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Lawmakers battle over impeachment in contentious markup

The House Judiciary Committee clashed all day Thursday over impeachment charges against President Trump. The panel’s Republicans dismissed Democrats' belief that Trump’s actions amount to high crimes and misdemeanors and disputed the fairness of the process. Still, behind the scenes, negotiators managed to agree on a budget deal. Lisa Desjardins reports and joins Judy Woodruff to discuss.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Collision and cooperation at the U.S. Capitol.

    In public, a committee of the House of Representatives clashed all day over impeachment charges. But, behind the scenes, negotiators also agreed on a spending deal.

    We begin with congressional correspondent Lisa Desjardins on impeachment.

  • Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y.:

    The Judiciary Committee will please come to order.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    In a large, chilly hearing room, the nation's heated divide played out, in a Judiciary Committee meeting of the highest stakes.

  • Rep. Jerrold Nadler:

    The clerk will report the resolution.

  • Woman:

    HR-755, impeaching Donald John Trump.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    In a Judiciary Committee meeting of the highest stakes.

  • Woman:

    The president of the United States for high crimes and misdemeanors.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    In front of lawmakers, nine pages aimed at removing the president of the United States, charging abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

  • Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio:

    And the facts are very clear.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Two articles of impeachment and two radically different points of view.

  • From Democrats:

  • Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn.:

    This is the most abusive act we can imagine, trying to influence our elections with foreign interference.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    And Republicans.

  • Rep. Ben Cline, R-Va.:

    These are not facts. This is testimony about what somebody thought or what somebody concluded from acts taken by members of the administration.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Called a markup, it's the final step before articles of impeachment go to the House floor. It's the chance for each member to propose changes or amendments. And it's a process meant to be tedious.

  • Man:

    I have an amendment at the desk.

  • Rep. Jerrold Nadler:

    The question is on the amendment. Those in favor say aye.

  • Members:

    Aye.

  • Rep. Jerrold Nadler:

    Opposed no.

  • Members:

    No.

  • Rep. Jerrold Nadler:

    In the opinion of the chair, the no's have it.

  • Man:

    Roll call.

  • Rep. Jerrold Nadler:

    Roll call is requested. The clerk will call the roll.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    But it, of course, was also a dramatic debate, with Democrats arguing President Trump withheld military aid money and pushed the president of Ukraine to investigate political rival and former Vice President Joe Biden.

  • Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash.:

    So, at the end of the day, I have only two questions for my colleagues on the other side.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Today, Democrats especially implored Republicans to think of broader concerns.

  • Rep. Pramila Jayapal:

    Forget about President Trump. Is any one of my colleagues willing to say that it is ever OK for a president of the United States of America to invite foreign interference in our elections? Not a single one of you has said that so far.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    They repeatedly raised the president's own words in his phone call with the Ukrainian president after military support came up.

  • Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas:

    And here's the very next sentence.The very next sentence is not, yes, let's get with the Department of Defense, let's review your request. The very next sentence, "I would like you to do a favor, though."

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    The president was clearly watching. Soon after that, he tweeted out his own rebuttal, writing accurately that: "I said I want you to do us, our country, a favor, not me a favor."

    In the committee room, his allies repeatedly assailed what they see as an unfair process with no proven case.

  • Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio:

    It's clear that no abuse of power ever took place, and there certainly isn't enough evidence to support an article of impeachment.

  • Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Ariz.:

    I know that you, some of you, really think the president really did something wrong. But the fact is, there is no — none of your witnesses, none of your fact witnesses were able to establish any evidence of bribery, treason, high crimes or misdemeanors.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    But Democrats pointed to witness testimony, text messages and concerns across agencies.

    Former police chief and Florida Congresswoman Val Demings said the picture is clear, whatever words the president used.

  • Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla.:

    There have been so many things that have been said, like, the president never used the word demand. Well, I can tell you this. When a robber points a gun at you to take your money, they usually don't walk up and say, I'm robbing you right now.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Once forwarded by the committee, any articles of impeachment could get a vote on the full House floor as soon as next week.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And Lisa is still up on Capitol Hill, as she has been all this day. And she joins me now.

    So, first of all, Lisa, what has been the Republican strategy all this day on how to deal with this?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That's right.

