The House’s effort to impeach Donald Trump reached its most contentious phase on Wednesday — debate over the actual charges to remove him from office — in a primetime hearing that broadcast networks declined to cover.
That left coverage of the House Judiciary Committee hearing to streaming services, cable news networks, and C-SPAN. As the hearing started, Fox News stayed with The Story with Martha MacCullum, including an interview with former congressman Trey Gowdy, occasionally with an inset of the hearing in the corner of the screen. MSNBC initially covered the hearing, then went to Hardball with Chris Matthews, also going at times with a screen inset. CNN stayed with it for the first half-hour.
Wednesday night’s proceedings were to feature five-minute speeches from each of 40 members of the House Judiciary Committee (one member, Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) was not present because of a medical procedure). The idea of carrying several hours of statements, many of which have been said before, was apparently enough of a disincentive for broadcasters to pre-empt their primetime lineups.
Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY), though, started the hearing by calling it a “somber” occasion and then urged Republicans to view their place in history.
“I hope none of us attempt to justify behavior that we know in our heart is wrong,” he said.
The Judiciary Committee is considering two articles of impeachment — one for abuse of power, one for obstruction. The charges are related to Trump’s alleged efforts to pressure the president of Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. The White House then refused to comply with congressional subpoenas after they launched the impeachment inquiry in September.
The ranking member of the committee, Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA), continued to rail against the process, having previously called it a “sham.”
“The legacy of this impeachment hearing will not be the removal of Donald Trump,” he said, adding that the real “institutional damage” will be to the House.
“My heart breaks for a committee that has trashed this institution, and this is where we are now,” he said.
The broadcast and cable networks covered the five public House Intelligence Committee hearings and the two previous House Judiciary Committee hearings.
It’s unclear how broadcast and cable networks will cover the next hearing on Thursday, when members of the Judiciary Committee are expected to debate the language of the articles of impeachment and offer amendments. That will lead to a final vote, after which the articles would go to the full House.
If the House passes one or more of the articles, the Senate would then hold a trial. If 2/3 of the Senate votes to convict, Trump is removed from office. That seems highly unlikely, as it would take 20 Senate Republicans joining 47 Democrats and independents.
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