Ahead of Wednesday’s impeachment proceedings, the House Rules Committee began debate by acknowledging bipartisan respect -- a rare gesture amid a highly contentious matter. Meanwhile, President Trump unleashed rancor in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Sen. Mitch McConnell rejected a Democratic proposal for the expected Senate trial. Lisa Desjardins reports and talks to Judy Woodruff.
It is the eve of impeachment.
The United States House of Representatives convenes tomorrow to consider the case against President Trump. But, first, lawmakers spent long hours working out the rules for those proceedings.
Once again, congressional correspondent Lisa Desjardins begins our coverage.
Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass.:
The Rules Committee will come to order.
In a small room on the Capitol's third floor, today, the last step before impeachment goes to the House floor.
Rep. Jim McGovern:
It's unfortunate that we have to be here today.
The House Rules Committee will decide the process for the impeachment debate expected tomorrow. And it began with a first in this process, bipartisan signs of respect from the Democratic chairman and the top Republican, or ranking member.
We take up a lot of contentious issues on the Rules Committee. And, often, we are on different sides of many issues. But he leads with integrity, and he cares deeply about this House.
Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla.:
Let me begin by reciprocating a personal and professional respect for you and other members of this committee as well, because I do think very highly of each and every person on this committee, and particularly of you, Mr. Chairman.
But this is a day where we're going to disagree, and disagree very strongly.
At the White House, disagreeing strongly would be an understatement.
President Donald Trump:
Look, it's a hoax, the whole impeachment thing.
President Trump spoke at an appearance with the president of Guatemala.
This has been a total sham from the beginning.
But his real outrage was unleashed in a six-page letter the president sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi today, breathing fire in the first line: "I am writing to express my strongest and most powerful protest against the partisan impeachment crusade."
He called Democrats' process "disingenuous, meritless and a baseless invention of Democrats' imagination."
The letter raised previous themes for the president. He blasted the FBI's Russia investigation, the Mueller report, and former Vice President Joe Biden.
Also blasting Democrats today, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.:
This slapdash work product will be dumped on us over here in the Senate.
The Kentucky Republican, now preparing for a trial, rejected Democrats proposal and their leaders' request for four witnesses.
Sen. Mitch McConnell:
He wants to volunteer the Senate's time and energy on a fishing expedition.
That leader, Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, fired back that McConnell is out of line, already working with the White House, and that senators should reserve judgment.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.:
Mitch McConnell said proudly he is not an impartial juror. Do the American people want Mitch McConnell not to be an impartial juror in this situation?
And I would ask every one of my Republican Senate colleagues, are you impartial jurors?
As the Senate thinks weeks ahead, House Democrats are thinking about tomorrow, and insisting this is not about politics.
Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass.:
We don't know how this may or may not affect the 2020 election, but we know this: We are a co-equal branch of government that is going to insist that no one is above the law.
And joining me now is Lisa Desjardins.
So, Lisa, this is an historic day, as we have been saying over and over again. What do we know about the lay of the land tomorrow?
Here's what's going to happen.
The House will convene at 9:00 a.m. Eastern, 6:00 a.m. Pacific time. They will have normal opening procedures, the prayer, the Pledge of Allegiance, and then immediately begin what will sort of be a two-part debate.
First, they will debate the actual rule, kind of the procedures ahead for the impeachment debate. And then, after that, they will get into that actual debate.
Really, though, Judy, the entire day — and I think we will expect an entire day of debate over this impeachment idea. I expect it to last until at least about this time tomorrow night. It could go late.
The question being, how much do Republicans object to the process? How much do Republicans try to use parliamentary procedures to gum up the works? That could make it take longer or not.
And that's just an unknown we can't predict at this point.
It is. It is unknown. They only have a limited amount of procedures they can use, but they do have some.
At, Lisa, so what do we know about what the president's plan is tomorrow and how the White House is going to respond?
Well, I think we had a preview in that really remarkable letter that he sent to the speaker today.
He has his fist raised, and he is going to hold, what else, a rally tomorrow night, 7:00 Eastern, roughly the time the House could be voting on impeachment articles, in Michigan, where else, Battle Creek, Michigan.
I think it's no mistake. The White House is sending a lot of messages here. My question is, he's — actually has a very defensive posture here. He's being very assertive and aggressive on this.
I wonder how the House Republicans — if they're going to take that tone tomorrow on the floor or not.
And, Lisa, finally, I want to turn back to that spending bill that you have been reporting on. It passed today.
Democrats actually ended up having division over what is in it.
As we reported last night, there were some big benefits for Democrats, things they were happy about on guns, for example, and for election security, other things. However, today, Judy, there was real divide in the Democratic Caucus over the president's money for the border wall.
This is the main concession that Democrats gave away in spending bill. Let's look. It was $138 billion, key being unrestricted for a border wall. In the past, this money has been restricted to fencing.
This now has fewer restrictions. The president can do a little bit more with it than in the past. Also, Judy, in this money, the president can use military funds. There are no restrictions barring him — barring him from taking military construction money, as he has attempted to do in the past year.
And, Judy, there's no hard cap in these bills on detention beds. There's sort of a suggested cap, but it's not enforceable. The Hispanic Caucus is furious over this and disappointed. They're worried that this is the wrong direction in terms of the immigration debate. It's the wrong concession.
Other say, hey, the president wanted $8 billion for a wall. He only got $1.4 billion. But it's a very critical issue that this bill is dealing with, and it was a concession for Democrats.
But the — but it's now passed the House.
It has passed today. Thank you. Yes, it did. It passed today.
These things are all happening so quickly. This did pass the House; 75 Democrats voted against it, even though it was their leadership proposing it.
All right, Lisa Desjardins. So much to follow.
Tomorrow is the big day.
It is. Thank you.
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