- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 17, 2019

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday finished lining up nearly every Democratic lawmaker — including vulnerable members in pro-Trump districts — for a climactic party-line impeachment vote, while President Trump warned her in a scathing letter that voters will hold Democrats responsible in 2020 because “you are the ones interfering in America’s elections.”

The Democrat-majority House headed for a final vote Wednesday on two articles of impeachment, with the bitter partisan divide making it a near certainty that Mr. Trump will become only the third president in history to be impeached. The president told reporters he accepts no responsibility for his fate.

“No, I don’t take any,” Mr. Trump said. “Zero, to put it mildly.”

SEE ALSO: Read Trump's letter to Pelosi

In a flurry of announcements over the past two days, all but two of 31 House Democratic lawmakers whose districts favored Mr. Trump in 2016 have given a firm commitment to vote for the articles. The two exceptions are Reps. Collin Peterson of Minnesota and Ron Kind of Wisconsin.

Rep. Jefferson Van Drew of New Jersey — expected to switch over to the Republican Party this week — is the only firm “no” vote, though Mr. Peterson said he’s also leaning toward voting “no.”

Rep. Jared Golden, Maine Democrat, said he will support the abuse of power charge but not obstruction of Congress.

SEE ALSO: House Rules Committee sets stage for impeachment vote

The House Rules Committee laid out the final-debate framework for six hours — equally divided between Republicans and Democrats, plus an hour to debate the rule itself — before the full floor votes on each article Wednesday evening.

The rule, which passed along party lines late Tuesday night, also allows for possible consideration of House impeachment managers if the judiciary committee is prepared to send nominations.

Soon after House Democrats are to deliver the historic indignity for Mr. Trump, he’s scheduled to hold a campaign rally Wednesday night in Battle Creek, Michigan.

The all-but-inevitable impeachment was already shifting the focus to the Republican-led Senate, where both parties are feuding over rules for a trial in January. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said he expects an “entirely partisan outcome” that will result in the president’s acquittal.

The culmination of Democrats’ three-month inquiry of the president’s dealings with Ukraine provoked an angry, six-page letter from Mr. Trump to Mrs. Pelosi protesting what he called a partisan “crusade” against a duly elected president.

“This impeachment represents an unprecedented and unconstitutional abuse of power by Democrat lawmakers, unequaled in nearly two and a half centuries of American legislative history,” the president wrote Tuesday. He said Democrats “have cheapened the importance of a very ugly word, impeachment!”

Alternating between lawyerly defense and aggrieved invective, the president accused Mrs. Pelosi and her Democratic troops of trying to invalidate the 2016 election and meddle with the 2020 presidential race in one stroke.

“You are the ones subverting America’s democracy,” Mr. Trump wrote. “You are the ones obstructing justice. You are the ones bringing pain and suffering to our Republic for your own selfish personal, political, and partisan gain.”

He said voters won’t stand for it.

“The voters are wise, and they are seeing straight through this empty, hollow, and dangerous game you are playing,” the president said. “I have no doubt the American people will hold you and the Democrats fully responsible in the upcoming 2020 election. They will not soon forgive your perversion of justice and abuse of power.”

Mr. Trump told Mrs. Pelosi that he doesn’t expect her to do the right thing by calling off the impeachment, but he wrote the letter “for the purpose of history and to put my thoughts on a permanent and indelible record.”

“One hundred years from now, when people look back at this affair, I want them to understand it, and learn from it, so that it can never happen to another president again,” Mr. Trump said.

He also said Democrats are waging an impeachment because they can’t compete against his strong record.

“You and your party are desperate to distract from America’s extraordinary economy, incredible jobs boom, record stock market, soaring confidence, and flourishing citizens,” he told Mrs. Pelosi.

Polls show impeachment becoming increasingly unpopular. A CNN poll released Tuesday showed support for impeachment falling to 45%, down 5 points from a month ago.

The survey found impeachment losing steam even among Democrats, with 77% supporting it, a drop from 90% last month.

The Trump campaign also released internal polling Tuesday showing that impeachment is “seriously endangering” all 30 House Democrats (not including Mr. Van Drew) in districts won by Mr. Trump in 2016.

