Political News

David Tran/iStock(NEW YORK) -- U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced Thursday it no longer plans to move forward with a facial recognition program that would conduct a mandatory scan of all U.S. citizens arriving or departing the country at airports and ports of entry, reversing course on a Trump administration plan.

Customs currently permits U.S. citizens to voluntarily opt-in for the photographs. But a proposal published by the Office of Information and Regulatory affairs stipulates that "all travelers, including U.S. citizens, may be required to be photographed upon entry and/or departure.”

"There are no current plans to require U.S. citizens to provide photographs upon entry and exit from the United States," a Customs and Border Protection spokesman said in a statement. "CBP intends to have the planned regulatory action regarding U.S. citizens removed from the unified agenda next time it is published.”

CBP says they initially considered including U.S. citizens in their biometric entry-exit program due to the logistical challenges of having separate entry processes for U.S. citizens and foreign nationals at airports nationwide.

But after significant pushback from the American Civil Liberties Union and members of Congress, the CBP reversed course to allow U.S. citizens to continue to voluntarily participate in the biometric entry-exit program.

Earlier this year, U.S. Customs officials announced that the photos of roughly 100,000 travelers were hacked as part of a "malicious cyber-attack" on a federal contractor.

The reversal won praise from Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., who led a bipartisan effort in Congress along with Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, to stop mandatory facial scanning.

“This is a victory for every single American traveler who flies on a plane, and a reminder that the we must remain vigilant protectors of our right to privacy,” Markey said. “Thanks to swift and public pressure, Homeland Security is reversing course and not moving forward with its dystopian facial recognition proposal at U.S. airports."

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Credit: Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) -- A “few” Senate Republicans agree that President Donald Trump's actions were impeachable, but they are unlikely to speak out against the president because they fear the political ramifications, Democratic Sen. Chris Coons said Thursday.

“There are, I believe, a few Republicans who recognize that what President Trump did here was demonstrably impeachable, but who are very concerned about the political consequences for them and their party,” the Delaware senator said in an interview on CNN.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Thursday that she has instructed House Democrats to begin the process to formally draw up articles of impeachment against Trump, saying he had abused his power "for his own personal political benefit at the expense of our national security."

"Sadly, but with confidence and humility ... today I am asking our chairmen to proceed with articles of impeachment," Pelosi said.

As the House prepares to draft articles of impeachment, lawmakers on the other side of the Capitol have begrudgingly begun preparing on their end, too.

“So much for being prayerful and thoughtful, I think it's a bad day for the country, I think this whole thing is a joke,” South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of the president’s top allies in the Senate, told reporters Thursday.

“I like Nancy Pelosi as a person, but this process has been hijacked,” Graham said. “I think the most radical people in the country are running, driving the impeachment process and either she gets on the train or she's going to get run over by it.”

Other senators, however, have said they’re ready to get the impeachment trial over with.

“I guess if you're going to come up with an inadequate case, you might as well go for the impeachment and have the circus,” Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., told reporters, adding that he's glad they're getting to it "sooner rather than later."

"I think time is somewhat of the essence. People are tired of it and there's an election coming," Cramer continued. "I'm grateful for it. I'm glad. I'm anxious to see the articles and then look forward to sitting down for a trial."

A top White House official delivered Trump's demands for a "fair" Senate trial to reporters on Capitol Hill Wednesday.

"We believe very strongly, given the fatally flawed process in the House, that if they were to elect against our better advice to provide articles of impeachment -- send articles to the Senate -- that we need witnesses as part of our trial and full defense of the president on the facts," Eric Ueland, White House legislative affairs director said.

Coons said that because Republicans hold the majority in the Senate, it will be difficult for Democrats to stop them from pursuing live witnesses as part of the Senate’s impeachment trial, such as former Vice President Joe Biden or his son, Hunter Biden, or House Intelligence Committee Chairman, California Rep. Adam Schiff.

“I suspect Republicans would quickly come to regret giving [Biden] the opportunity to speak up about President Trump's role in interfering with Ukraine in such an unprecedented way,” Coons said on CNN. “Because the Republicans have the majority in the Senate and they ultimately could set the rules for this impeachment trial by a bare majority, there is very little Democrats in the Senate could do to stop them."

Coons added, “We will be relying on a small number of Republicans who are pushing back against this idea and who recognize that impeachment is a serious, significant, constitutional moment.”

Meanwhile, some Republicans, like Cramer, do want to hear from witnesses like Schiff.

“I do think there's an increasing need for Chairman Schiff to have to testify. I think his motives ought to be brought into the scenario considering especially that he's now subpoenaed phone records of other members of Congress,” Cramer said. “I mean, clearly if other members of Congress, including on his committee, are under suspicion, then he certainly ought to be.”

The entire month of January remains a question mark on the official calendar, with senators acknowledging that an impeachment trial will likely suck up all of the “oxygen” in the room, leaving them no time to conduct other legislative business.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., blasted Pelosi and House Democrats for launching the impeachment inquiry in the face of unfinished legislative items, including funding the federal government ahead of a Dec. 20 deadline.

"Only in this town, only in Washington, D.C., does anybody think it’s okay for our armed forces to go unfunded ... and a major trade deal to go un-passed ... because Democrats are too busy hosting a panel of law professors to criticize President Trump on television,” McConnell said on the Senate floor Thursday.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, of New York, responded to McConnell, saying he was “simply wrong” for tarnishing the House Democrats’ impeachment process.

“It's so disheartening, confounding and deeply disappointing that at this historic moment I heard the Republican Leader criticizing in such strident terms the process of the impeachment inquiry in the House for being too short and not including enough witnesses or due process for the president,” Schumer said on the Senate floor.

He continued, “The charges against the president are extremely serious. No belittling of these charges will hold any water.”

Coons said Senate Democrats will continue to do work to get bills passed while the Democratic caucus continues the conversation on how they will respond during the proceedings.

“But, there hasn't been a serious beginning of negotiations between Republicans and Democrats in the Senate about what the rules will be,” he said.

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adamkaz/iStock(NEW HAMPTON, IA) -- In a strikingly tense moment on the campaign trail, Joe Biden confronted a man at a town hall in New Hampton, Iowa, calling him "a damn liar" after he pressed the former vice president on his son's business ties to Ukraine.

"We all know Trump has been messing around in Ukraine over there, saying that they want to investigate you. He has no backbone, we know that. But you, on the other hand, sent your son over there to get a job and work for a gas company that he had no experience with gas or nothing in order to get access for the president. So you're selling access to the president just like he was," the man told Biden, after saying Biden was too old to be president.

"You're a damn liar, man. That's not true. No one has ever said that," a heated Biden responded. "No one has said my son has done anything wrong, and I did not on any occasion, and nobody has ever said it."

Biden also challenged the man to do push-ups and take an IQ test with him to prove his physical and mental fitness to be president.

After the man, who refused to give his name to ABC News, said he is not voting for Biden, the presidential contender and front-runner said, "Of course you're not. You're too old to vote for me."

At the heart of the man's allegations against Biden and his son, Hunter, is that the younger Biden accepted a lucrative seat on the board of directors for Burisma, the Ukrainian company in 2014, during the elder Biden's tenure as vice president.

While the Bidens have not been accused of doing anything illegal, ethics experts say Hunter Biden’s foreign business activity presents ethical concerns.

Trump and his allies have sought to advance a theory that Biden used his position to shield his son and Burisma from investigation by pushing Ukraine's government to fire its then-prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin. But Shokin was widely considered ineffective in dealing with corruption both within Ukraine and internationally, and no evidence has emerged to support that theory. No evidence has surfaced, either, that Biden "sent his son" or otherwise used his influence to get his son a seat on the company's board.

Speaking with reporters after the event wrapped, Biden dismissed questions about whether he had lost his temper.

"I didn’t lose my temper, what I wanted to do was shut this down," he said. "You saw the reaction of all the people here...what I wanted to make clear to him was: if he gets more out of control, this is not appropriate behavior at all. That was the message."

