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Trump impeachment news: President claims no president has ever done as much as him 'for religion' as he escalates Christian magazine attacks

Follow the latest updates, as they happened

Clark Mindock
New York
,Joe Sommerlad,Alex Woodward
Friday 20 December 2019 19:31
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Christianity today editor interviewed over negative on Donald Trump after impeachment hearings

As Donald Trump reels from Wednesday’s House vote making him only the third American president to be impeached, a Washington Post reporter has claimed he overheard a White House staffer wishing colleagues a “Merry Impeachmas”, suggesting the president’s inner circle is not as united as he likes to insist.

Mr Trump has meanwhile taken to Twitter to denounce the influential religious periodical Christianity Today, founded by legendary evangelist Billy Graham, after it called for his ousting and criticised his “profoundly immoral” conduct. “I won’t be reading ET again!” he frothed, offering a memorable typo.

The president has also been attracting criticism from his fellow Republicans after attacking Democratic congresswoman Debbie Dingell and suggesting her late husband is looking on from hell during his midweek rally in Battle Creek, Michigan, with Oklahoma’s Tom Cole branding his remarks “extraordinarily inappropriate”.

As Mr Trump prepared to sign a series of spending bills to avoid a government shutdown and to approve 2020 defence budgets, among other budgetary concerns, reports revealed that the White House had threatened a presidential veto for the measures if they included language that mandated any aid earmarked for Ukraine be "released quickly" to that country.

The president is accused of withholding aid to Ukraine in a bid to pressure Kiev to investigate his political opponents, an abuse of power at the heart of his impeachment on Wednesday.

Democrats intended to prevent that aid freeze from happening again by including the language in the proposal, but administration officials threatened a veto for the $1.4 trillion spending bill.

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Hello and welcome to The Independent's rolling coverage of the Donald Trump administration.

Joe Sommerlad20 December 2019 08:55
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White House staffer heard wishing colleagues 'Merry Impeachmas'

As Donald Trump reels from Wednesday’s House vote making him only the third American president to be impeached, Washington Post reporter Dan Zak has claimed he overheard a White House staffer wishing colleagues a “Merry Impeachmas”, suggesting the president’s inner circle is not as united as he likes to insist.

The revelation appeared on Twitter after the president's eldest son, Don Jr, reacted angrily to a tweet by Zak's fellow journalist Rachael Bade depicting Post staff gathering to toast the impeachment vote in a Washington bar.

She has since deleted the tweet in response to a backlash inspired by Trump Jr, saying her holiday greeting has been "misinterpreted".

Joe Sommerlad20 December 2019 09:05
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Republicans turn on Trump over vicious rally attack on congresswoman's late husband

The president has meanwhile been attracting criticism from his fellow Republicans after attacking Democratic congresswoman Debbie Dingell and suggesting her late husband John is in hell during his rally in Battle Creek, Michigan, this week, with Oklahoma’s Tom Cole branding his remarks “extraordinarily inappropriate”.

“Anyone who served with John Dingell respected him, knew he was a very serious legislator and that he represented the House of Representatives with the highest personal and professional integrity,” Cole told The Hill.  

During the Michigan rally on Wednesday night, Trump lashed out at the family following Debbie Dingell casting two votes in favour of the two articles of impeachment against him, suggesting the former dean of the House was “looking up” from hell after noting he [Trump] had lowered flags to half-mast in the capital in the wake of his death. 

“She calls me up. 'It's the nicest thing that's ever happened. Thank you so much. John should be so thrilled. He's looking down. He'd be so thrilled,” Trump told his supporters. “'Thank you so much, sir.' I said, 'That's OK, don't worry about it.' Maybe he's looking up. I don't know.”

Michigan Republican congressmen Fred Upton and Paul Mitchell joined Cole in condemning the attack, the former tweeting:

Washington Republican Jamie Herrera Beutler commented: “I think it's really sad. It's a really, really terrible thing to say. It's Christmas, to make jokes about where people are spending eternity - you must be really sure about where you're spending your eternity, right? It's terrible.