    Republicans have had two main strategies, Judy. First of all, as they have done throughout this process, they have questioned whether it's been fair. They have repeatedly raised that they would like to call their own witnesses, have what they call a minority day, where they get to have hearings of their own.

    However, the Democrats have rejected that. They say that the Republican witnesses are off-topic, or include the whistle-blower, which Democrats say goes against the Whistleblower Protection Act. That is a very hot debate. Republicans point out they have only had one witness out of those called by the Judiciary Committee in total.

    They have also done something else, Judy. They have brought in this idea of other corruption, other investigations that they would like, including the Burisma investigation, of course, that being the energy company in Ukraine where Hunter Biden was on the board of directors.

    This is something that Republicans have brought up again and again today. Republicans say that's a distraction.

    I'm sorry. Democrats say that's a distraction. And, Judy, Democrats also raise one other point. They say Republicans could have had one very big witness, the president himself, or his lawyer. But the president has decided, as we have continued reporting, that he does not want to participate in this House impeachment process.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Lisa, this process, this markup actually got started last night with speeches from committee members, both sides of the aisle.

    And you have told us that you see something deeper going on here with the two political parties. Explain what you mean.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    This is why I'm so happy to work with "NewsHour," frankly, because I think that something was missed in having that late hearing last night, when much of the media is focusing on today.

    Judy, last night, it was more of an elevated hearing. And I think it's worth listening to, if people want to go back to, for both sides. And I saw something about what these parties are about at this moment in what they were doing last night

    Democrats one by one were presenting personal stories, sort of their immigrant stories about their parents, about growing up in poverty. And what was the theme there? Democrats were trying to say why they love America, why they are tied to America, and get past the idea that they are attacking this president.

    That's something that I think they feel concerned about. They don't want to be looking on the attack. They want to be showing their patriotism, why they're attached to this country.

    What were Republicans doing last night, Judy? More than I have ever heard before, Republicans were pointing out that they believe Democrats are coastal elites. There was even a map showing Democrats as coastal elites.

    They were saying that Democrats do not understand the middle of the country. And, in fact, time and again, I heard them, Republicans, say Democrats don't like Trump voters.

    So this is something I know Republicans feel in their bones, that Democrats look down on them. However, it was something adding to the divide in this hearing, and something that I thought was very notable.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And so, picking up on that, Lisa, take a step back.

    We are literally on the verge of the impeachment of a president. What is the effect of all this, from where you sit, on the lawmakers and on the American people?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Well, we are in the last hours, I think, of these hearings on the House side. It could go on quite late tonight, Judy.

    This is because, under this markup process, any member of the committee can speak on any amendment. So this could go hours and hours. We don't really know.

    But so far, we have had 60 hours of hearings in this impeachment room, these impeachment hearings, from both committees. And, Judy, I have to say I have noticed that the audience has gotten smaller. Also today, I think the lawmakers seem a little more weary. They also have gotten a little bit more serious in the end here, as we approach impeachment next week.

    Also, Judy, we have had something else happen. Editorials, newspapers across this country are ring in. We have had several, USA Today, The Los Angeles Times, Philadelphia Inquirer and Boston Globe, come out saying that it is time for impeachment.

    Others, like The Wall Street Journal, have said Democrats have gone too far and that they are actually contorting this process in a way that is harmful. It feels to me like this week has been kind of a week where maybe the public hasn't tuned in yet, but I have a feeling that it will mount next week.

    We have a little reporting on that, Judy. I can now report that we do expect the full House to take its impeachment vote next Wednesday. Now, that is subject to change, but, right now, that is the plan.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, finally, Lisa, we know that, apart from all this, behind closed doors, the two parties were able to agree on a spending plan to avert a government shutdown.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Yes.

    Let me read you some quick bullet points about this very large spending deal. It is $1.4 trillion, Judy, the biggest money decision Congress will make.

    And, also, Judy, in this is, of course, some issues about the president's wall. It looks like the president will get about $1.38 billion for his wall. That's the same amount he got last year. A lot more to say about that.

    But let me also quickly mention that this needs to be passed by next Friday to meet the government spending deadline, essentially kind of a detente over the wall and immigration. We're waiting for the text on that bill. There's going to be a lot to talk about, but this is a very large compromise from both sides of the Capitol and the White House tonight over spending.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    A lot going on at the same time these impeachment hearings are under way.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That's right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Lisa Desjardins, thank you.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    You're welcome.

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