President Donald Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi don't see eye-to-eye on much these days, but in the throes of impeachment, they're in lockstep on the desire to close out the year by checking off items on their to-do lists.
As the uncertain politics of the effort to remove Trump from office collide with critical year-end legislative deadlines, Washington, for the first time in recent memory, appears intent on demonstrating its capacity to multitask. Lawmakers and White House officials are eager to project the image that they've been focused on anything but the polarizing proceedings that are increasingly consuming their days and nights.
Even President Donald Trump, no stranger to unpredictability and drama, could only marvel at the week of Washington whiplash.
"This has been a wild week," he said Friday morning as he played host to the president of Paraguay in the Oval Office.
On Friday, as the House Judiciary Committee was taking the historic step of passing articles of impeachment against the president. Trump had counter-programming at the ready, announcing new progress on long-delayed negotiations with China to tame an 18-month trade war.
"Take note @SpeakerPelosi - this is what real leadership looks like," tweeted White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham, highlighting the "phase-one" deal.
It was far from the first split-screen moment of the week.
In the span of one hour Tuesday, Pelosi held a press conference to announce articles of impeachment against the president — then swiftly walked down the hall to announce a bipartisan deal to fulfill the president's top legislative priority of the year, the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement on trade.
A day later, as the House Judiciary Committee took up the impeachment articles, the full House passed a compromise defense spending bill that would provide federal employees with 12 weeks of paid parental leave, a priority of the president's daughter. The bill also would bring Trump's long-promised Space Force to life.
The incongruous moments reflect the unease on all sides in Washington about how the polarizing impeachment process will play out politically — and the fact that many voters across the country don't view impeachment as a high priority. So Democrats and the White House are going all-out to show they can do their day jobs despite the impeachment drama on TV.
Washington is set for more of those moments in the coming week, with the anticipated party-line impeachment vote Wednesday sandwiched between Tuesday's expected passage of a budget bill and Thursday's thumbs-up for the USMCA.
For Pelosi, the decision to give the president those victories appeared aimed at trying to protect her caucus against charges — featured prominently in GOP ads aimed at vulnerable Democrats — that their focus on impeachment has distracted from the bread-and-butter issues that voters care about. Democrats maintain that the issues they've made progress on are long-held priorities, like the new parental leave policy for federal employees and stronger labor and environmental protections in the USMCA.
"It's not a coincidence that the USMCA agreement was announced the same morning that the articles of impeachment were introduced," said Alex Conant, a Republican strategist and partner at Firehouse Strategies, which has been polling how impeachment is playing in crucial battleground states. "I think congressional Democrats in swing districts want to be able to show their constituents that they've done more than just impeach the president."
Conant said he expects to see a concerted effort by moderate Democrats to find areas where they can work with Trump, even while they're impeaching him.
"It's counter-intuitive, but impeachment may actually help the president's legislative agenda," he said.
Pelosi tied the flurry of legislative activity amid impeachment to the calendar, telling reporters: "It's just that as we get to the end of a session, there have to be some decisions made. The timetable for impeachment is the timetable of the committees and that came to an end with a hearing yesterday."
The spurt of bipartisan legislating hasn't necessarily led to any cooling of political tempers.
At the White House, Trump aides highlighted what they called a "week of action," aiming to use it as a cudgel against Democrats whom they have accused of doing nothing besides impeachment. Trump's campaign is already planning to include the developments in new ads promoting the president making good on his 2016 campaign promises while Democrats seek his removal.
"One can make the argument that President Trump has had the best seven-day run of his presidency despite having two articles of impeachment dropped on him, and that is nothing short of remarkable," said Jason Miller, a staunch supporter of the president who served as communications director of his 2016 campaign.
The Trump narrative conveniently leaves out Democrats' significant roles in securing many of the week's achievements.
"As we have said since the Do-Nothing Democrats started this kangaroo court, President Donald J. Trump remains focused on the work of the American people, and this week's unprecedented accomplishments prove that," said White House spokesman Judd Deere.
Conant said the White House was intent on making the argument that "you shouldn't impeach a president who is doing a good job."
U.S. Democrat-led House Judiciary Committee passed all the two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump on Friday, who will be impeached if the full House approves any of them by a simple majority vote.
"Next week, these two articles of impeachment - on abuse of power and obstruction of Congress - will come to the House Floor for consideration," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced shortly after the panel's votes.
