Are you basically checked out of school or work for the end of the year, and counting down the days until you can set up an out-of-office email, throw on your sweatpants, and mainline yet another Harry Potter marathon? Yeah, Congress is too. I mean, I don’t know if they’re into the 20+ hours it takes to chronicle the fall and potential resurgence, and ultimate destruction of Voldemort. But they’re getting awfully close to peacing out of Washington, D.C. for the rest of 2019 — and they’ve got a few key things to consider before that happens.
The House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on impeachment proceedings before Congress officially breaks for the holiday season. Here’s what you need to know as the days get colder and draw nearer to one of the most anticipated political events of this decade.
To catch you up:
During a July 25 phone call, President Donald Trump asked the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky to interfere in the U.S. presidential election by digging up dirt on his potential political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, and his son, Hunter Biden. Trump also asked Zelensky to investigate 2016 election interference based on a conspiracy theory that the FBI has pretty soundly debunked.
This led to a whistleblower complaint; multiple White House staffers resigning; a Democratic attempt at impeaching Trump with private and public hearings from everyone from Ambassador Bill Taylor, the top diplomat in Ukraine, to Fiona Hill, Trump’s top Russia advisor; we saw dogs; drag queens attended; Kim Kardashian got thrown into the mix; A$AP Rocky’s name appeared; and we even got some very weird turkey pardons, which is saying a lot.
All together, it’s been far from boring. And it’s only getting more interesting.
So what happened this week?
Monday (December 2)
Republicans released their 123-page report, which doesn’t deny that Trump asked Ukraine to investigate the 2016 elections or the Bidens, but claims that Trump wasn’t in the wrong when he did so. As the New York Times reports, Republicans argue that Trump was “genuine and reasonable” in his suspicion of Ukraine when he asked them to investigate.
In an interview with TIME, Zelensky denied quid pro quo — the position he’s had during this entire investigation — but added some very interesting context. “Look, I never talked to the President from the position of a quid pro quo. That’s not my thing … I don’t want us to look like beggars. But you have to understand. We’re at war. If you’re our strategic partner, then you can’t go blocking anything for us. I think that’s just about fairness. It’s not about a quid pro quo. It just goes without saying,” the Ukrainian leader said.
Tuesday (December 3)
The day after Republicans released their report, Democrats followed suit with a report twice as long that alleged Trump did abuse his power; they also accused the president of obstructing the impeachment inquiry himself, according to the New York Times. These reports contained new information, too — including phone records that further incriminate the president’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, and proof of calls between Representative Devin Nunes (R-CA) and Giuliani’s associate Lev Parnas. Nunes is a central player in this whole investigation because of his position on the Intelligence Committee — as a reminder, Bondy says that Parnas wants to testify in front of Congress that he and Nunes met with Ukrainian officials to ask them to dig up dirt on the Bidens.
A high-level Ukranian official also told the New York Times that the Ukranian government knew about the hold on military aid as early as July and wanted to keep that fact on the DL so that it wouldn’t get mixed up in the impeachment debate here in the U.S. The timeline has been blurry since the beginning of the investigation, and it’s importance is clear: The aid to Ukraine was Trump’s biggest bargaining chip. If he was, indeed, bribing the nation, it would be imperative if all parties involved were aware that the aid was actually on hold.
That same day, the impeachment proceedings moved from the House Intelligence Committee to the House Judiciary Committee. Cue more mess, more public hearings, and more votes.
Wednesday (December 4)
This was the first day the House Judiciary Committee had control over impeachment proceedings, though “control” might be a strong word for the wild hearings we heard on Wednesday from a panel of witnesses that included Professors Noah Feldman of Harvard University, Pamela Karlan of Stanford University, Michael Gerhardt of the University of North Carolina, and Jonathan Turley of George Washington University.
These four experts were supposed to tell Congress if what Trump did was impeachable, and, unsurprisingly, the three witnesses Democrats called (Feldman, Karlan, and Gerhardt) said that impeachment was reasonable; the witness Republicans called (Turley) said it was not. Turley argued that this whole impeachment inquiry was making everyone upset, including his dog, and that Trump’s behavior didn’t constitute bribery under the constitution or federal law, but all of the other law professors and many other experts pointed out that he was wrong.
Thursday (December 5)
Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) made the announcement that she was calling on the House to start drafting articles of impeachment against the president, so that the entire House can vote on it. Pelosi is confident they’ll have the full House vote on impeachment by Christmas. During her announcement, a reporter from Sinclair Broadcast Group, James Rosen, asked Pelosi if she “hated” the president. Her response went viral.
“As a Catholic, I resent your using the word ‘hate’ in a sentence that addresses me,” Pelosi said. “I don’t hate anyone. I was raised in a way that is full — a heart full of love and always pray for the president. And I still pray for the president. I pray for the president all the time. So don’t mess with me when it comes to words like that.”
As for Trump, he’s ready to face whatever comes next. “I say, if you are going to impeach me, do it now,” he tweeted.
Friday (December 6)
Rumor has it that many Congresspeople and staffers are working through the weekend to get everything they need before next week, NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales said on Up First. Grisales added that Pelosi hasn’t explicitly said what she’s looking for in the articles of impeachment she tasked Congress with drafting. That means they could be very narrow and only attempt to impeach Trump for one specific act, or they could be broad and attempt to impeach the president based off of a variety of acts from bribery to obstruction of justice to evidence from the Mueller investigation.
We won’t have to wait long to find out — the House’s last session is December 20, so they’ll need to vote by then in order to make their deadline. The Judiciary Committee set up a hearing on Monday to accept evidence that will be used to draw up the articles of impeachment, which we could see by the end of next week.