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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Soon, House Judiciary Committee's First Impeachment Hearing. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired December 4, 2019 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL ANALYST: And. again, you heard McClintock repeating that point that Biden had the Ukrainian prosecutor fired to protect his son. The fact is all of Europe wanted to fire this prosecutor. Why? Because the prosecutor was not pursuing corruption in Ukraine. And yet those talking points are repeated despite the fact they're not based on fact.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: It's an important, and I just want to get your sense of the history of what we're about to see right now, Laura, because you see the members, they're showing up, the staff, they're showing up, the witnesses, they will be there. They'll be sworn in as well. I'm not as pessimistic as you. The last two years, we've progressed strengthened operation -- European defense front, European initiative for intervention people said it was impossible. It's a moment that doesn't happen very often in American history.
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It doesn't and it shouldn't, because it's so important. You think about the the way in which the Constitution set up our democratic structure here. And we're looking back right now to say, what did the founding fathers' envision about this country that we are now in? What did the separation of powers mean? Are there truly three co-equal branches of government or can one thumb their nose in a way that leads to an authoritarian regime? Or are they overstating that out of sensitivity in some way?
We are looking at a very historic moment, looking at what the power of Congress. Remember, everyone, just in 2016 and beyond, in 2018, Democrats ran on the notion that they felt slighted because there was not enough power conveyed to Congress otherwise.
BLITZER: That's Sir Jonathan Turley of George Washington University, one of the witnesses. He was invited by the Republican minority.
COATES: And I think he is going to be one of the most important figures of today, Wolf. Because, primarily, his argument is two-fold number one, why are we racing through this? Why not get that third branch of government, the judiciary, to get rulings on obstruction? Why race through as opposed to waiting to figure out if the other witnesses are going to be testifying to figure out if there was construction? That's all part of what they're going to talk about. He actually concludes his entire opening statement, all three pages of it, by essentially saying, look, I know everyone is mad. He said, my dog is mad, I'm mad. But that's not a reason to impeach a president. It has to be more to it. And just tells you how significant today is. Is it about partisan or is it about undermining democracy.
BLITZER: The president keeps making the point, Jeffrey Toobin, that this is an unfair process. They've got three witnesses on constitutional law invited by the Democrats, only one invited by the Republicans, to which you say --
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: That's how Congress works. I mean, in the days when the Republicans ran the House of Representatives, they got the lion's share of witnesses. I mean, that's been how Congresses work.
BLITZER: What you are saying is elections matter?
TOOBIN: Elections matter. You know what? If you want to call -- but, I mean, this whole process is an example of how elections matter. You know the chance that this would be an impeachment proceeding on the identical behavior if the Republicans were still in control of the House of Representatives? Zero, zero chance of this going forward. So, yes, the number of witnesses and who called them is certainly an element of -- an example of how elections matter.
But much more significantly, the fact that this proceeding is going on at all is evidence of how much the Democratic control of the House of Representatives matter.
BLITZER: You see Michael Gerhardt there from the University of North Carolina. He's a constitutional legal scholar as well. He also happens to be a CNN Contributor.
TOOBIN: Well, because we only hire the best.
BLITZER: Yes, a very smart guy. And there's and Professor Pamela Karlan of Stanford University Law School. She will be testifying as well. It's going to be, and I'm anxious, you know, Ross, for your thoughts, it going to be very, very academic, at least the opening session?
ROSS GARBER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. I think the thing to look for right out of the gate is whether the Republicans try to score any points.
BLITZER: And, by the way, that's Noah Feldman from Harvard Law School, the fourth witness.
GARBER: But on the point that Laura and David were making about sort of what this means about the power of the presidency, you know, when we actually do get down to the substance, I think that's one of the things we're going to hear, is that the framers actually were concerned about an executive that would be too powerful but also, at the same time, having an executive who is powerful enough and not having a Congress that is too powerful. It is about this balance.
And one of the things the framers debated at the beginning was including maladministration as a ground for impeachment. That was included in a lot of state Constitutions at the time. The framers debated it and they decided no. Maladministration being a bad president, even an intentionally bad president, isn't enough for impeachment because that would sort of Congress the president's boss, which they didn't want.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't think that's an argument the Republicans will use.