After a two-day marathon debate sparring over Trump, the committee eventually voted separately on each of the articles precisely along partisan lines. Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler postponed the final votes on the articles to Friday after more than 14 hours of debate on Thursday.
Democrats outnumbered Republicans on the panel 24 to 17, with 23 Democrats voting to send the measures to the full House. One Democrat, Ted Lieu from California, was absent after undergoing an unexpected medical procedure earlier in the week.
All 17 panel Republicans voted no, arguing that the evidence is thin and weak. They also criticized Democrats were pushing a rapid-paced impeachment which will set a dangerous precedent.
Trump is the fourth U.S. president in American history to face impeachment. If he were impeached, he would be the third U.S. president to face a trial in the Senate.
Trump has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, slamming the Democrats' effort as a "witch hunt "and hoax.
"All of our presidents would be impeached under this Rogue House of Democrat Leadership," Trump said on Twitter before the vote on Friday morning.
"The Republican Party is more united now than at any time in its history - by far!" the president said in a series of tweets. "The Do Nothing Democrats have become the Party of lies and deception!"
Before Friday's final votes, the committee discussed potential amendments. However, Republicans failed to remove or limit the accusations.
"The central issue of this impeachment is the corruption of our institutions that safeguard democracy by our president," Nadler said during the debate.
Doug Collins, the top Republican on the panel, accused that the Democrats have been intent on removing Trump from office, calling the impeachment proceedings a "farce".
"We have been on this path since November 2016," Collins said during the debate.
"They might as well have been speaking different languages, from alternate realities," a report of The New York Times commented on the lengthy debate.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested at her weekly press conference on Thursday that Democrats would have the enough votes to pass the impeachment articles without Republican support.
"No one is above the law; the president will be held accountable for his abuse of power and for his obstruction of Congress," Pelosi told reporters. "It is urgent."
"There's no chance the President will be removed from office," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Thursday night, vowing he would be "in total coordination" with the White House as he plots the Republican strategy for an seemingly inevitable impeachment trial.
"Everything I do during this I'm coordinating with the White House counsel. There will be no difference between the president's position and our position as to how to handle this," the top Republican in the Senate told Fox News in an interview. "My hope is there won't be a single Republican who votes for these two articles of impeachment."
Americans' support for impeachment against Trump has remained virtually unchanged from last month despite several weeks of public testimony, according to a new Monmouth University poll released Wednesday.
The House Judiciary Committee released a report last week explaining the constitutional grounds for the impeachment, accusing Trump of abusing his office by pressuring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky into launching investigations that could benefit Trump politically during the 2020 U.S. elections.
Trump claimed "nothing came out" of his July phone conversation with Zelensky, an episode standing at the center of the impeachment proceeding initiated by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in late September. The White House has refused to participate in the impeachment proceeding, accusing Democrats of an unfair process.
According to the nation's constitution, the House shall have the sole power of impeachment while the Senate shall have the sole power to try all impeachments. Conviction can only happen in the Senate and requires at least two-thirds of its members, or 67 senators, to vote in favor after a trial. Currently, the Senate has 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats and two independents.
A federal appeals court declared Friday that Mississippi's ban on abortion at 15 weeks is unconstitutional, dealing a blow to those seeking to overturn the landmark Supreme Courtruling that legalized abortion nationwide.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves ruled correctly when he blocked the Mississippi law from taking effect in 2018.
With the addition of conservative justices to the U.S. Supreme Court in recent years, several states have been enacting laws aimed at spurring court challenges that could eventually seek to overturn the court's 1973 abortion rights ruling in Roe v. Wade.
"In an unbroken line dating to Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court's abortion cases have established (and affirmed, and re-affirmed) a woman's right to choose an abortion before viability," the appeals court judges wrote. "States may regulate abortion procedures prior to viability so long as they do not impose an undue burden on the woman's right but they may not ban abortions."
The only abortion clinic in Mississippi sued the state after Republican Gov. Phil Bryant signed the law. The clinic said it provides abortions until 16 weeks.
Mississippi legislators came back in 2019 and passed a more restrictive law to ban most abortions at about six weeks. The same federal district judge blocked that, too, and a legal fight over it continues.
The 5th Circuit based in New Orleans handles cases from Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. It is generally considered one of the most conservative federal appellate courts.
Attorneys representing the state of Mississippi had argued that the 15-week law was a regulation but not a ban, and that states are allowed to regulate abortion.