This is not the first time Biden, who has previously launched unsuccessful bids for nation's highest office in 1988 and 2008, engaged in a tense exchange with an attendee at a campaign event.

During Biden's first run for president in 1987, a New Hampshire voter, Frank Fahey, found himself on the receiving end of a tirade from the former Delaware senator after he asked what he thought was an innocent question about Biden's law school experience.

Biden took the question as an insult and partially responded, "I think I probably have a much higher IQ than you do, I suspect. I went to law school on a full academic scholarship."

Last month, Fahey, who is now supporting Biden for president and called him the best candidate for the job, reminded Biden of the exchange in early November in New London, and asked Biden what he would have done differently in his handling of the Anita Hill hearings during Clarence Thomas' Supreme Court confirmation hearing.

"You ask all the easy questions...Frankie, baby, it’s no wonder I love you," Biden joked initially before saying he did all he could to help Hill under the rules of the committee at the time, but admitted that she was treated unfairly.

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- In a striking moment Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reacted angrily to a reporter who asked if she hated President Donald Trump, shortly after she announced the House would draw up articles of impeachment against the president.

“I don’t hate anybody,” Pelosi snapped as she pointed and shook a finger at the reporter, James Rosen, a correspondent for Sinclair Broadcast Group who shouted the question as she was leaving her weekly press conference.

Rosen said he was referring to comments from Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., and other Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee from Wednesday’s impeachment hearing with constitutional law scholars.

“As a Catholic I resent your using the word hate in the sentence that addresses me. I don't hate anyone. I was raised in a way that is a heart full of love and always pray for the president,” she said. “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.”

Democrats’ three witnesses in Wednesday’s hearing said Trump abused his office in seeking to pressure Ukraine to launch political investigations. Jonathan Turley, a George Washington University Law School professor and Republicans’ sole witness, argued that Democrats were rushing to impeach Trump prematurely and should continue to investigate and litigate disputes with the executive branch over evidence and testimony in court.

Pelosi said that Trump, in spurning congressional subpoenas and directing current and former aides not to cooperate with House committees, has obstructed their investigations.

“We’re not going to be accomplices to it,” she said.

The California Democrat, who had previously warned that impeachment could polarize and divide the country, defended the decision Thursday to move forward.

“He’s the one who is dividing the country on this. We’re honoring our oaths of office,” she said.

“I think the president is a coward when it comes to helping our kids who are afraid of gun violence. I think he is cruel when he doesn't deal with helping our dreamers of which we're very proud. I think he is in denial about the climate crisis,” she said.

“However, that is about the election,” she added. “This is about the Constitution of the United States and the facts that lead to the president's violation of his oath of office.”

On Monday, the House Judiciary Committee will meet to hear evidence presented by The House Intelligence Committee staff that compiled the 300-page Ukraine report. It’s not clear if the White House will participate in the upcoming hearing.

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Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead(WASHINGTON) -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Thursday that she has instructed House Democrats to draw up articles of impeachment of President Donald Trump, saying he had abused his power.

"Sadly, but with confidence and humility ... today I am asking our chairmen to proceed with articles of impeachment," Pelosi said.

"The facts are uncontested," she said. "The president abused his power for his own personal political benefit at the expense of our national security by withholding military aid and a crucial Oval Office meeting in exchange for an announcement of an investigation into his political rival."

"His wrongdoing strikes at the very heart of our constitution," she added. "Our democracy is what is at stake. The president leaves us no choice but to act."

"If we allow a president to be above the law, we do so at the peril of our republic," she said.

"The facts are uncontested," Pelosi said. "The president abused his power for his own political benefit."

The announcement tees up a House floor vote in the coming weeks that would make Trump just the fourth president in American history to face an impeachment vote, and the third to be impeached by the House of Representatives.

"In America, no one is above the law," Pelosi said.

"The president has engaged in abuse of power undermining our national security and jeopardizing the integrity of our elections. His actions are in defiance of the vision of our Founders and the oath of office that he takes to preserve, protect and defend the constitution of the United States," she said.

About an hour later, Trump tweeted his first reaction, saying that Democrats are focused on impeachment after they "gave up on the ridiculous Mueller 'stuff.'" He said that impeachment is rarely used and suggested impeaching him will set a bad precedent for future presidents.

....This will mean that the beyond important and seldom used act of Impeachment will be used routinely to attack future Presidents. That is not what our Founders had in mind. The good thing is that the Republicans have NEVER been more united. We will win!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 5, 2019

Pelosi's announcement comes after several constitutional law experts told lawmakers the president had abused his power by pressuring Ukraine to open investigations that could benefit him politically.

On Wednesday, three constitutional law professors selected by Democrats told the House Judiciary Committee that Trump’s conduct towards Ukraine warranted impeachment. A law professor chosen by Republicans argued that there wasn't yet sufficient evidence to meet the constitutional standard and that Democrats were rushing to judgment.

After the hearing, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., said he believed the conditions for impeaching Trump had been met.

Pelosi delivered the statement from the same spot where she first announced the start of the Ukraine impeachment inquiry in September, privately discussed moving impeachment with her caucus and leadership team on Wednesday.

There were no objections in the room, when Pelosi asked Democrats “are you ready?” to move forward with proceedings, according to sources familiar with the meeting.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., defended Democrats’ deliberations, and pushed back on the suggestion from Republicans that a vote would be premature.

“This is not rush to judgment,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of information over two and a half years from a lot of different sources, including the Mueller report.”

While Democrats are still divided over the nature and scope of possible charges against Trump, House Judiciary Committee Democrats suggested they could pursue articles on abuse of power and bribery, obstruction of justice, and obstruction of Congress.

Lawmakers are also anticipating a potential floor vote to impeach the president before the end of month, though leadership hasn't made an announcement.

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ABC News(NEW HAMPTON, Iowa) -- Former Secretary of State and Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry announced Thursday that he is endorsing Joe Biden for president, providing a high-profile boost for the former vice president with under two months to go until the first primary votes are cast.

The endorsement comes as Biden continues his eight-day, 18-county “No Malarkey” bus tour through Iowa, which Kerry is set to join on Friday morning.

“I believe Joe Biden is the President our country desperately needs right now, not because I’ve known Joe so long, but because I know Joe so well. I’ve never before seen the world more in need of someone who on day one can begin the incredibly hard work of putting back together the world Donald Trump has smashed apart,” Kerry wrote in a statement released Thursday by the Biden campaign.

Kerry, the Democratic Party’s standard-bearer during the 2004 presidential election, faced an uncertain path to the nomination not dissimilar to the one Biden now faces, and was, like Biden, lagging in the polls in Iowa in the final stretch to caucus day.

In a tweet highlighting his endorsement, Kerry underscored that his support of Biden is because he knows him well and feels "he'll be ready on day one to put back together the country and the world that Donald Trump has broken apart."

Kerry's criticism of Trump came on the heels of a video released by the Biden campaign shortly after President Trump touched down on U.S. soil following the NATO summit.

The video features Canadian PM Justin Trudeau, French President Emanuel Macron and British PM Boris Johnson all appearing to laugh on camera in reference to Trump.

"A President the world is laughing at," reads a text slate in the video.

Biden has also talked about Trump being mocked on the world stage at nearly every one of his campaign events in Iowa on Wednesday.

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Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump tweeted Thursday morning to Democrats that if they are going to impeach him, they should "do it now, fast, so we can have a fair trial in the Senate."

Trump's tweet came shortly before House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that she was instructing House Democratic chairmen to draw up articles of impeachment.

The Do Nothing Democrats had a historically bad day yesterday in the House. They have no Impeachment case and are demeaning our Country. But nothing matters to them, they have gone crazy. Therefore I say, if you are going to impeach me, do it now, fast, so we can have a fair....

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 5, 2019

Biden has said he won't testify.

Immediately after Pelosi's announcement, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham tweeted: "@SpeakerPelosi & the Democrats should be ashamed. @realDonaldTrump has done nothing but lead our country - resulting in a booming economy, more jobs & a stronger military, to name just a few of his major accomplishments. [USA flag emoji] We look forward to a fair trial in the Senate."

