Inside the Private Moments of Impeachment


Some of the most intriguing moments in the impeachment fight on Capitol Hill take place in private, away from the hearing rooms and news conferences that throngs of cameras can scrupulously document.

Democratic and Republican representatives alike granted The New York Times unusual access to photograph their preparations for the Judiciary Committee hearing this week and the drafting of articles of impeachment.

The photos yield a rare behind-the-scenes look at how Congress really operates — long days fueled by adrenaline, a sense of history and takeout food — and the interludes of quiet from the impeachment pressure cooker.

Last weekend, Republicans held a meeting to prepare for the hearings. The Capitol was largely empty save for a few buzzing conference rooms and hallways littered with pizza boxes.

On Monday morning, before convening a hearing to lay out the case for impeaching President Trump, Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, along with his staff, grappled with last-minute details as his caucus prepared to take the stage.

Representative Lucy McBath of Georgia stole a private moment, while Representative Madeleine Dean of Pennsylvania helped Representative Debbie Mucarsel-Powell of Florida with her member pin.

Impeachment is not just witnesses facing hours of questioning from lawmakers, but it is also House members conferring in anterooms, catching news coverage in the privacy of their offices or taking a minute to assess the latest developments.

The atmosphere in the Capitol can take on a less formal feel as evening fades into night and drained lawmakers and staff members focus on the next steps. Shirts are untucked, takeout boxes are cracked open and a glass of wine is not unheard-of.

Drafting the articles of impeachment was a group project with comments from staff lawyers, members and, most especially, the party leadership as Democrats decided how to proceed based on the evidence they had compiled and the views of their colleagues.

On Tuesday morning, Democrats on the Judiciary Committee reviewed the articles one last time and Mr. Nadler affirmed them with his signature.

The House floor is the ultimate playing field, but much of the real work of Congress unfolds in the warren of committee and leadership offices. It is where the sausage is made and the public doesn’t often get a peek behind the scenes.

Before a nationally televised news conference announcing the articles of impeachment Tuesday morning, Speaker Nancy Pelosi held a private meeting with the leaders of key House committees in her office, with a portrait of Abraham Lincoln watching over them.

After the articles of impeachment were formally announced, Democrats on the Judiciary Committee conducted mock hearings and Ms. Pelosi continued to regularly meet with Mr. Nadler and committee leaders.

The committee rooms were filled with stacks of binders, books and papers — including transcripts of witness testimony and Representative Jamie Raskin’s copy of “The Federalist Papers.” Seeking a quiet place to work, Norman Eisen, a lawyer for the Democrats, drafted a speech for Mr. Nadler, alone in a cavernous committee room.



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