles, as expected, this week. He would — he would propose even time for pro and con impeachment, including the president's legal team in there.

    And then he would like witnesses to be public and live. And, Judy, that's significant, because, in 1999, as Schumer was talking about, during the Clinton impeachment, some might remember that the witness testimony was not live. It was recorded in depositions. Monica Lewinsky on camera recorded something.

    And excerpts of those videos were shown to senators, not actual live testimony. Here, Schumer wants live testimony. The understanding is that Senator McConnell wants a shorter trial. He does not seem to want these witnesses or perhaps any witnesses, but discussions will be ongoing.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Still a lot — a lot to work out there.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That's right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, separately, Lisa, you're reminding us lawmakers are working on a giant government funding bill. It includes some interesting things, including health care funding involving young people, tobacco.

    Tell us about that.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    This is some huge news out of the House and Senate tonight, Judy.

    In the spending deal that we touched on last week, we are seeing the details. And the number one, Judy, Senate and House negotiators have agreed to raise the minimum age for purchasing tobacco products in this country to 21. This is a map of where the minimum age is 21 now.

    So this change will affect many states, Judy. And I just found out from some sources that this change — and in the bill text that was just released, the change would go into effect over the next three to five years.

    But this is a huge change for those who think that cigarettes are very harmful, including Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. This is a Republican and Democrat bipartisan agreement.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So interesting.

    And then you have learned more about what's in this big funding bill.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Yes, quickly, let me run through some other very big highlights. This is significant news.

    First, at the top of the list, gun violence. The spending deal would spend $25 million for research into gun violence, the first time in two decades for that, Judy.

    Also another big item, it would repeal some of the Affordable Care Act taxes for health care, the Cadillac tax for very kind of large health insurance plans, and the medical device tax also.

    And this deal would include $425 million for election security, all of these huge items that have stopped bills dead in their tracks for years. But, somehow, as everyone's focused on impeachment, these appropriators have been able to make these very large deals.

    And Democrats especially, it seems tonight, are kind of putting out things that they feel are large gains, gun violence, a huge issue. And this is the first time we have seen any change on that issue in Congress.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And that's something the NRA had opposed for a long time.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That's right.

    There was actually legislation in place banning that research. Not only now will it be allowed; it will be funded by Congress.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Such a huge story. A lot to follow there.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    If the president signs. We expect the president to sign, but he still must, yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Lisa Desjardins, thank you.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    You're welcome.

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