A top White House official said on Capitol Hill Wednesday that President Trump is demanding a full trial featuring live witnesses in the Senate chamber if and when the House sends over articles of impeachment to the Senate later this month.

After he arrived at the White House from his trip to London, President Trump tweeted late Wednesday night about his July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy…

Trump tweeted that when he told Zelenskiy, “I would like you to do us a favor though” that the “us” referred to the United States.

When I said, in my phone call to the President of Ukraine, “I would like you to do US a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it.” With the word “us” I am referring to the United States, our Country. I then went on to say that......

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 5, 2019

House Democrats have alleged that Trump was asking Ukraine to investigate his political rivals for his own personal political benefit – not for the benefit of the United States.

When Trump last night noted that he brought up the U.S. attorney general, he neglected to mention that he later told Zelenskiy he wanted him to speak not only with U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr, but also with his own personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.

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ABC News(MANCHESTER, N.H.) -- A two-day snowstorm wasn't enough to scare off Hawaii-native Rep. Tulsi Gabbard from New Hampshire. In fact, she's officially moved to the state.

While other candidates are focusing on Iowa, Gabbard is placing her bets on New Hampshire. Gabbard is one poll short of the four needed to qualify for the December debate stage; two of the qualifying polls were from New Hampshire.

At 5%, Gabbard was tied for fifth place in the Oct. 29 CNN/University of New Hampshire poll of likely primary voters in the state. However, nationally, she received just 2% support, according to the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll released on Nov. 3.

"We had a town hall in Rochester and then in Gilford right before the storm hit and people said, 'You must be getting out of town.' It was like, 'Nope, we’re here for the duration,'" Gabbard told Manchester ABC affiliate WMUR-TV.

During this week's storm, Gabbard posted pictures showing her doing yoga in her newly rented New Hampshire home as 2 feet of snow piled up outside.

She said she isn’t giving up on the other early voting states, saying she will be in South Carolina "in a couple of weeks. But we look forward to spending a lot of time [in New Hampshire]."

Snow isn’t a foreign entity to Gabbard, despite growing up in Hawaii. She has spent several years on the mainland in Washington -- both as a congresswoman and a congressional staffer for the late Sen. Daniel Akaka -- and just this week braved the 20-degree weather marching in a holiday parade in Laconia, New Hampshire.

She did joke that Christmas this year will be a little different: "I grew up in Hawaii where Christmas was you know 80 degrees and a day at the beach. And so being here for the winter, you know, the first snow of the year is always fun."

Gabbard will likely spend the holiday season campaigning. New Hampshire is a unique state where 78% of likely primary voters said they are still trying to decide what candidate to support, or are leaning toward someone, but have not yet definitely decided on a candidate, according to the CNN/UNH poll.

Marty Prichard, an undecided voter in the state, said he's looking for a candidate who brings "youth, new ideas and new concepts."

"We're at a point in this country where things are very partisan within party lines," Prichard told ABC News after an event featuring South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Prichard said he’s looking for a candidate who can bridge that divide and only two candidates fit that bill: Buttgieg and Gabbard.

At a crowded town hall at Keene State College in Keene, New Hampshire, in October, Gabbard acknowledged she had an uphill battle getting her name out there to voters. While 5% is enough to get her into debates, she remains well behind the favorites, even specifically in New Hampshire. Sen. Bernie Sanders, from neighboring Vermont, led in the October CNN/UNH poll with 21%, with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, from bordering Massachusetts, at 18%, former Vice President Joe Biden at 15%, Buttigieg at 10% and both Andrew Yang and Sen. Amy Klobuchar also at 5%.

"I don't have the same kind of high level of name recognition as somebody like Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden, or others," she admitted.

In an attempt to fix the problem she has blanketed the state with billboards over the past year and said she’s received a good return on investment.

"We have folks coming to our town hall meetings, saying, 'Hey, I saw this yard sign,' or 'I saw this billboard and I thought, 'Huh I wonder who that is? And then I forgot about it. Then I saw another one, and another one, and another one and another one,'” Gabbard relayed.

While Gabbard is doubling down on New Hampshire, she's not the only one. Yang opened a campaign office in Manchester on Tuesday, marking his 75th event in the state. Buttigieg is beginning his 14th trip to the state on Thursday.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story inaccurately characterized Gabbard's move to New Hampshire. Gabbard will be spending a significant portion of time in the state through the first-in-the-nation primary, while keeping Hawaii as her official state of residence.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Former Vice President Joe Biden is responding unequivocally to a top White House official who said Wednesday that President Donald Trump is demanding a full Senate trial, featuring live witnesses, if and when the House sends over articles of impeachment: He does not plan to attend voluntarily.

"No, I’m not going to let them take their eye off the ball," Biden said outside a campaign event in Iowa Falls, Iowa, on Wednesday afternoon. "The president is the one who has committed impeachable crimes, and I’m not going to let him divert from that. I’m not going to let anyone divert from that."

Eric Ueland, White House legislative affairs director, delivered Trump's demands to reporters on Capitol Hill earlier in the day.

"We believe very strongly, given the fatally flawed process in the House, that if they were to elect against our better advice to provide articles of impeachment -- send articles to the Senate -- that we need witnesses as part of our trial and full defense of the president on the facts," Ueland said.

Ueland gaggled with a handful of reporters just steps away from the Senate chamber for roughly 20 minutes following a closed-door lunch meeting with Senate Republicans on impeachment strategy.

Also in attendance during the luncheon: White House counsel Pat Cipollone, former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and former Treasury spokesman Tony Sayegh -- the latter two have both been charged with handling the administration's communication strategy on impeachment.

"The underlying impeachment rules of the Senate afford the president a full suite of rights to argue his case on the facts and on the merits," Ueland said. "That's why we believe quite strongly that in order to make the president's whole case in contradiction to a partisan process which doesn't allow him to make his full case, that we need both a full trial and the opportunity to call witnesses and work a trial over here on the Senate floor."

He suggested the White House wants live witnesses as part of the trial, instead of relying on videotaped depositions like the ones entered into evidence during former President Bill Clinton's impeachment trial in 1999. Ueland did not, however, provide details as to who those witnesses might be.

"The president wants his case made fully in the Senate with a full trial and that’s a point we’re going to make consistently," Ueland said.

Republican senators coming out of the meeting offered no additional insights on the process of a potential trial, with many saying they are simply waiting to see what the House ends up doing.

"It was an opportunity for our members to ask questions, for some to offer comments, but you know again it's a fluid process, there’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding this," South Dakota Sen. John Thune said.

GOP Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas called the discussion "free-ranging" and broad in scope.

"There was nothing designed in my view to sway anybody one way or the other To be honest, it was really not very -- I hate to say this because, you know I've been to the White House for the lunch meetings -- it's pretty much the same stuff," North Dakota Sen. Kevin Cramer said.

"There was nothing new or a revelation, just a discussion of what might occur," Indiana Sen. Mike Braun said in agreement.

Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt gave a small glimpse into what the proposed strategy will be for Senate Republicans.

"Well, the strategy is what the leader talked about the other day: when it gets to the Senate he will decide what the calendar looks like and how much willingness there is to have an agreement, a bipartisan agreement, and if not, how much willingness there is to have 51 votes to either amend or move forward with the current Senate rules," Blunt said.

He continued: "I do think that the president's counsel said enough times -- and he wanted to be sure that we heard it -- that even though they're talking about what they may do if it comes here - they clearly don't believe, based on what's happened so far, that the House should send it here."

The Republican-controlled Senate also released its 2020 calendar without anything scheduled for the month of January due to the uncertainty surrounding the impeachment trial.

"The only thing I know for sure is that nobody knows what we're doing in January yet," Cramer said. "I think it's just prudent planning.

"January will be a little on the fly," Thune said.

Blunt weighed in as well, saying "often there’s a break around Martin Luther King Day and other things that may very well not happen if we're involved in the impeachment process."

Cramer added, "Worst case scenario, let's hope."