GARBER: From misjudgment, making bad decisions, that is not enough. That's one of the things we know from those early debates is maladministration, not enough.
TOOBIN: I did speak to Nancy Pelosi about this issue of impeachment.
And one of the things she says is when Bush was president, George W. Bush, I had members of my caucus, Democrats, when she was speaker of the House, who said we have to impeach the president over the Iraq War. It's such a disaster. And she said, no, this is not how impeachment works. You can't just impeach a president because you don't like them or disagree with his policies.
Now, the Ukraine's -- and she was basically continuing that view through the publication of the Mueller report. But when the Ukraine story broke, she flipped and she became basically a supporter of impeachment.
But I think that idea --
BLITZER: Here's the chairman, Jerry Nadler, he's walking in and he will bring this session to order momentarily. Go ahead, Gloria.
BORGER: I think the stakes for the Democrats are very high here on how they conduct this hearing and how Jerry Nadler conducts this hearing and how he rules in this hearing and for the Republicans as well. Because there is a risk, I believe, as the American public watches this, as this devolves into some kind of theatrical experience rather than a serious discussion about the Constitution of the United States and about what constitutes a high crime and misdemeanor.
This is an epic constitutional argument that we are having in this country right now. And that will continue in the House and perhaps in the Senate. But it is a serious moment. And to turn it into just an argument over procedure, that most of the American public, let's face it, doesn't really understand what the procedures of the House are about, neither do I, in this minute detail sort of undermines the seriousness of the discussion that they're about to have right now in the House.
And the serious questions that should be asked of these scholars who have spent their lives, or part of their lives, studying the Constitution and studying impeachment itself.
SCIUTTO: And you know what, it all began with the whistleblower.
TOOBIN: He just banged the gavel.
BLITZER: Yes. All right. Let's listen in.
All right. so that was a sort of a false gavel. We thought he was starting. He'll be starting momentarily. This is -- he's going to make an opening statement, then the rank member will make an opening statement. Let's listen in.
REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): -- recesses of the committee at any time.
REP. JIM SENSENBRENNER (R-WI): Mr. Chairman, reserving the right to object.
NADLER: Objection's noted.
SENSENBRENNER: I reserve the right to object.
NADLER: Gentleman is reserved.
SENSENBRENNER: Mr. Chairman, pursuant to clause (2)(j)(1) of Rule XI, I am furnishing you with the demand for a minority day of hearings on this subject, signed by all of the Republican members...
NADLER: The gentleman will -- the gentlemen will suspend.
I could not understand what you're saying. Just repeat it more clearly.
SENSENBRENNER: OK. Pursuant to clause (2)(j)(1) of Rule XI, I am furnishing you with the demand for a minority day of hearings on this subject, signed by all of the Republican members of the Committee. And I would request that you set this date before the Committee votes on any articles of impeachment.
NADLER: (OFF-MIKE) That's a motion?
SENSENBRENNER: I withdraw my reservation.
NADLER: We will confer and rule on this later. The quorum is present. This is the first hearing -- this is the first hearing we are conducting pursuant to House Resolution 660 and the special Judiciary Committee procedures that are described in Section 4(A) of that resolution.
Here is how the Committee will proceed for this hearing. I will make an opening statement, and then I will recognize the ranking member for an opening statement. Each witness will have 10 minutes to make their statements, and then we will proceed to questions.
I will now recognize myself for an opening statement. (UNKNOWN): Mr. Chairman, parliamentary inquiry? Mr. Chairman?
NADLER: I have -- I have the time for an opening statement. A parliamentary inquiry is not in order at this time.
The facts before us are undisputed. On July 25th, President Trump called the President Zelensky of Ukraine and, in President Trump's words, asked him for a favor. That call was part of a concerted effort by the president and his men to solicit a personal advantage in the next election, this time in the form of an investigation of his political adversaries by a foreign government.
To obtain that private political advantage, President Trump withheld both an official White House meeting from the newly elected president of a fragile democracy and withheld vital military aid from a vulnerable ally.