A central question in the case is about viability — whether a fetus can survive outside the woman at 15 weeks. The clinic presented evidence that viability is impossible at 15 weeks, and the appeals court said that the state "conceded that it had identified no medical evidence that a fetus would be viable at 15 weeks."
"If the Act is a regulation, then the State's interests should have been considered," the appeals court wrote. "Prohibitions on pre-viability abortions, however, are unconstitutional regardless of the State's interests because 'a State may not prohibit any woman from making the ultimate decision to terminate her pregnancy before viability.'"
The appeals court was quoting a U.S. Supreme Court ruling about the "ultimate decision" to terminate a pregnancy.
When Reeves ruled in November 2018 that the Mississippi law is unconstitutional, he wrote that the "established medical consensus" is that viability typically begins at 23 to 24 weeks after the pregnant woman's last menstrual period.
The Mississippi law would allow exceptions to the 15-week ban in cases of medical emergency or severe fetal abnormality. Doctors found in violation of the ban would face mandatory suspension or revocation of their medical license.
Reeves' ruling on the Mississippi law put a similar law in Louisiana on hold. The 15-week abortion ban signed by Louisiana Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards in 2018 included a provision that the law would take effect only if a federal court upholds Mississippi's 15-week ban.
The Supreme Court said Friday it will hear President Donald Trump's pleas to keep his tax, bank and financial records private, a major confrontation between the president and Congress that also could affect the 2020 presidential campaign.
Arguments will take place in late March, and the justices are poised to issue decisions in June as Trump is campaigning for a second term. Rulings against the president could result in the quick release of personal financial information that Trump has sought strenuously to keep private. The court also will decide whether the Manhattan district attorney can obtain eight years of Trump's tax returns as part of an ongoing criminal investigation.
The subpoenas are separate from the ongoing impeachment proceedings against Trump, headed for a vote in the full House next week. Indeed, it's almost certain the court won't hear the cases until after a Senate trial over whether to remove Trump has ended.
Trump sued to prevent banks and accounting firms from complying with subpoenas for his records from three committees of the House of Representatives and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.
In three separate cases, he has so far lost at every step, but the records have not been turned over pending a final court ruling. Now it will be up to a court that includes two Trump appointees, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, to decide in a case with significant implications reagrding a president's power to refuse a formal request from Congress.
Trump attorney Jay Sekulow released a statement saying: "We are pleased that the Supreme Court granted review of the President's three pending cases. These cases raise significant constitutional issues. We look forward to presenting our written and oral arguments."
In two earlier cases over presidential power, the justices acted unanimously in requiring President Richard Nixon to turn over White House tapes to the Watergate special prosecutor and in allowing a sexual harassment lawsuit against President Bill Clinton to go forward. In those cases, three Nixon appointees and two Clinton appointees, respectively, voted against the president who chose them for the high court. A fourth Nixon appointee, William Rehnquist, sat out the tapes case because he had worked closely as a Justice Department official with some of the Watergate conspirators whose upcoming trial spurred the subpoena for the Oval Office recordings.
In none of the cases are the subpoenas directed at Trump himself. Instead, House committees want records from Deutsche Bank and Capital One, as well as the Mazars USA accounting firm. Mazars also is the recipient of Vance's subpoena.
In each case, Vance and House Democrats have argued there is no compelling legal issue at stake, since they are seeking records from third parties, not Trump himself.
But Trump said in his appeals that the cases are the first time congressional and local criminal investigators have tried to pry free a president's records to investigate wrongdoing. "This is a case of firsts," Trump's lawyers told the justices about congressional demands for Trump's financial records from Mazars.
The Vance case represents the first time in American history that a "state or local prosecutor has launched a criminal investigation of the President," the lawyers wrote.
Appellate courts in Washington, D.C., and New York brushed aside the Trump arguments in decisions that focused on the subpoenas being addressed to third parties and asking for records of Trump's business and financial dealings as a private citizen, not as president.
Two congressional committees subpoenaed the bank documents as part their investigations into Trump and his businesses. Deutsche Bank has been one for the few banks willing to lend to Trump after a series of corporate bankruptcies and defaults starting in the early 1990s.
Vance and the House Oversight and Reform Committee sought records from Mazars concerning Trump and his businesses based on payments that Trump's former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, arranged to keep two women from airing their claims of affairs with Trump during the presidential race.
The most raucous committee in Congress sat stone-faced, barely speaking.
One by one, the members around the Judiciary Committee dais voted on the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. Then they bolted for the doors and the airports, in more than one case without a word.