While Senate Republicans met with White House officials to discuss strategy, Senate Democrats said they are preparing for a potential trial, too.

A source close to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the senator gave a presentation during their caucus lunch "confined to the mechanics of a potential Senate trial because articles have not been drafted."

"As a part of Schumer’s presentation, members were shown video clips from the 1999 trial to familiarize themselves with the process," the aide said.

The aide added that only seven of the current 47 Senate Democrats were in the Senate during Clinton's 1999 trial.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Mark WIlson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- (WASHINGTON) --  The impeachment inquiry moved to the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday with a panel of constitutional scholars tackling the million dollar question in the debate: Do President Donald Trump's actions warrant impeachment under the Constitution?

Three of the witnesses were lawyers handpicked by the Democratic majority: Pamela Khan, a professor at Stanford Law School; Michael Gerhardt a professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law; and Noah Feldman, a professor at Harvard Law School.

The lone Republican-picked witness was Jonathan Turley, a professor at the George Washington University Law School.

Here's what you need to know about the hearing:

The Democratic-picked lawyers say Trump is what the Founding Fathers had in mind with impeachment

Among the three Democratic-picked lawyers, there was no doubt: Trump, they testified, abused his power in office by pressuring Ukraine to investigate his political rival. And soliciting a foreign power for personal and political gain was exactly what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they tucked impeachment powers into the Constitution, they said. If left unchecked, the president could continue to invite foreign powers to help his upcoming election, the lawyers argued.

"We three are unanimous," Gehardt said, when they were asked if Trump's actions amount to a "high crime and misdemeanor," as identified in the Constitution.

"If Congress fails to impeach here, then the impeachment process has lost all meaning, and, along with that, our Constitution's carefully crafted safeguards against the establishment of a king on American soil," Gerhardt said in his opening statement. "No one, not even the president, is beyond the reach of our Constitution and our laws."

The most colorful examples came from Karlan, who described being so riveted by witness testimony in the impeachment hearings that she opted for a mail-order turkey this Thanksgiving so that she could spend her time combing through the details. One "chilling line" by Ambassador Gordon Sondland's testimony, she said, was that Trump didn't need Ukraine to pursue a corruption case against Democrat Joe Biden, but rather just announce one.

"This was not about whether (former) Vice President Biden actually committed corruption or not. This was about injuring somebody who the president thinks of as a particularly hard opponent," she said.

Karlan also compared Trump's actions with Ukraine to a president withholding disaster aid for a state.

"Imagine living in a part of Louisiana or Texas that's prone to devastating hurricanes and flooding," Karlan told the panel.

"What would you think if you lived there and your governor asked for a meeting with the president to discuss getting disaster aid that Congress has provided for? What would you think if that president said, I would like you to do us a favor. I'll meet with you, and I'll send the disaster relief once you brand my opponent a criminal."

The GOP-picked lawyer had a somewhat surprising argument against impeachment

Turley, who testified during President Bill Clinton's impeachment inquiry 21 years earlier, gave an unusual argument on behalf of Republicans and against impeachment. He didn't defend the president's actions or Trump himself. Turley noted he doesn't support Trump politically and even voted against him in the 2016 election. He did say he's a longtime friend of Trump's attorney general, William Barr.

But Turley also argued that Democrats were setting a dangerous precedent that could one day be used to smear one of their own.

"I get it. You're mad," he told the panel in his opening statement. "The president's mad. My Republican friends are mad. My Democratic friends are mad. My wife is mad. My kids are mad. Even my dog seems mad."

Impeachment though won't lessen that anger, he warned. Turley said he didn't think Trump's actions were a "clear case of bribery" and that Democrats should wait for the courts to weigh in on their demands for more documents and witness testimony.

Democrats have said they can't wait because Trump's actions present a "crisis" that must be addressed.

"That's why this is wrong," Turley said of impeachment. "It's not wrong because Trump is right. … It's wrong because this is not how you impeach an American president."

He urged Democrats to consider what they will do "when the wind blows again perhaps for a Democratic president."

"Where will you stand then?" he asked.

A conservative congressman attacked the panel as elitists

In perhaps the most explosive exchange of the day, Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz attacked the panelists summoned by Democrats as politically motivated elitists and noted their past contributions to progressive campaigns.

According to records by the Federal Election Commission, Karlan has donated money to Sen. Elizabeth Warren's current presidential campaign, and Gerhardt donated money to both of President Barack Obama's election campaigns. Karlan also testified to having supported Hillary Clinton's campaign.

Gaetz, the conservative firebrand and provocateur who at one point crashed closed-door impeachment testimony, accused Karlan of living in "the ivory towers of your law school." He also criticized Karlan for making a joke about the president's teen son, Barron Trump.

Earlier in the hearing, Karlan was explaining that the Constitution was written in a way to make the U.S. president behave differently than a king, specifically excluding titles of nobility.

"While the president can name his son 'Barron,' he can't make him a baron," she said.

When it was Gaetz's turn to question the witnesses, he jumped on the remark as an attack on a "minor child."

"That does not lend credibility to your argument," Gaetz said. "It makes you look mean. It makes you look like you are attacking someone's family."

Karlan said she did not have contempt for conservatives and added, "I have a constitutional right to give money to candidates."

She later asked to apologize for alluding to Barron Trump.

"If I can say one thing, I want to apologize for what I said earlier about the president's son. It was wrong of me to do that," Karlan said. "I wish the president would apologize for the things he's said wrong, but I do regret having said that."

Republicans tried to throw sand in the gears early on

Republicans immediately tried to throw a wrench in the works with demands of procedural inquiries and roll call votes to force testimony from other witnesses.

The theatrics on Wednesday succeeded in slowing down the pace of the hearing and hammered away at a key GOP talking point: The impeachment process is unfair, the Republicans have said repeatedly.

Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, the top Republican on the panel, opened the hearing by saying the Democratic quest for impeachment didn't start with Russia or election meddling but rather when liberal voters refused to accept the 2016 election results.

"This is not an impeachment. This is simply a railroad job and today's is a waste of time," Collins said.

Roles were reversed during Clinton's impeachment

A poster standing in the hearing room quoted longtime Rep. Jerry Nadler, now the House Judiciary Committee chairman, in 1998 making the same argument Republicans are pressing now -- that impeachment is unfair because it attempts to undo the results of a national election.

Nadler indeed railed against GOP impeachment efforts at the time, when Clinton was impeached for lying under oath to try to hide an extra-marital affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

"There must never be a narrowly voted impeachment or an impeachment substantially supported by one of our major political parties and largely opposed by the other," Nadler said at the time of Clinton's impeachment. "Such an impeachment would lack legitimacy, would produce divisiveness and bitterness in our politics for years to come. And will call into question the very legitimacy of our political institutions."

On Wednesday, Nadler said one big difference between the two presidents is that Trump has refused to cooperate, noting Clinton's willingness to provide a blood sample to be tested for DNA at one point.

"President Trump, by contrast, has refused to produce a single document, and directed every witness not to testify. Those are the facts before us," he said.

Turley, the Republican-picked witness who also testified in 1998, noted that both impeachment proceedings were driven by hyper partisanship.

"The stifling intolerance for opposing views is the same," Turley said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


rarrarorro/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- The investigation into President Donald Trump enters a historic next phase on Wednesday as the House Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on the constitutional grounds for drafting articles of impeachment.

The process of drawing up any articles, now becoming increasingly likely, could begin shortly after members question legal experts about the "Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors" the Constitution requires.

Among the key questions: Are Trump’s actions the danger the Founders warned about? Is impeachment the remedy they envisioned?

Much of the focus is on the Judiciary Committee's Democratic chairman, Jerry Nadler, and whether he can control Republican objections and maintain the momentum of the Democrats' impeachment drive -- an effort that Trump on Tuesday once again called a "hoax."

This is how the hearing is unfolding. Please refresh for updates.

FiveThirtyEight is live blogging the hearing as well here -- including analysis from ABC News Political Director Rick Klein and ABC News Deputy Political Director MaryAlice Parks.

3:41 p.m.

