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Capitol Hill digs in as Trump's impeachment looms

Photo Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images

Ahead of today's historic House vote to impeach Donald John Trump, he dispatched a seething six-page letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi contending that a Democratic "partisan attempted coup" had treated him worse than "those accused in the Salem Witch Trials." She told reporters at the Capitol that the letter was "really sick."

Why it matters: The bitter exchange is a fitting denouement for the 86-day impeachment inquiry, which changed few minds in the country — and none at the Capitol.

  • The process, which is supposed to be the Constitution's death penalty, deepened a divide that has red and blue America speaking what sound to each other like foreign political languages.

House Democratic leaders told caucus members not to cheer or applaud when today's impeachment vote totals are announced, and Democratic members described the day as sad and solemn.

  • One Democratic member from a Trump-won district said the instruction is: "Don’t cheer, keep it solemn."

Centrist Dems dodged reporters in the Capitol halls. But House Democratic leaders told Axios they feel confident and don't expect many defectors.

  • "The sense is that the cake is baked," a source close to President Trump's legal team told Axios. "The only question is if it's one or two Democrats or slightly more who vote against."
  • All but one of the 30 remaining Democrats in Trump-won districts (Rep. Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey is switching to the GOP) said they'll vote in favor of both articles of impeachment.

The mood on the Hill shifted this week as the vote neared.

  • Rather than being combative with reporters and each other, members on both sides of the aisle appeared resigned to the fact that the vote's outcome was predetermined, and were going through the motions to make it official.

Impeachment fatigue has been growing, with an incredible change in the audience from the first public hearing to the last.

  • On Day 1, the line of eager people waiting for a chance to sit in on the impeachment proceedings snaked around Longworth House Office Building, and there was an energetic buzz in the air.  
  • But the audience for the last hearing was skimpy, with several open chairs and a sleepy audience.

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