Thursday morning news: December 19, 2019

House of Representatives impeaches President Trump » The House of Representatives voted last night, as expected, to impeach President Trump. 

Members first voted on the charge that the president abused his power. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the tally. 

PELOSI: On this vote, the yeas are 230. The nays are 197. Present is 1. Article One is adopted. … The question is on adoption of Article Two.

And the answer to that question was much the same, 229 to 198. That article accused the president of obstructing Congress. 

Two Democrats voted “no” on both articles. They were Minnesota’s Collin Peterson and New Jersey’s Jeff Van Drew, who will likely soon switch parties.

Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, voted present on both articles. No Republican members backed impeachment. 

The votes came after hours of floor debate on Wednesday with members of both parties insisting history is on their side. Democratic House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff…

SCHIFF: Our oath of office requires us to impeach a president that abuses his power whether he gets away with it or he gets caught. And in this case, he got caught. 

But Republicans said Democrats are abusing their power. Michigan Congressman Paul Mitchell…

MITCHELL: One of our founders, Alexander Hamilton, warned of impeachment becoming a solely partisan act in the Federalist Papers. This impeachment inquiry and these articles clearly do not heed that warning. These proceedings are weaponizing impeachment, making it another election tool. 

The matter now heads to the Republican-controlled Senate where the president will likely be acquitted on both articles. With members leaving Washington for the Christmas holiday, a Senate trial won’t start until after the first of the year. 

Federal appeals court strikes down Obamacare individual mandate » A federal court on Wednesday tossed out Obamacare’s individual mandate. 

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans issued the 2-to-1 decision. It ruled that the law’s insurance requirement is invalid, but it did not strike down the entire law. 

The panel agreed with U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor’s 2018 finding. He ruled that Congress rendered the individual mandate unconstitutional when it got rid of the tax penalty for not having health insurance. 

The 5th Circuit sent the case back to Judge O’Connor to determine how much of the law can survive without the insurance mandate. 

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who is leading state efforts to defend the law, promised a quick appeal to the Supreme Court.

FISA surveillance court judge rebukes FBI » The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court issued a rare public statement this week, criticizing the FBI for the tactics it used to get a warrant to eavesdrop on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. WORLD Radio’s Anna Johansen has more. 

ANNA JOHANSEN, REPORTER: The court’s chief judge issued a four-page report harshly rebuking the FBI. Judge Rosemary Collyer said it misled the court when it applied for that FISA warrant. 

She said agents frequently represented the circumstances of the case … in ways that turned out to be unsupported”or that “contradicted the information” the bureau had in hand. And she said the FBI also withheld information that would have been detrimental to its case. 

Collyer added that “calls into question” whether the court can trust other FISA applications the FBI makes. 

She directed the bureau to report by January 10th on what steps it’s taking to fix the problems.

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Anna Johansen. 

Justice Dept. watchdog testifies before Senate panel FBI handling of Russia probe » Meantime, Michael Horowitz, the top internal watchdog at the Justice Department, was back on Capitol Hill Wednesday. The inspector general answered more questions about his report on the FBI’s handling of the Russia probe—this time from members of the Senate Homeland Security Committee. 

Horowitz again denounced the FBI for its “failures” during the first phase of the probe. 

HOROWITZ: We found that investigators failed to meet their basic obligation that the FISA applications be scrupulously accurate. We identified significant inaccuracies and omissions in each of the four applications. 

The Inspector General’s report said the FBI launched the Russia probe for an “authorized purpose.” But he said it was authorized due to the—quote—“low threshold established” by FBI policies.  

GOP Kentucky Senator Rand Paul again pressed Horowitz on the question of political bias at the FBI. 

PAUL: You did find evidence of biased individuals who were involved with the investigation?
HOROWITZ: That’s correct. 

The inspector general’s report did not conclude that political bias motivated the investigation. But Horowitz has testified that he simply could not conclude whether the wrongdoing was “gross negligence” or “intentionality.” 

Complaint reveals $100 billion in Mormon assets » The Mormon church is defending itself against an accusation that it misused member donations. WORLD Radio’s Kristen Flavin has that story. 

KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: A former Latter-day Saints employee David A. Nielsen filed a complaint with the IRS in November. He worked at a nonprofit group that operates under the umbrella of the Mormon church.

Nielsen claimed Mormon leaders used money intended for charity to build a $100 billion investment portfolio. He said the fund may violate IRS rules that say tax-exempt organizations must operate only for religious, educational, or charitable purposes. He also requested the IRS reward him a cut of the billions of dollars potentially due in taxes. 

Mormon leaders say they have followed all tax laws.

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Kristen Flavin. 

(AP Photo/Julio Cortez) The U.S. Capitol is seen at the end of the day Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019, in Washington, after the U.S. House voted to impeach President Donald Trump on two charges, abuse of power and obstructing Congress. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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