When Congress found out about this scheme and began to investigate, President Trump took extraordinary and unprecedented steps to cover up his efforts and to withhold evidence from the investigators. And when witnesses disobeyed him, when career professionals came forward and told us the truth, he attacked them viciously calling them traitors and liar, promising that they will, quote, "go through some things," close quote.
Of course, this is not the first time that President Trump has engaged in this pattern of conduct. In 2016, the Russian governed engaged in a sweeping and systematic campaign of interference in our elections. In the words of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, quote, "the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome," close quote.
The president welcomed that interference. We saw this in real-time when President Trump asked Russia to hack his political opponent. The very next day a Russian military intelligence unit attempted to hack that political opponent.
When his own Justice Department tried to uncover the extent to which a foreign government had broken our laws, President Trump took extraordinary and unprecedented steps to obstruct the investigation, including ignoring subpoenas, ordering the creation of false records, and publicly attacking and intimidating witnesses.
That is now this administration's level of obstruction is without precedent. No other president has vowed to, quote, "fight all of the subpoenas," unquote, as President Trump promised.
In the 1974 impeachment proceedings, President Nixon produced dozens of recordings. In 1998, President Clinton physically gave his blood. President Trump, by contrast, has refused to produce a single document and directed every witness not to testify. Those are the facts before us.
The impeachment inquiry has moved back to the House Judiciary Committee. And as we begin a review of these facts the president's pattern of behavior becomes clear.
President Trump welcomed foreign interference in the 2016 election; he demanded it with the 2020 election. In both cases he got caught and in both cases he did everything in his power to prevent the American people from learning the truth about his conduct.
On July 24th the special counsel testified before this committee. He implored us to see the nature of the threat to our country, quote, "Over the course of my career, I have seen a number of challenges to our democracy. The Russian government's effort to interfere in our elections is among the most serious. This deserves the attention of every American," close quote.
Ignoring that warning, President Trump called the Ukrainian president the very next day to ask him to investigate the president's political opponent. As we exercise our responsibility to determine whether this pattern of behavior constitutes an impeachable offense, it is important to place President Trump's conduct into a historical context.
Since the founding of our country, the House of Representatives has impeached only two presidents, a third was on his way to impeachment when he resigned. This committee has it voted to impeach two presidents for obstructing justice. We have voted to impeach on president for obstructing a congressional investigation.
To the extent that President Trump's conduct fits these categories, there is precedent for recommending impeachment here. But never before in the history of the republic have we been forced to consider the conduct of a president who appears to have solicited personal political favors from a foreign government. Never before has a president engaged in a course of conduct that included all of the acts that most concerned the framers.
The patriots who founded our country were not fearful men. They fought a war. They witnessed terrible violence. They overthrew a king. But as they met to frame our Constitution, those patriots still feared one threat above all, foreign interference in our elections.
They had just deposed a tyrant. They were deeply worried that we would lose our newfound liberty, not through a war -- if a foreign army were to invade we would see that coming -- but through corruption from within. And in the early years of the Republic they asked us, each of us, to vigilant to that threat.
Washington warned us, quote, "To be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government."
Adams wrote to Jefferson, quote, "As often as elections happen, the danger of foreign influence recurs."
Hamilton's warning was more specific and more dire. In the Federalist Papers he wrote that the, quote, "Most deadly adversaries of republican government," unquote, would almost certainly attempt to, quote, "raise a creature of their own to the chief magistracy of the union."
In short, the founders warned us that we should expect our foreign adversaries to target our elections and that we will find ourselves in grave danger if the president willingly opens the door to their influence.
What kind of president would do that? How will we know if the president has betrayed his country in this manner? How will we know if he has betrayed his country in this manner for petty personal gain?
Alexander Hamilton had a response for that as well. He wrote, "When a man unprincipled in private life, desperate in his fortune, bold in his temper, possessed of considerable talents, known to have scoffed in private at the principles of liberty, when such a man is seen to mount the hobby horse of popularity, to join the cry of danger to liberty, to take every opportunity of embarrassing the general government and bringing it under suspicion, it may justly be suspected that his object is to throw things into confusion, that he may ride the storm and direct the whirlwind."