The all-business iciness during those eight gavel-to-gavel minutes reflected the gravity of advancing articles of impeachment to the House floor for only the third time in American history. But it also told much of the story about impeachment's toll on Congress, Washington and beyond.
Ever since Trump's July 25 phone call with Ukraine's president sparked official proceedings against the president, impeachment has been a force that's bent congressional business around it, with severe strain.
No one feels sorry for Congress, and its members generally don't feel sorry for themselves. But the wear-and-tear of impeachment is becoming clear in the emotional exchanges and frayed relationships left in its wake.
"I have a problem with this whole damn place. If you can figure out an exit strategy for me I'd appreciate that," said Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., a member of the Judiciary panel, on Friday. "This is crazy. The whole thing is crazy," he added of impeachment. "It will take some time to get over."
Tempers are short. Members show signs of being sick of each other, like any colleagues who spend too much time together. But they are operating under the glare of a global spotlight and the weight of history.
Trust, or what remained of it after years of obstruction and smashmouth Trump-era politics, appeared to be a casualty in the short-term.
Thursday's grueling 14-hour Judiciary Committee markup of the abuse and obstruction charges against Trump ignited the smoldering tension. There was no expectation that the articles would be substantially changed, but Trump's allies pushed for amendments, each of which took hours to consider. Democrats, meanwhile, did not want to take final votes too late for Americans to see.
Just before midnight, Chairman Jerrold Nadler announced that the committee would not be voting on the impeachment articles until Friday morning — and after he banged his gavel, the microphones were switched off. Livid, Republicans leapt to their feet, yelling "unbelievable" and "sneaky" and talking of a "kangaroo court." Nadler walked out.
"Chairman Nadler's integrity is zero. His staff is zero," fumed ranking Republican Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia. "This chairman has made himself irrelevant."
The personal stab at the powerful New York House veteran was unusual, as even the most mismatched pairs atop committees typically refrain from attacking each other in personal terms.
"I could feel it myself and I know the rest of us did," said Rep. Madeleine Dean, a new member from Pennsylvania, in an interview Friday with The Associated Press. "That really was sort of the apex of weeks and months of emotional and mental and intellectual toll."
It turns out that impeachment is not the Democratic morale-booster that some might have thought in the heady first days of the party's House takeover this year, when Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib vowed to "impeach the motherf—-er" on her first day in office.
One Democrat involved in the impeachment investigation was so dispirited by it all that he decided this term will be his last.
"The countless hours I have spent in the investigation of Russian election interference and the impeachment inquiry have rendered my soul weary," said Rep. Denny Heck, D-Wash., in his retirement announcement Dec. 4. "At times, it is as though there are no rules or boundaries. ... Civility is out. Compromise is out. All or nothing is in."
There's a long way to go before knowing which party benefits and which pays for impeachment in the 2020 elections, let alone which fares better in the eyes of history. But trust — by Americans toward Congress — seems to be suffering. And it's not clear the proceedings are changing minds. Recent polling shows that about half the country supports impeaching and removing Trump from office, fitting the pattern of a deeply polarized nation.
But the proceedings could be costly for both parties.
A plurality of Americans — 44 percent — said they had no trust at all in the House impeachment proceedings, according to a Monmouth University poll conducted in December.
The poll also found that about 6 in 10 Americans said Democrats in Congress are more interested in bringing down Trump than pursuing the facts. Likewise, about 6 in 10 said Republicans in Congress are more interested in defending Trump than pursuing the facts.
With the stakes so high, emotions are, too.
Dean, whose family has grown by two grandchildren since impeachment began in September, grew emotional Friday when she talked about the responsibility of weighing the president's fate.
"I've been thinking about the broader horizon," she said. The same week of Trump's July phone call, she happened to talk on the floor of the House with Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the Oversight Committee Chairman who died in October.
Cummings, she said, reminded her that people will know she was here for what's expected to be the third presidential impeachment in American history. "It will matter," she said.
But it will not have come for free.
By the time Nadler gaveled the committee back into session Friday morning, the silences and swift proceedings suggested there was nothing left to say, let alone fight about.
Nadler sat down, pulled out his cellphone and turned it off. He gaveled in the meeting and launched votes on both articles. During the roll call, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., voted aye while holding up a pocket-sized copy of the Constitution. Collins delivered a scripted notice that he reserves the right to file dissenting views.
Nadler dropped the gavel. There was no celebrating or showboating from the Democrats.
"The House will act expeditiously," he said. "Thank you."
He took no questions.