“Debbie and I don't agree on everything, but she's an awesome lady and she doesn't deserve to have her husband's legacy turned into a political talking point, a political joke. It's terrible.”

New York's Tom Reed, Susan Brooks of Indiana and Georiga's Barry Loudermilk and Rob Woodall also talked to The Hill to express their disapproval, along with plenty of others on the opposite side of the aisle.

On MSNBC, The Bulwark's editor-at-large Charlie Sykes said: "Even people in that rally audience were taken aback but I am mystified that anyone is mystified that the president would go this way. You know, this is the Donald Trump we have seen over the last four or five years so anybody that is professing 'well this is a bad moment, I have no idea why Donald Trump would do this' - this is what he does when he's under pressure, when he's feeling victimised and again this is the Donald Trump we're going to be seeing now, lashing out after impeachment."

Jonathan Lemire of the AP added that the crowd in the arena was not with him in the attack and that it was unwise of the president to risk alienating an important swing state by attacking a "favourite son" like John Dingell - or any of the other deceased public figures he's gone after like late soldiers Humayun Khan and La David Johnson or Arizona senator John McCain.

Here's Matt Drake on that shocking moment from Trump's Wednesday address to his MAGA base.

Joe Sommerlad20 December 2019 09:25
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Influential Christian magazine turns on president over 'profoundly immoral' conduct

The president has also lost the support of influential religious periodical Christianity Today, founded by legendary evangelist Billy Graham, which has called for his ousting over his "profoundly immoral".

In an editorial published a day after the House of Representatives impeached Trump on charges of abusing his office and obstructing Congress, the periodical said the president needed to go, throwing down a gauntlet to those Republicans in the Senate who have indicated they will vote against the measures, enabling him to stay in office.

“The typical CT approach is to stay above the fray and allow Christians with different political convictions to make their arguments in the public square, to encourage all to pursue justice according to their convictions and treat their political opposition as charitably as possible,” the magazine’s team said.

“We want CT to be a place that welcomes Christians from across the political spectrum, and reminds everyone that politics is not the end and purpose of our being.”

Here's Andrew Buncombe's has more.

Joe Sommerlad20 December 2019 09:45
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Democrat Jeff Van Drew defects to Republicans after voting against impeachment

One man who hasn't turned his back on Trump - quite the reverse - is New Jersey Democratic congressman Jeff Van Drew, who has defected to the Republicans after voting against impeachment on Wednesday.

Trump is naturally delighted and unveiled his new aquisition in the Oval Office yesterday like a Premier League fat cat chairman posing for a shirt signing with his new Portuguese winger.

Trump otherwise used the grip-and-grin to protest his innocence, as you might have anticipated.

Alex Woodward reports on a congressman volunteering for oblivion.

Joe Sommerlad20 December 2019 10:05
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Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg square off at sixth Democratic 2020 debate

The Democratic presidential hopefuls sparred during a tense debate in Los Angeles last night, some 50 days before the first votes are cast in the 2020 election.

The most contentious moments of the evening did not focus on Trump's impeachment, as you might have expected - all seven candidates expressing strong support for the articles approved by the House of Representatives on Wednesday. Rather, candidates fought over what they each plan to do if given the chance to unseat Trump from the Oval Office, from healthcare to making the economy work for middle class Americans. 

Things really got bitter on the thorny question of campaign funding, with several jabbing at Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg for meeting privately with donors inside a luxurious “wine cave” in California.

Buttigieg hit back at Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren, noting how she had transferred millions of dollars from her past senatorial campaign into her presidential coffers before announcing she would not be seeking big dollar donations. Sneaky. 

Andrew Yang also had a noteworthy moment when he drew attention to the lack of diversity on stage after Kamala Harris dropped out of the running and Cory Booker failed to qualify. 

