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'A Political Hit Job': What 4 House Members Said During The Impeachment Debate

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., walks to the House floor on Wednesday before the beginning of the debate over articles of impeachment.
Patrick Semansky

Updated at 10:14 p.m. ET

As the U.S. House of Representatives moved closer to impeaching President Trump on Wednesday, the wide gulf between Democrats and Republicans on the allegations at the heart of the inquiry was on full display.

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi opened her remarks by reading the Pledge of Allegiance and the preamble of the Constitution, saying Trump's conduct with Ukraine threatens the principles upon which the U.S. was founded.

Republican lawmakers, meanwhile, countered that the inquiry has yielded insufficient evidence to meet the high bar for impeachment and claimed that Democrats have been driven by a partisan desire to undo the will of voters who sent Trump to the White House in 2016.

Democrats and Republicans alternated giving short remarks over the hours of debate on Wednesday. Here's a sampling:

Rep. Pramila Jayapal: "The president is the smoking gun."

Jayapal, D-Wash., who sits on the Judiciary Committee, said the impeachment vote represents a "day of accountability and defending our democracy."

She continued: "This president, Donald J. Trump, coerced a fragile foreign ally to investigate his political opponent and interfere in our elections, and he leveraged critically needed, congressionally approved military aid to Ukraine."

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The country's founders, she said, entrusted federal lawmakers with protecting democracy in the face of actions that Jayapal said Trump took, including attempting to enlist a foreign country to interfere in the 2020 election.

"The president is the smoking gun," she said.

Upholding her oath to the Constitution and the country, Jayapal said, requires that she vote to impeach Trump.

Rep. Guy Reschenthaler: "This is nothing more than a political hit job."

Reschenthaler, R-Pa., characterized the Democratic-led push to impeach Trump as "nothing more than a political hit job."

A former Navy prosecutor, defense lawyer and magisterial district judge, Reschenthaler said his varied courtroom experiences have left him with a strong opinion about the impeachment investigation.

"As a lawyer, I would defend this case every day of the week. As a judge, I would dismiss this on day one for lack of merit," he said. "I would prosecute [House Intelligence Committee Chair] Adam Schiff for abuse of power."

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He slammed Democrats for including phone records of Republican lawmakers, including Rep. Devin Nunes, the ranking member of the Intelligence Committee, in their impeachment report.

Reschenthaler also said he believed it was an act of obstruction for the Democratic majority on the Judiciary Committee to defeat his subpoena request for the intelligence community whistleblower whose complaint helped launch the impeachment inquiry.

"Democrats are caving to their far-left radical base, and they're using the thoughts and feelings and assumptions of some unnamed bureaucrats, rather than relying on facts and law to impeach a duly elected president," he said.

Rep. Veronica Escobar: "Trump will continue to abuse his office and obstruct Congress if left unchecked."

Escobar, D-Texas, said the hours of witness depositions taken over two months by the Intelligence Committee firmly established a case that Trump abused his office by attempting to orchestrate election interference.

If doubts still exist, Escobar said, consider Trump's own words.

"In 2016, we heard him when he called on Russia to interfere in our elections," she said. "He then repeated this call for election interference on the July 25 call with the Ukrainian president. And we heard him again on the White House lawn further adding China to that mix."

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Escobar said that America's democracy is "fragile" and that not impeaching Trump would be abdicating her responsibility to uphold her own oath.

"The evidence is overwhelming and clearly shows that President Trump will continue to abuse his office and obstruct Congress if left unchecked," she said.

Rep. Barry Loudermilk: Jesus was treated more fairly than Trump

Loudermilk, R-Ga., assailed the impeachment process as being slanted against Trump.

In particular, he claimed the president has been robbed of his right to confront the whistleblower at the center of the initial complaint over the Ukraine call.

"When Jesus was falsely accused of treason, Pontius Pilate gave Jesus the opportunity to face his accusers," Loudermilk said. "During that sham trial, Pontius Pilate afforded more rights to Jesus than the Democrats have afforded this president in this process."

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Corrected: December 17, 2019 at 11:00 PM CST
An earlier version of this story misquoted Rep. Veronica Escobar as saying that President Trump will "obstruct his office if left unchecked." She actually said Trump will "obstruct Congress if left unchecked." And an earlier headline misquoted Rep. Barry Loudermilk as saying, "Jesus was treated more fairly." Those words paraphrased his remarks.
Bobby Allyn is a business reporter at NPR based in San Francisco. He covers technology and how Silicon Valley's largest companies are transforming how we live and reshaping society.