ABC News Capitol Hill reporter Sarah Kolinovsky reports that during breaks, members of the Judiciary Committee spoke to reporters at a pool camera to give their takes on what they think the most important points have been made during the hearing.

Democrat Rep. Pramila Jayapal highlighted the idea "'when a president obstructs Congress in getting the information that we need to get, that essentially torpedoes the balance of power that is built into the Constitution.' I think that that is a very, very important point, and we should come back to that over and over and over again," she said, pointing to a possible obstruction article of impeachment.

She also underscored the fact that no Republicans have attempted to defend the president's actions -- it's been all process, no substance.

"They tried to talk about the process, how it might be too fast, how this, that, but I think it’s very very compelling that there has not been a defense presented of the actual facts that are on the record," Jayapal said.

The only Republican to speak, Ranking Member Doug Collins, continued to deride the process of the hearing.

"I think the American people frankly are getting lost and I think that’s one of the things we’re going to be looking at going forward in this, but it also brings me back to my question for my chairman, is: 'Why are we simply doing this with no plan to go forward with actual fact witnesses?'”

He added, “I respect all the law professors, they're doing their job as they said they would, but this does not move the needle as far as understanding why we’re in this process to start with."

3:35 p.m.

After the hearing resumed at 2:43 p.m. the president's son Barron came up in one exchange.

When Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas asked Karlan, "What comparisons, Professor Karlan, can we make between kings that the framers were afraid of and the president's conduct today? she responded, "So, kings could do no wrong, because the king's word was law. And contrary to what President Trump has said, Article II does not give him the power to do anything he wants. And I’ll just give you one example that shows you the difference between him and a king, which is the Constitution says there can be no titles of nobility. So, while the president can name his son Barron, he can’t make him a baron."

Karlan's comment received some applause in the hearing room, but the White House shot back at 3:12 p.m.

"Classless move by a Democratic “witness”. Prof Karlan uses a teenage boy who has nothing to do with this joke of a hearing (and deserves privacy) as a punchline. And what’s worse, it’s met by laughter in the hearing room. What is being done to this country is no laughing matter," White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham tweeted.

1:31 p.m.

Nadler calls a break for votes.

12:54 p.m.

ABC News' congressional reporter Benjamin Siegel reports from the hearing room: Turley is also raising questions about the timeline, arguing that Democrats are rushing to impeach Trump prematurely without hearing from all witnesses and allowing the courts to adjudicate disputes over documents and testimony between Congress and the White House.

"If you impeach a president, if you make a high crime and misdemeanor out of going to the courts, it is an abuse of power. It's your abuse of power. You're doing precisely what you are criticizing the president for doing. We have a third branch that deals with conflicts of the other two branches, and what comes out of there, and what you do with it is the very definition of legitimacy," Turley says.

Turley also seemed to question whether Democrats are actually aiming to build a successful impeachment case for a Senate trial. "Fast is not good for impeachment. Narrow, fast impeachments have failed, just ask Johnson," he said. "This is the narrowest impeachment in history."

12:29 p.m.

Nadler gavels the hearing back into session as questioning by the Republican side commences.

The expert witness for the Republicans, Jonathan Turley, makes an extended argument about why impeachment, especially for bribery, isn't warranted based on the evidence.

Turley says bribery is not an overarching concept as House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff has cited, saying that while there was no legal definition included in the Constitution, that didn't mean the term didn't have a specific meaning.

He says these crimes have meaning and that bribery has been specifically defined as accepting money or gifts as a head of state or person in public office.

"So I don't think that dog will hunt in the 18th century and I don't think it will hunt today," he says, adding that the Supreme Court has ruled you can't apply a "boundless interpretation" to a crime like bribery. "This isn't improvisational jazz. Close enough is not good enough. If you're going to accuse a president of bribery, you need to make it stick because you're trying to remove a duly elected president,"

Turley also says that the evidence presented so far does not establish the crime of obstruction of justice, saying that he also been a critic of the obstruction article against President Nixon.

Turley argues that the judicial branch also has a role in deciding disputes between the president and Congress about what information has to be turned over and that an obstruction case is much stronger if Congress can argue the president defies a court order.

"President Trump has gone to the courts, he's allowed to do that. We have three branches, not two," he said, going on to criticize how quickly the Democrats have pursued the impeachment inquiry. "It's a perfect storm. You set an incredibly short period, demand a huge amount of information, and when the president goes to court, you then impeach him," he says.

12:27 p.m.

ABC News' Ben Gittleson reports on the president's reaction to the hearing:

"It is the most unfair thing that anybody's ever seen," Trump told reporters during a photo op earlier Wednesday with Italy's prime minister at the NATO summit in London. "They would have done much better if they gave us equal representation, because the public gets it. But just look at today. Now, I don't think too many people are going to watch, because it's going to be boring. Alright? In fact, you're here, I guess you're here and we'll supersede it, right? But not a lot of people are going to be watching today, but just think of this: Constitutional lawyers, they get three, and we get one. What kind of a deal is that? You don't need a constitutional lawyer, because there was nothing done wrong. Zero done wrong."

Asked to comment on the House Democrats' impeachment report that came out Tuesday and the hearing today, Trump replied: "It’s a joke, everybody is saying it. And I watched reviews, I watched Hannity, Sean Hannity, I watched Laura Ingram, I watched Tucker Carlson, I watched a lot of other legal scholars, frankly, I watched some people with great legal talent and highly respected -- Alan Dershowitz, and many more, many more."

12:10 p.m.

Chairman Nadler calls a brief break.

12:05 p.m.

Feldman touches on the argument that the president did not commit a crime or impeachable offense because Ukraine ultimately got the military aid without announcing investigations.

“The possibility that the president might get caught in the process of attempting to abuse his office and then not be able to pull it off does not undercut in any way the impeachability of the acts,” he says.

“President Nixon was subject to articles of impeachment preferred by this committee for attempting to cover up the Watergate break-in. The fact that the president was not ultimately successful in covering up the break-in was not grounds for not impeaching him. The attempt itself is the impeachable act,” he says.

Gerhardt adds that every president who has been impeached failed to achieve the goals they set out to achieve, or at least to get away with it.

“One of the things to understand from the history of impeachment is everybody who's impeached has failed. They've failed to get what they wanted. And what they wanted was not just to do what they did, but to get away with it,” he said.

ABC News' Devin Dwyer notes that as we've seen in polling and heard first-hand from voters -- Republican and Democrat -- there is a prevalent view in public opinion that judgment on the president's might be better left to voters in the 2020 election. 'What's the point in all this' - some say - 'especially if Trump won't be removed by the Senate? Just fight it out at the ballot box next year.'

Today, Democrats and the witnesses are attempting to directly answer those skeptics.

"We are all aware that the next election is looming, but we cannot wait for the election to address the present crisis. The integrity of that election is one of the very things at stake," Chairman Nadler said in his opening.

"The president has shown us his pattern of conduct. If we do not act to hold him in check now, President Trump will almost certainly try again to solicit interference in the election for his personal political gain."

Feldman, Karlan and Gerhardt all echoed those points prominently in their testimonies.

Feldman said the historical origins of impeachment were rooted in a fear a president might "corrupt the electoral process and ensure his re-election."

11:50 a.m.

Karlan says Trump’s actions in regard to Ukraine establish bribery as a “high crime or misdemeanor,” even though that definition can be different from the definition of bribery under criminal law.

She says bribery as it relates to impeachment is based on how it was understood in 18th century common law.

“When you took private benefits or when you asked for private benefits in return for an official act, or someone gave them to you to influence an official act, that was bribery,” she said.

11:47 a.m.

ABC News Senior Congressional Correspondent Mary Bruce notes that Chairman Nadler has dropped a lot of hints about the likely scope of the articles of impeachment this morning, suggesting they could pursue all constitutional grounds.

“Never before has a president engaged in a course of conduct that included all of the acts that most concerned the Framers,” Nadler said.

So far, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff have said Trump’s conduct could constitute bribery but here Nadler is suggesting it also rises to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors.