Ladies and gentlemen, the storm in which we find ourselves today was set in motion by President Trump. I do not wish this moment on the country. It is not a pleasant task that we undertake today. But we have each taken an oath to protect the Constitution and the facts before us are clear.
President Trump did not merely seek to benefit from foreign interference in our elections, he directly and explicitly invited foreign interference in our elections. He used the powers of his office to try to make it happen. He sent his agents to make clear that this is what he wanted and demanded. He was willing to compromise our security and his office for personal political gain.
It does not matter that President Trump got caught and ultimately released the funds that Ukraine so desperately needed. It matters that he enlisted a foreign government to intervene in our elections in the first place.
It does not matter that President Trump felt that these investigations were unfair to him. It matters that he used his office not merely to defend himself, but to obstruct investigators at every turn.
We are all aware that the next election is looming, but we cannot wait for the election to address the present crisis. The integrity of that election is one of the very things at stake.
The president has shown his pattern of conduct. If we do not act to hold him in check now, President Trump will almost certainly try again to solicit interference in the election for his personal political gain.
Today we will begin our conversation where we should, with the text of the Constitution. We are empowered to recommend the impeachment of President Trump to the House if we find that he has committed treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors. Our witness panel will help us to guide that conversation.
In a few days, we will reconvene and hear from the committees at work trying to uncover the facts before us. And when we apply the Constitution to those facts, if it is true that President Trump has committed an impeachable offense, or multiple impeachable offenses, then we must move swiftly to do our duty and charge him accordingly.
I thank the witnesses for being here today.
I now recognize the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee...
(UNKNOWN): Mr. Chairman...
NADLER: ... the gentleman from Georgia, Mr. Collins...
(UNKNOWN): Mr. Chair...
NADLER: ... for his opening statement.
(UNKNOWN): Mr. Chairman, may I make a parliamentary inquiry before you...
NADLER: The gentleman is not in order for parliamentary inquiry.
I recognize the ranking member for an opening statement.
COLLINS: I thank the chairman.
And it is interesting that, again, parliamentary inquiry -- and I believe some were actually some of the things I want to discuss today, because we're sort of coming here today in a different arena.
But for everybody's who's not been here before, this is a new room, it's new rules, it's a new month. We've even got cute little stickers for our staff so we can come in, because we want to make this important, this is impeachment, because we've done such a terrible job of it in this committee before.
But what's not new is basically what's just been reiterated by the chairman. What's not new is the facts. What's not new is it's the same sad story.
What's interesting, even before I get into my -- part of my opening statement, is what was just said by the chairman. We weren't even -- we went back to a redo of Mr. Mueller. We're also saying -- quoting him saying "The attention of the American people should be on foreign interference." I agree with him completely, except I guess the American people did not include the Judiciary Committee, because we didn't take it up, we didn't have hearings, we didn't do anything to delve deeply into this issue.
We passed election bills, but did not get into the in-depth part of what Mr. Mueller talked about, taking his own report and having hearings about that. We didn't do it. So I guess the American people doesn't include the House Judiciary Committee.
You know the interesting -- we also just heard an interesting discussion -- we're going to have a lot of interesting discussion today about the Constitution and other things, but we also talk about the founders.
What's interesting is that the chairman talked a lot about the founders from the quotes -- and again, this is why we have the hearing -- about the founders being concerned about foreign influence. What he also didn't quote was the founders being really, really concerned about political impeachment because you just don't like the guy. You haven't liked him since November of 2016. The chairman has talked about impeachment since last year when he was elected chairman -- two years ago, on November 17th, before he was even sworn in as chairman.
So don't tell me this is about new evidence and new things and new stuff. We may have a new hearing room, we may have new mics and we may have chairs that aren't comfortable, but this is nothing new folks. This is sad.
So what do we have here today? You know what I'm thinking? I looked at this and what is interesting is there're two things that have come very clear.
This impeachment is not really about facts. If it was, I believe the other committees would have sent over recommendations for impeachment. No, they're putting it on this committee because if it goes badly I guess they want to blame Adam Schiff's committee and his team (ph) (inaudible) blame this committee for it going bad.