Here's Chris Riotta with his assessment of the night's winners and losers.

Joe Sommerlad20 December 2019 10:25
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Warren jokes she’d be youngest woman president if elected

The progressive senator got the laugh of the night in California when she joked that - even at 70 years old - she'd be the youngest female president in United States history.

Joe Sommerlad20 December 2019 10:40
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Ex-Trump press secretary forced to apologise for mocking Biden stutter moment

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, former press secretary to Donald Trump turned Fox News talking head, has apologised after mocking Joe Biden’s reference to stuttering during Thursday night’s Democratic presidential debate.

Biden, who has carried a speech impediment throughout his life, was discussing people who have reached out and asked him for help over the course of his political career. 

“My wife and I have a call list of somewhere between 20 and 100 people,” he said towards the end of the debate. “I give them my personal phone number.” The former vice president then described how a “little kid” with a stutter had once asked him: “I, I, I, I, I can’t talk. What do I do?’”

The decision to imitate the child's speech impediment was undoubtedly unwise but Sanders made matters a great deal worse. Having failed to to spot Biden’s reference to his own personal experiences, she tweeted: “I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I hhhave (sic) absolutely no idea what Biden is talking about. #DemDebate”.

Biden lashed out at her in kind afterwards, remarking: "It's called empathy. Look it up." Sanders subsequently deleted her tweet.

Here's Samuel Lovett's report.

Joe Sommerlad20 December 2019 10:55
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What Trump's impeachment looked like from inside DC

Our boy Andrew Feinberg was there to witness history being made firsthand in Washington this week.

He offers these reflections for Indy Voices.

Joe Sommerlad20 December 2019 11:10
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House speaker says impeachment has left Americans with a 'spring in their step'

Nancy Pelosi has said the American people have a "spring in their step" after the House of Representatives impeached Trump on Wednesday. But the speaker insisted the Senate must provide more details about the expected trial in that chamber before she agrees to send the House charges over.

Pelosi's unexpected procedural delay - looking for leverage in trial arrangements - drew a sour response from Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and from Trump himself on Thursday. McConnell said Democrats are "too afraid" to send the charges to the Senate, where Trump would be expected to be acquitted by the Republican majority in a January trial.

Trump had plenty to say on the subject yesterday:

"We've been hearing from people all over the country," Pelosi told reporters at the Capitol. "Seems like people have a spring in their step because the president was held accountable for his reckless behaviour."

Pressed about next steps, Pelosi would not say. "The next thing will be when we see the process that is set forth in the Senate," she said. "Then we'll know the number of managers we may have to go forward and who we would choose."

She said the previous night, "So far we haven't seen anything that looks fair to us. So hopefully it will be fair. And when we see what that is, we'll send our managers."

The Democratic speaker and the top Senate Democrat, Chuck Schumer, met privately on Thursday at the Capitol after McConnell signalled in the strongest terms yet that his chamber intended to hold a swift trial and acquit the president of both charges. He denounced the "most unfair" House impeachment and reassured Mr Trump and his supporters that "moments like this are why the United States Senate exists".

As for what the Senate would do, he said: "It could not be clearer which outcome would serve the stabilising, institution-preserving, fever-breaking role for which the United States Senate was created and which outcome would betray it." McConnell described Trump's impeachment as "the most rushed, least thorough and most unfair impeachment inquiry in modern history."

Fighting back and using McConnell's own words, Schumer said the Republican leader was plotting the "most rushed, least thorough and most unfair" impeachment trial in history by declining to agree to call witnesses including former Trump national security adviser John Bolton, who declined to testify before the House.

"McConnell claimed the impeachment was motivated by partisan rage," said  Schumer. "This from the man who said proudly, 'I am not impartial'... What hypocrisy."

Pelosi said that McConnell "says it's OK for the foreman of the jury to be in cahoots with the lawyers of the accused. That doesn't sound right to us."

Joe Sommerlad20 December 2019 11:30

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