POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

As House Judiciary Committee approves impeachment, NJ reps consider next steps

BY David Cruz, Senior Correspondent |

The Democrat-controlled House Judiciary Committee finished a 14-hour debate late Thursday night and reconvened Friday morning, voting along party lines to approve two articles of impeachment against the president: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

The vote sets the stage for a full vote in the House next week on the impeachment charges, followed by a trial, most likely next month, in front of a jury of senators who will render the ultimate verdict.

On Friday, freshman Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill said she’s been following the hearings and was preparing for a historic vote.

“I anticipate we will have the articles on the floor probably around Wednesday, so I am taking this weekend to critically review what’s been put out from Judiciary and find out if there’s any more information, then I’ll be making a decision,” she said.

Sherrill is considered a “yes” vote by most observers, though she stopped short of saying so Friday.

But in South Jersey’s second congressional district, Rep. Jeff Van Drew has said he will vote “no” on impeachment. That would be a tough vote for him — on the one hand, he’s in a district that supports the president, but he’s also a Democrat and is being watched closely by his party.

Senate President Steve Sweeney, part of the South Jersey Democratic political power axis, was asked about his support of Van Drew.

“The congressman has a very important vote coming up, and we’ll talk about it after that vote,” he said.

When asked whether he would base his support of Van Drew on his impeachment vote, Sweeney replied, he would base his support of Van Drew on, he answered, “I will base it on my own thoughts, but right now, that impeachment vote’s very important.”

One prospective juror, New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, called out Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said he’d be “in total coordination” with the president’s lawyers during the Senate trial.

“At the end of the day, you act as independent jurors,” said Menendez. “If you have a choreographed process that is meant to determine an ultimate result before you hear the facts, then you make a mockery of the Constitution and you make a mockery of the entire process.”

A mockery is what the president and his supporters have been calling the impeachment process.

“It’s a scam. It’s something that shouldn’t be allowed, and it’s a very bad thing for our country,” said Trump. “You’re trivializing impeachment, and I tell you what, someday there’ll be a Democrat president and there’ll be a Republican house and I suspect they’re going to remember it.”

“This is a sad day for the country,” said Texas Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert. “It’s going nowhere in the Senate, but I really hope and pray the Senate will not just pick it up and dismiss it. America needs to hear from the witnesses, and we didn’t get to hear from them here. This was a kangaroo court.”

Meanwhile, public opinion remains mixed, as it has been since the process began. A Monmouth University poll this week found 45% support impeachment, with 50% against.

On whether the president has cooperated with Congress, 61% say he has not, but 44% say they have no trust in the way the inquiry has been conducted.

“I think that there’s pretty strong polling evidence that hearings, none of the expert witnesses really change people’s mind,” said Seton Hall University political science professor Matt Hale. “If you went in thinking that Donald Trump was a rascal, you were going to vote to convict him. If you think he was a saint, then you’re not.”

The consensus is that the impeachment effort will pass the house but fail in the Senate. What’s less clear is what impact this process will have on the president’s reelection bid next year, and whether voters will hold their representatives to account for their votes in December and January. In Washington, a year is a very long time.