The polling shows that, on average, voters in these districts oppose impeachment by 53% to 43%, and voting for impeachment would make voters more likely to reject those Democrats next year.

The moderate Democrats in pro-Trump districts who have fallen in line for impeachment won praise for their Democratic colleagues for taking a “heroic” stand.

“I’m very concerned about my colleagues. But most of all I greatly admire their positions,” Rep. Norma Torres, California Democrat, told The Washington Times. “I can’t say that I respect and admire a lot of people in this place, but I certainly feel both of those things for several of my colleagues that are frontline members.”

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, insisted that the leadership team was not pressuring members how to vote on impeachment, known as whipping the vote. He also said he was confident the impeachment vote would not cost Democrats the House majority in 2020, which is possible if the Trump-district moderates can’t hold on to their seats.

“We’re going to gain seats,” he told reporters, citing many open seats in Texas vacated by retiring Republicans. “The truth is going to be the best advocate.”

Still, the political risk wasn’t lost on these members from deeply divided districts.

“It’s a lose-lose,” one Democratic lawmaker from a conservative-leaning district said privately.

Acquittal of the president in a Senate trial is virtually assured, with the only question how the Senate gets to that vote sometime next month. The Constitution requires a two-thirds majority in the 100-member Senate to convict and remove a president from office; Senate Democrats would need 20 Republicans to vote with them to convict Mr. Trump.

Mr. McConnell rejected demands from the Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York for live witness testimony at the trial, saying Senate Democrats just want to clean up the House’s “sloppy work.” He said they should agree to a similar process as in the 1998 impeachment trial of President Clinton, when the Senate heard from the House impeachment managers and then the president’s side before deciding whether to call witnesses.

Mr. McConnell and Mr. Schumer are expected to meet later week to negotiate the rules.

The president, during an Oval Office meeting with Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales, told reporters that he’s looking forward to a Senate trial.

“We’re not entitled to anything in the House. It’s a total sham,” he said. “We’re not entitled to lawyers. We’re not entitled to witnesses.”

In his letter, the president said House Democrats have not met the standard of “high crimes and misdemeanors” for impeachment with their Ukraine inquiry. The probe centers on allegations that Mr. Trump withheld military aid for Ukraine temporarily while pressuring its president to start an investigation of Democratic front-runner Joseph R. Biden and a second probe into meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

“The Articles of Impeachment introduced by the House Judiciary Committee are not recognizable under any standard of Constitutional theory, interpretation, or jurisprudence,” he wrote. “They include no crimes, no misdemeanors, and no offenses whatsoever. You are turning a policy disagreement between two branches of government into an impeachable offense.”

Mr. Trump repeated his familiar defense that he’d done nothing wrong in his phone conservation in July with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. He also criticized Democrats in deeply personal terms for harassing him with the disproved allegations of Russia collusion and now the Ukraine probe for his entire term of office.

“You do not know, nor do you care, the great damage and hurt you have inflicted upon wonderful and loving members of my family,” Mr. Trump wrote. “You conducted a fake investigation upon the democratically elected President of the United States, and you are doing it yet again.”

He angrily rebuked Mrs. Pelosi for saying that she has been praying for Mr. Trump.

“You are offending Americans of faith by continually saying, ‘I pray for the president,’ when you know this statement is not true, unless it is meant in a negative sense,” Mr. Trump wrote. “It is a terrible thing you are doing, but you will have to live with it, not I!”

The president said any lawmaker “who votes in support of impeachment against every shred of truth, fact, evidence, and legal principle, is showing how deeply they revile the voters and how truly they detest America’s Constitutional order.”

“Our Founders feared the tribalization of partisan politics, and you are bringing their worst fears to life,” he wrote. “This is nothing more than an illegal, partisan attempted coup that will, based on recent sentiment, badly fail at the voting booth.”

He told Mrs. Pelosi, “You are not just after me, as president, you are after the entire Republican Party. But because of this colossal injustice, our party is more united than it has ever been before.”

“History will judge you as you proceed with this impeachment charade,” he said. “Your legacy will be that of turning the House of Representatives from a revered legislative body into a Star Chamber of partisan persecution.”

⦁ Tom Howell Jr. contributed to this report.

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