Judiciary panel to take first steps toward impeachment vote

The House Judiciary Committee is taking the first steps toward voting on articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump in a rare evening meeting

Republicans, unified against Trump's impeachment, are expected to propose revisions to the articles, which span only nine pages. But Democrats are unlikely to accept them.

The Wednesday evening session of the 41-member panel is expected to last several hours, with opening statements from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Votes won't come until Thursday, when the committee will consider amendments and likely hold a final vote to send the articles to the House floor.

One member of the Judiciary panel, Rhode Island Rep. David Cicilline, said the evening session is a prime-time opportunity for Democrats to make their case.

“The message we want to send is that the Congress of the United States has a responsibility to protect and defend the Constitution, we took an oath to do that," Cicilline said.

Republicans will also be messaging to the American people — and to Trump himself — as they argue that the articles show Democrats are out to get the president. Most Republicans contend, as Trump does, that he has done nothing wrong, and all of them are expected to vote against the articles.

On Wednesday, Republicans are expected to offer an array of amendments and make procedural motions, even if they know none of them will pass. The Judiciary panel is made up of some of the most partisan members on both sides, and Republicans are expected to launch animated arguments in Trump's defense.

Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, the top Republican on the panel, said the GOP would offer amendments but said they’d mainly be about allowing more time to debate.

“Remember you can’t fix bad," Collins said. “These are bad, you’re not going to fix it.”

Trump then obstructed Congress by ordering current and former officials to defy House subpoenas for testimony and by blocking access to documents, the charges say.

Trump tweeted that to impeach a president “who has done NOTHING wrong, is sheer Political Madness.”

The House is expected to vote on the articles next week, in the days before Christmas. That would send them to the Senate for a 2020 trial.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that he would be "totally surprised'' if there were the necessary 67 votes in the chamber to convict Trump, and signaled options for a swift trial. He said no decision had been made about whether to call witnesses.

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Associated Press writers Alan Fram and Padmananda Rama contributed to this report.