And in his line of questioning now, Democratic Counsel Norm Eisen is suggesting they could pursue articles based on abuse of power and bribery, obstruction of congress and obstruction of justice.

Right off the bat, Eisen asked the witnesses “did President Trump commit impeachable high crime and misdemeanor of abuse of power based on that evidence and those findings?”

Feldman, Karlan and Gephardt all said yes. “We three are unanimous,” Gephardt said.

In his opening statement, Nadler leaned heavily into obstruction, saying “there is precedent for recommending impeachment here,” noting other presidents have been impeached for obstruction.

And Nadler suggested they may broaden the scope to include obstruction of the Mueller probe as well.

11:43 a.m.

ABC News' Katherine Faulders reports from the hearing room that lawyers for the committee are expected to conduct a majority of the questioning in today’s hearing.

The majority counsel Norm Eisen, now questioning the experts, is a former “ethics czar” in the Obama administration and former U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic. Eisen served as special counsel and special assistant to the president for ethics and government reform in the White House from 2009-2011.

 He is the founder of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) -- a liberal watchdog group that filed the emoluments lawsuit against Trump, claiming he has violated the Constitution by profiting from his business empire while serving in office.

The Republican counsel is Paul Taylor, a veteran committee lawyer who has also worked as an associate at two well-known private law firms, Kirkland & Ellis and Covington & Burling. He graduated from Yale in 1991 and from Harvard law school in 1994.

His official title is Chief Republican Counsel, House Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties.

11:20 a.m.

The expert witness called by Republicans, George Washington University Law School professor Jonathan Turley, disagrees with the other constitutional scholars.

Turley argues the facts presented by the House Intelligence Committee don't meet the necessary standard for impeachment.

He makes a point to say that he does not support and voted against President Trump and has been critical of his policies, rhetoric, and comments about Hunter Biden.

 Turley calls the current legal case for impeachment not just “woefully inadequate, but in some respects, dangerous, as the basis for the impeachment of an American president.”

“I am concerned about lowering impeachment standards to fit a paucity of evidence and an abundance of anger. If the House proceeds solely on the Ukrainian allegations, this impeachment would stand out among modern impeachments as the shortest proceeding, with the thinnest evidentiary record, and the narrowest grounds ever used to impeach a president.,” Turley says in his opening statement.

“That does not bode well for future presidents who are working in a country often sharply and, at times, bitterly divided,” he says.

In a lighter moment, he appeals to the political divisions around the country today, asking the committee to look beyond politics and think carefully about this impeachment.

"I get it. You are mad. The President is mad. My Democratic friends are mad. My Republican friends are mad. My wife is mad. My kids are mad. Even my dog is mad . . . and Luna is a golden doodle and they are never mad," he said, asking if an impeachment will "make us all less mad or will it only give an invitation for the madness to follow in every future administration," Turley continues.

"It is not wrong because President Trump is right. His call was anything but “perfect” and his reference to the Bidens was highly inappropriate... No, it is wrong because this is not how an American president should be impeached."

FiveThirtyEight is live blogging the hearing as well here -- including analysis from ABC News Political Director Rick Klein and ABC News Deputy Political Director MaryAlice Parks.

11:05 a.m.

The third law professor called by Democrats, Michael Gerhardt of the University of North Carolina School of law, agrees with Pamela Karlan and Noah Feldman, the previous two witnesses.

"The record compiled this far shows that the president has committed several impeachable offenses, including bribery, abuse of power in soliciting a personal favor from a foreign leader to benefit himself personally, obstructing justice and obstructing Congress," Gerhardt says.

Gerhardt said the context and the gravity of a president's conduct are a big part of whether it fits the definition of "high crimes and misdemeanors" and meets the standard for impeachment.

"Both the context and gravity of the president's conduct are clear," Gerhardt said, citing testimony that the president wanted Ukraine to publicly announce investigations into the Bidens but not that he specifically said he wanted the investigations carried out.

"Because it could then be used in this country to manipulate the public into casting aside his political rival," Gerhardt says.

10:58 a.m.

Stanford law professor Pamela Karlan speaks next -- firing an opening shot at the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, GOP Rep. Doug Collins, after he suggested in his opening statement that the legal experts hadn't had time to digest the 300-page report released by Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee.

"Mr. Collins, I would like to say to you, sir, that I read transcripts of every one of the witnesses who appeared in the live hearing because I would not speak about these things without reviewing the facts. So, I'm insulted by the suggestion that as a law professor I don't care about those facts, but everything I read on those occasions tells me that when President Trump invited, indeed, demanded foreign involvement in our upcoming election," she says.

"He struck at the very heart of what makes this a republic to which we pledge allegiance, that demand as Professor Feldman just explained, constituted an abuse of power. I want to explain in my testimony, drawing a foreign government into our elections is an especially serious abuse of power because it undermines democracy itself."

"The very idea that a president might seek the aid of a foreign government in his re-election campaign would have horrified [the Founders], but based on the evidentiary record, that is what President Trump has done," Karlan says.

10:45 a.m.

Noah Feldman, the Harvard Law School law professor, testifies his analysis is that President Trump’s actions fit the constitutional definition of “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

“On the basis of the testimony and evidence before the House, President Trump has committed impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors by corruptly abusing the office of the presidency,” Feldman said, specifically citing Trump's request for Ukrainian President Voldymyr Zelenskiy to pursue investigations into the Bidens and purported Ukraine interference in the 2016 election.

10:32 a.m.

ABC News' congressional reporter Benjamin Siegel reports from the hearing room:

Republicans are already trying to knock Chairman Jerry Nadler off of his game, interjecting multiple times on procedural matters. It won't be the last time they try to use the tools of the minority to air their concerns with what they argue is an unfair process against Trump.

Noteworthy that, on obstruction, Nadler made this comparison to President Bill Clinton's impeachment: "In 1998, President Clinton physically gave his blood. President Trump, by contrast, has refused to produce a single document, and directed every witness not to testify. Those are the facts before us."

Republicans just forced a vote to shelve their request to compel Adam Schiff to testify before the committee. The motion to table passed (24-17) along party lines.

Republicans are afforded this ability under the impeachment inquiry resolution that laid out the parameters of the inquiry. They could, theoretically, continue forcing votes to bring other witnesses (the whistleblower, Hunter Biden, etc.) forward for the rest of the morning.

For now, they have decided to continue pelting Nadler with inquiries about the rules governing the hearing. After a few minutes of back-and-forth, Nadler is trying to get the witnesses to give their opening statements.

10: 20 a.m.

"What's not new is the facts," Ranking Members Doug Collins says in his opening statement. "It's the same sad story," he says.

He argues the Founders were concerned about political impeachment "because you just don't like the guy." he says.

"You know what's driving this? " Collins says. "Two things, it's called the clock and the calendar, the clock and the calendar, most people in life what they truly value you look at their checkbook and their calendar, you know what they value. That's what this committee values. Time. They want to do it before the end of the year. Why? Because the chairman said it a few seconds ago, because we're scared of the elections last year that we'll lose again. So we got to do this now. The clock and the calendar are what's driving impeachment. Not the facts,"

"This is not an impeachment. This is just a simple railroad job, and today's [hearing] is a waste of time," Collins continues.

"It didn't start with Mueller, it didn't' start with a phone call ... it started with tears in Brooklyn in November 2016," he says.

10:06 a.m.

Chairman Jerry Nadler gavels the hearing open.

"The facts before are us are undisputed," the New York Democrat says, adding that President Trump has attacked witnesses who've testified previously.

"He did everything in his power to prevent the American people from learning about his conduct," he said.

Nadler stressed the Founders' concerns about foreign interference in elections and the president's lack of cooperation with congressional investigations.

"Never before has a president engaged in a course of conduct that included all of the acts that most concerned the Framers. The patriots who founded our country were not fearful men. They fought a war. They witnessed terrible violence. They overthrew a king. But as they met to frame our Constitution, those patriots still feared one threat above all---foreign interference in our elections," Nadler said in his opening statement.

