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Democrats may file impeachment articles as soon as this week

The next phase of the impeachment inquiry begins on Monday, as House Democrats are expected to stake their case on alleged abuses of power by President Trump. Special correspondent Jeff Greenfield joins Hari Sreenivasan to discuss what’s next in the impeachment process on both sides of the political aisle, where the road leads from here and how the inquiry may impact the 2020 Democratic race.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    For more on the upcoming impeachment hearings, where the road leads from here, and a look at the 2020 Democratic race, Special Correspondent Jeff Greenfield joins us now from Santa Barbara.

    Tomorrow is, well, I guess, another big-ish day. I mean, you've had a lot of big days in the past couple of weeks. What happens?

  • Jeff Greenfield:

    Well, unlike last week when constitutional scholars were debating the law, we're going to hear from lawyers, from the Intelligence Committee and from the Judiciary Committee.The Democratic lawyers will present the case, the factual case that they assert for impeachment. Abuse of power, possibly bribery.

    And the Republican lawyers will present the counterargument that the president did nothing untoward, he was simply exercising his legitimate authority to look at corruption.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    And what about other witnesses? I mean, this seems to be one of the things that the Republicans are quite aggrieved by. Hey, we have all these suggestions, if this is a trial, we definitely want to have our folks in there.

  • Jeff Greenfield:

    There are two parts to the Republican argument. One is they want to hear from Adam Schiff. They want to hear from the anonymous whistleblower. They want to hear from Joe Biden and Hunter Biden so they can pummel them on alleged corruption.

    But they've also argued that the Democrats case is based on hearsay — no firsthand witnesses to what Trump may have done. But the White House has said absolutely no witnesses from us, no documents, no nothing.

    And that's why the Democrats have said we're not going to wait for months for the courts to decide whether these witnesses have to come forward. We're moving ahead because we think we have the case now strong enough to propose impeachment.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    That timing becomes more important as we keep going here into a presidential cycle. So where do we go from here?

  • Jeff Greenfield:

    Well, by the end of the week, the Democratic majority will almost certainly draw up articles of impeachment. Abuse of power will almost certainly be one. They may assert bribery, which is a trickier one.

    And Jerry Nadler, the chairman, has suggested they may go back to the Mueller report and see if they can find examples of either obstruction of justice or abuse of power. there will be articles drawn and they'll I promise you, it will be a straight party line vote. I would bet whatever I had on that.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Right.

  • Jeff Greenfield:

    And we'll find out what those articles are by the end of the week, and then it goes to the full House.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    So how does it specifically play out? I mean, considering we almost know where the votes are lined up based on what party a member's in.

  • Jeff Greenfield:

    Yeah. This is almost like kabuki theater where we all we know it's supposed to be said before it's going to be set. The question is, will any Republican House member vote for impeachment?So far, the answer is no.

    One Republican said he'd vote for impeachment, then promptly left the party. There may be a few House Democrats from strongly pro-Trump districts who may have a problem, but I'm guessing that will be at most in low single digits. And so by year's end, the president will be impeached, which is an indictment.

    And next January, the Republican controlled Senate will take up the case to see whether he should be removed.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    How does the lack of Kamala Harris in the presidential race perhaps play into some of this? Because the senators have to be watching all of this.

  • Jeff Greenfield:

    Yeah. The senators who will remain in the race, sort of have to be there for the impeachment trial. They don't really have to be there every minute, it turns out. But what you're talking about is that the absence of Kamala Harris and the failure of Cory Booker and Castro to qualify for the debate next week means that the debate will be all white.

    And that's in a party that is increasingly diverse, where minority voters are increasingly critical. Now, the counterto that argument is, look, this isn't anything untoward. The fact is, Joe Biden has an enormous share of the African-American vote right now. And that's why Harris and to some extent Booker are struggling.

    But it's awkward at most for a party that insists on diversity to have a debate where nobody of color is going to be on it.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    The consequences of what's happening in the impeachment, what's happening in the debates, how much does that still resonate with voters while six months from now, eight months from now, when they actually have to go to the polls?

  • Jeff Greenfield:

    You know, the way that events speed up in our age, the way that news sort of comes and goes so swiftly, could well mean that by the time voters actually make a decision, certainly by November, impeachment will be a fuzzy memory.

    I mean, unless you're expecting that kind of Aaron Sorkin amazing moment where suddenly the scales fall from the eyes of certain people say, oh, my heavens, now we understand, I think this is just going to be a footnote, is what I… It sounds odd because impeachment sounds so critical.

    But I think it's just another political event that will have much less impact than, say, the economy.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Yeah, juxtapose that with the economy, which is doing quite well?

  • Jeff Greenfield:

    The last reports are quarter of a million new jobs, real wages up, 3.5% unemployment. The only thing that's different from the late 90s is we have had an enormous increase in the deficit.

    And this, again, shows you the weirdness of the political world where, you know, I don't think there's ever been a case where a president's approval ratings are so much lower than what they should be given the state of the economy, which is really all about Trump and his character and his temperament.

    And one of the questions we're going to find out is if, in fact, his trade policies result in a manufacturing contraction, which would hit those states where blue collar workers are in great numbers. That could really have a more devastating impact on Trump than anything that happens in the impeachment.

    And conversely, if the economy is a strong, you have to bet based on history, that puts the president in pretty good shape next November.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    All right. Jeff Greenfield joining us from Santa Barbara. Thanks so much.

  • Jeff Greenfield:

    Nice to be here.

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