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'Civics lesson' or 'sham trial?' Key moments in the U.S. House impeachment debate

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A bitterly divided U.S. House of Representatives engaged in an impeachment debate before historic votes on two charges accusing President Donald Trump of abusing his power and obstructing Congress.

U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) wields the Speaker's gavel as she presides over the final of two House of Representatives votes approving two counts of impeachment against U.S. President Donald Trump in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., December 18, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Here are some highlights from the back-and-forth between Democratic and Republican lawmakers before the vote:


Speaker Nancy Pelosi opened a day-long impeachment debate in the Democratic-controlled House by saying, “Today is a national civics lesson, though a sad one.”

“If we do not act now, we would be derelict in our duty,” the Democratic leader said.


House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy accused Democrats of being willing “to do anything or say anything” to stop Trump.

“I must warn you. I’m about to say something my Democratic colleagues hate to hear: Donald J. Trump is President of the United States. He is president today. He will be president tomorrow. And he will be president when this impeachment is over.”


Democratic Representative Adam Schiff, the Intelligence Committee chairman, invoked the U.S. Constitution. “When we say we uphold the Constitution, we are not talking about a piece of parchment, we are talking about a beautiful architecture in which ambition is set against ambition, in which no branch of government can dominate another.”


Democratic Representative John Lewis recalled his participation in the civil rights movement of the 1960s said lawmakers had a “mission and a mandate” to be on the right side of history.

“When you see something that is not right, not just, not fair, you have a moral obligation to say something, to do something. Our children and their children will ask us, what did you do? What did you say?” he said.


Republican Representative Mike Kelly compared the impeachment vote to Japan’s attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 1941 -- a date President Franklin Roosevelt said would “live in infamy.”

“Today, Dec. 18, 2019, is another date that will live in infamy,” Kelly said.


Republican Representative Chris Stewart, one of Trump’s most emphatic defenders during the impeachment investigation, was among many Republicans who said Democrats loathe Trump and his supporters.

“They hate this president. They hate those of us who voted for him. They think we are stupid,” he said.


Representative Val Demings, a former police chief, said: “I know the president said that he can get away with anything he wants to. I come today to tell you that no, he cannot, because no one is above the law and he shall be held accountable.”


Republican Representative Barry Loudermilk said Jesus was treated more fairly ahead of his crucifixion than Democrats have treated Trump during the impeachment proceedings.

“During that sham trial, Pontius Pilate afforded more rights to Jesus than Democrats have afforded this president in this process,” Loudermilk said.

Reporting by Amanda Becker in Washington; additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle; editing by Andy Sullivan, Jonathan Oatis and Leslie Adler