"The storm in in which we find ourselves today was set in motion by President Trump," Nadler said in his opening statement.

"The president has shown us his pattern of conduct. If we do not act to hold him in check now, President Trump will almost certainly try again, to solicit interference in the election for his personal political gain," he added.

9:58 a.m.

Members and witnesses are starting to take their seats in the hearing room.

President Donald Trump has cancelled his conference in London scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Washington time, shortly after the hearing was supposed to get underway.

A GOP member of the Judiciary Committee and vocal critic of the impeachment inquiry, Rep. Matt Gaetz. told ABC News Senior Washington Reporter on ABC News Live that Republicans will continue to push to call their own witnesses to defend Trump, but said he sees the result of the House impeachment inquiry as a “foregone conclusion.”

As for Wednesday’s hearing, Gaetz said Republicans don’t have anything to prove and that Democrats think the testimony from “liberal law professors” will support their conclusions. “Today will largely be legal analysis that I think will bore the country to death,” he said.

9:35 a.m.

Three witnesses have been called by Democrats: Noah Feldman of Harvard Law School, Pamela Karlan of Stanford Law School, and Michael Gerhardt of the University of North Carolina School of Law.

Testifying for Republicans will be Jonathan Turley of The George Washington University Law School.

Their opening statements have been made public.

Feldman says his analysis is that President Trump’s actions fit the constitutional definition of “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

“On the basis of the testimony and evidence before the House, President Trump has committed impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors by corruptly abusing the office of the presidency,” Feldman said in his prepared remarks, specifically citing his request for Ukrainian President Voldymyr Zelenskiy to announce investigations into the Bidens and the 2016 election.

Feldman said the idea of impeachment is critical to the basis of American democracy, specifically the idea that unlike a king, the president is not above the law and there should be checks on a president.

“The framers believed that elections were not a sufficient check on the possibility of a president who abused his power by acting in a corrupt way. They were especially worried that a president might use the power of his office to influence the electoral process in his own favor. They concluded that the Constitution must provide for the impeachment of the president to assure that no one would be above the law,” he said.

Gerhardt compared Trump’s behavior to former President Richard Nixon, who famously resigned as Congress was considering whether to impeach him.

He says the president’s actions correspond which each of the three articles of impeachment against Nixon - obstruction of justice, abuse of power, and failure to comply with legislative subpoenas. “The president’s serious misconduct, including bribery, soliciting a personal favor from a foreign leader in exchange for his exercise of power, and obstructing justice and Congress are worse than the misconduct of any prior president, including what previous presidents who faced impeachment have done or been accused of doing,” he said in his opening statement, adding that even Nixon cooperated with congressional investigations.

Karlan speaks of the constitutional threshold.

"The list of impeachable offenses the Framers included in the Constitution shows that the essence of an impeachable offense is a president's decision to sacrifice the national interest for his own private ends. “Treason” lay in an individual’s giving aid to foreign enemies—that is, putting a foreign adversary’s interests above the United States’. “Bribery” occurred when an official solicited, received, or offered a personal favor or benefit to influence official action—that is, putting his private welfare above the national interest. And “high Crimes and Misdemeanors” captured the other ways in which a high official might, as Justice Joseph Story explained, “disregard . . . public interests, in the discharge of the duties of political office,” she says in her prepared remarks.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Adam Calaitzis/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- FFormer President Jimmy Carter was discharged from the hospital Wednesday after being treated for a urinary tract infection, according to The Carter Center.

Carter is looking forward to "further rest and recovery at home in Plains, Georgia," according to a Wednesday statement from the organization, and "he and Mrs. Carter wish everyone peace and joy this holiday season."

This most recent hospitalization came after multiple other injuries or illnesses, including when he suffered a subdural hematoma, a serious condition, and needed brain surgery.

The Maranatha Baptist Church, in Plains, Georgia, said earlier Monday afternoon that Carter would be not be teaching for the rest of the month. The church released the statement before learning of Carter's return to the hospital. The Sunday school teachings -- a tradition of Carter's for many years -- were canceled after he underwent brain surgery in late November.

"Our other miracle is President Carter," the Maranatha Baptist Church said in a statement. "Although he has been released from the hospital from his surgery, we want to make sure he takes the full surgery recovery time before teaching again. For this reason, his Sunday School lessons on December 8 and December 22, 2019 will be cancelled. His niece, Kim Fuller will deliver inspiring messages throughout the month of December."

Carter was released from Emory University Hospital in Atlanta the day before Thanksgiving after spending two weeks in the medical facility following brain surgery as a result of a subdural hematoma. He suffered the injury in a fall, one of many he's suffered in recent months.

"The Carters are grateful for all the prayers, cards, and notes they have received and hope everyone will join them in enjoying a special Thanksgiving," a statement from the Carter Center read after his release last week.

Carter sustained a "minor pelvic fracture" in October after falling and required 14 stitches above his brow after another fall in early October.

In his first of three falls this year, the former president underwent hip surgery in May after falling before a turkey hunting excursion.

Carter served as governor of Georgia for one term before running for president in 1976. He defeated Republican Gerald Ford in a competitive race in the general election, but served just one term before being defeated by eventual two-term President Ronald Reagan in 1980.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Martin Holverda/iStock(BALTIMORE) -- The late Rep. Elijah Cummings’ daughters, Jennifer and Adia Cummings, have endorsed his longtime aide Harry Sparks, over the congressman's widow, Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, in what is shaping up to be a crowded race to fill his seat.

“My sister and I are supporting Harry Spikes for Congress because for the past 15 years he’s worked alongside our father to meet the needs of the people of the [Maryland] 7th Congressional District,” Jennifer Cummings, 37, said in a statement provided to ABC News. “Harry knows this community. Our father often said of himself that he was ‘an ordinary man called to an extraordinary mission,’ and Harry embodies that same spirit.”

 The race for the 7th Congressional District--which includes a large swath of Baltimore-- is packed with high-profile names. Rockeymoore Cummings, the congressman's widow, stepped down from her position as the Maryland Democratic Party chairwoman to run for the seat. Kweisi Mfume, the former president of the NAACP who previously held the seat, also announced he would compete to return to Congress.

“His memory and spirit to fight back and fight on is alive and well and here with us today,” Mfume said at his early November campaign launch. “I need you with me. I need you with me because like you, like you, all of us believe in the American right to clean water, to clean air, to a good education for children no matter where their zip code or what their surname is… I ask all of you to join me in this fight.

Mfume also ran for an open Maryland Senate seat in 2006, but narrowly lost the primary to Ben Cardin.

Rockeymoore Cummings, Spikes, Mfume and Cummings’ daughters all eulogized the congressman at his Oct. 25 funeral. Spikes highlighted the leadership qualities that he admired most in Cummings.

 “The congressman once told me that a true leader shares leadership. To get the ball down the court to win, share the ball, give others the opportunity to lead,” Spikes said in his eulogy. “If he were here the congressman would tell me, ‘Harry, remember to be greater than your pain. Transcend darkness and become the light to lead to better days. Continue to fight when all hope is lost.’”

According to Jennifer Cummings, Spikes represents the next generation of leadership.

“Harry, as one of the youngest candidates in the running, also has the unique ability to build a multigenerational and diverse coalition of support,” Cummings said in her statement. “Dad wanted as many freshmen members assigned to his committee as possible because he believed in preparing and passing the baton to the next generation.

“Dad would say, ‘This isn’t about me. This is bigger than me.’ And Harry knows the mission to serve is bigger than him-- it’s about the people of Baltimore City, Baltimore County, and Howard County.”

Cummings was the chairman of the powerful House Oversight Committee. Neither Spikes nor Rockeymoore Cummings responded to ABC News' request for comment.

In addition to candidates with national recognition, nearly two dozen other Democrats are running in the special election to represent the district, including a number of statewide lawmakers. State Sen. Jill Carter, and Del. and Majority Whip Talmadge Branch and Del. Terri Hill are also running for the safely Democratic seat.

The special primary election to replace Cummings is slated for Feb. 4. The special general election will be Apr. 28, the same day as Maryland’s 2020 primary election.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead(WASHINGTON) -- Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp announced Wednesday that he's appointing financial executive and Republican donor Kelly Loeffler to the state's soon-to-be-vacant Senate seat.

"Today, I'm proud to announce that conservative businesswoman and political outsider Kelly Loeffler will be Georgia's next U.S. Senator," Kemp said, standing next to Loeffler, in a press conference in Atlanta. "From the farm to the New York Stock Exchange, Kelly has really lived the American dream, and I'm confident that she will work every single day to keep that dream alive for our children, grandchildren and for the generations of Georgians and Americans to come."

Kemp added, "Like our president, Kelly is ready to take on the status quo, the politically correct and the special interests. She knows that Washington is fundamentally broken. She knows that we need to drain the swamp."

Loeffler, who will be the first Republican woman to represent Georgia in the Senate, said she was "humbled" to be chosen, but added that she has "a lot of work to do to earn the trust and support of my fellow Georgians." She advocated strongly for Trump's agenda and against the "socialist gang in Washington," which she said includes Democratic presidential candidates Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

"So here's what folks are going to find out about me: I'm a lifelong conservative, pro-Second Amendment, pro-Trump, pro-military and pro-wall," she said to applause. "I make no apologies for my conservative values and I look forward to supporting President Trump's conservative judges. I am strongly pro-life."

She added, "Not every strong American woman is a liberal. Many of us are conservatives and proud of it."

Over 500 Georgians applied for the seat. Kemp chose Loeffler over Rep. Doug Collins, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee and a fierce defender of President Donald Trump's in the ongoing impeachment saga. The president had called Kemp multiple times over the past few weeks to urge him to tap Collins, sources familiar with the effort previously told ABC News, but this past weekend, Kemp began telling lawmakers he'd decided on Loeffler, according to a source with direct knowledge of the decision.

Just Monday, Trump tweeted support for Collins, writing that he did a "great job... over the weekend in representing the Republican Party, and myself, against the Impeachment Hoax!"

Loeffler will join the Senate after three-term Sen. Johnny Isakson formally retires on Dec. 31.

In a press release Wednesday, Isakson said serving in the Senate was "the honor of a lifetime" and congratulated Loeffler on her appointment.

"Kelly’s business experience and acumen will be an asset to Georgia and the Senate. The same tireless work ethic that has helped her succeed in business will also help her succeed in serving Georgians and our nation," he said.

In order to finish out his six-year term, though, she'll have to win a special election to be held on Nov. 3.

When she runs in the special election, she could help regain support among suburban female voters who have drifted from the GOP in recent cycles, inching historically red Georgia into battleground territory.

After the close 2018 gubernatorial race between Kemp and Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, of Georgia, said at a Washington Examiner summit, "(Kemp) spent almost no energy trying to reach suburban and exurban women and he came close to losing."

But she could still face a primary challenge from Collins, who on Sunday, didn't rule out running in the special election.

 In an interview on Fox News, when pressed by the host about potentially running against Loeffler, Collins said, "Let's see what the governor does first... if he does (choose Loeffler), then that'll be a decision we have to make at that point."

In a statement to ABC News Wednesday, Collins said he respected Kemp's decision and congratulated Loeffler on her appointment. "I appreciate the support I have received from the president and many others, and right now, my primary focus is defending our president against partisan impeachment attacks," he said.

On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell threw his and his Republican colleagues' support behind Loeffler, calling her a "terrific appointment" for Georgia Senate.

"She will be an incumbent Republican senator and we will all be behind her," McConnell told reporters on Capitol Hill. "I'm going to be behind her, and I'm confident that someone we're working with every day is going to enjoy almost total support within the Republican Senate conference."

Loeffler is the co-founder and CEO of Bakkt, a Bitcoin futures trading platform, and a co-owner and co-chair of the WNBA's Atlanta Dream team, and she and her husband, chairman and CEO of Intercontinental Exchange and chairman of the New York Stock Exchange Jeffrey Sprecher, are big Republican donors.

Together, they gave more than $1.5 million to the super PAC backing then-Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's 2012 campaign, according to Federal Election Commission filings. And more recently, according to FEC filings, they each gave a $35,500 contribution, the maximum amount per year, to the Republican National Committee, plus an additional $39,500 donation each to the RNC's convention account.

In her application, which was submitted just ahead of the deadline, Loeffler called herself a "lifelong Republican," and said she'll "stand with President Trump, Senator David Perdue and (Kemp) to Keep America Great."

But despite pledging to stand with the president, Kemp faced backlash from some Republicans as reports broke that he would pick Loeffler.

 Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, one of the president's strongest allies on the Hill, on Friday called out the governor on Twitter, saying that appointing Collins would be the way to support Trump and his agenda.

"If you substitute your judgement for the President’s, maybe you need a primary in 2022," Gaetz wrote. "Let’s see if you can win one (without) Trump."

Kemp's press secretary, Cody Hall, pushed back against Gaetz, saying he's not the governor.

"A record number of Georgians elected @GovKemp to serve - and he’s doing it with sky-high approval numbers," he wrote.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Meinzahn/iStock(JACKSON, Miss.) -- Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg brought his late bid for the 2020 White House to the heart of the Deep South on Tuesday, and to one of the epicenters of the Civil Rights movement -- Jackson, Mississippi.

That historic context was not lost at his criminal justice roundtable discussion, where he met with Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba and other community leaders at the city's first public school for African Americans.

Bloomberg emphasized his regret for "stop-and-frisk" policing, reiterating the apology he made just before launching his campaign.

"We were hyper-focused on saving lives, and one of the things I look back and regret is we were too late in seeing the negative impact that our policies to save lives were having on day-to-day lives," Bloomberg said at the roundtable. "And I do want people to know what's in my heart. I thought long and hard about this: No one should ever feel targeted or judged by the color of their skin."

"I made a mistake," he added. "I was wrong. I regret it, but I can't undo history."

Bloomberg has been consistently criticized by criminal justice advocates for the New York Police Department's "stop-and-frisk" policy during his time as mayor. He'd long defended his administration's affect on crime rates in New York, but some have cited the negative impact the policy had on police-community relations -- especially among persons of color.

If there were any lingering doubts whether the issue presented a high hurdle for his White House run, today's resounding and repeated mea culpa underscores one thing: His campaign is preparing to vault it.

Tuesday served as the first trail marker as Bloomberg embarks in earnest on his unconventional pursuit of the Democratic Party's nomination, after years of flirting with the idea. His launch site bears the history he'll now seek to address in his own run: He chose to venture forth in Jackson, where during the civil rights movement, many famed Freedom Riders were arrested as soon as they arrived at the city's bus station.

He made brief stops in Virginia and in Phoenix before Thanksgiving, but took to the campaign trail with regularity beginning this week.

The former mayor had earlier apologized for "stop-and-frisk," reversing a longstanding position, while speaking at a black church in Brooklyn.

"I was wrong," Bloomberg said. "And I am sorry."

It was a stunning reversal for the former mayor, who saw New York through the post-traumatic stress of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

Bloomberg on Tuesday continued to defend his record on crime as mayor, in the same breath as his multiple apologies touting his work in New York as a potential blueprint for what he'd take to the White House.

"I care deeply about fighting discrimination in all of its forms," Bloomberg said. "And the truth is, a big reason why I first ran for mayor was to right historic wrongs on race."

"As president," he added, "that is exactly what I would do, nationwide."

Synchronized with Tuesday's roundtable, Bloomberg's campaign team put out a new teaser to a larger criminal justice proposal, with more to roll out in the coming days. It further emphasized the push ahead on the issue at hand, with a plan to address skyrocketing national incarceration rates.

"At least he's accountable," Terun Moore, a guest at the roundtable, told ABC News. Moore was convicted of murder and sentenced to life without parole at age 17, until the Supreme Court ruled that sentencing minors this way was unconstitutional. Now on parole, Moore is a part of the Jackson mayor's task force on parole for capital murder.

"At least he's said he's sorry -- and owns up," Moore said. "And that's part of being a man."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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