But they're already drafting articles; don't be fooled. They're already getting ready for this. (inaudible) went after this with the Ukraine after numerous failings of Mueller, Cohen and annulments, the list -- emoluments, the list goes on. But the American people (inaudible) failing to see us legislate.
But if you want to know what's really driving this? There's two things. It's called the clock and the calendar. The clock and the calendar. Most people in life if you want to know what they truly value, you look at their clock -- you look at their checkbook and their calendar. You know what they value. That's what this committee values: time. They want to do it before the end of the year. Why? Because the chairman said it just a second ago: "Because we're scared of the elections next year. We're scared of the elections that we'll lose again, so we got to do this now."
The clock and the calendar are what's driving impeachment, not the facts. When we understand this, that's what the witnesses here will say today.
What do we have here today? What is really interesting over today and for the next few weeks is America will see why most people don't go to law school. No offense to our professors. But please, really? We're bringing you in here today to testify on stuff that most of you've already written about, all four, for the opinions that we already know, out of the classrooms that maybe you're getting ready for finals in, to discuss things that you probably haven't even had a chance to -- unless you're really good on TV and watching the hearings for the last couple of weeks, you couldn't have possibly actually digested the Adam Schiff report from yesterday or the Republican response in any real way.
Now, we could be theoretical all we want, but the American people is really going to look at this and say, "Huh? What are we doing?" Because there's no fact witnesses planned for this committee. That's an interesting thing. Frankly, there's no plan at all except next week an ambiguous hearing on the presentation from the HPSCI, the other committee that sent us the report, and Judiciary Committee, which I'm not still sure what they want us to present on, and nothing else. No plan.
I asked the chairman before we left for Thanksgiving to stay in touch. Let's talk about what we have, because history will shine a bright light on us starting this morning. Crickets, until I asked for a witness the other day and let's just say that didn't go well.
There's no whistleblower. And by the way, it was proved today that he's not -- or she's not afforded the protection of identity. It's not in the statute. It's just something that was discussed by Adam Schiff.
We also don't have Adam Schiff, who wrote the report. He said yesterday in a press conference, "I'm not going to -- I'll send staff to do that." He's not going to, but (inaudible) if he was wanting to, he'd come begging to us.
But, you know, here's the problem. He sums it up very simply like this. Just 19 minutes after noon on Inauguration Day 2017, the Washington Post ran the headline, "The Campaign to Impeach the President Has Begun."
Mark Zaid, who would later become the attorney for the infamous whistleblower, tweeted in January 2017, "The coup has started. The impeachment will follow ultimately."
And in May of this year Al Green said, "If we don't impeach the president, he will get reelected."
You want to know what's happening? Here we go. Why did everything that I say up to this point about no fact witnesses, nothing for the Judiciary Committee -- which spent two and a half weeks before this hearing was even held under Clinton -- two and a half weeks. We didn't even find your names out until less than 48 hours ago.
I don't know why we're playing hid the ball on it; it's pretty easy what you're going to say. But we can't even get that straight.
So what are we doing for the next two weeks? I have no idea. The chairman just said an ambiguous hearing on the report but nothing else. If we're going to simply not have fact witnesses, then we are the rubber stamp hiding out back, the very rubber stamp the chairman talked about 20 years ago. What a disgrace to this committee to have the committee of impeachment simply take from other entities and rubber stamp it.
You say why do the things that I say matter about fact witnesses and actually hearings and actually having some due process? Because, by the way, just a couple of months ago, the Democrats got all, sort of, dressed up if you would and said, "We're going to have due process protection for the president and good fairness throughout this." This is the only committee in which the president would even have a possibility.
But no offense to you, the law professors. The president has nothing to ask you. You're not going to provide anything he can't read and his attorneys have nothing else. Put witnesses in here that can be -- fact witnesses who can be actually cross-examined. That's fairness and every attorney on this panel knows that.
This is a sham.
But you know what I also see here is quotes like this. "There must never be a narrowly voted impeachment or an impeachment supported by one of our major political parties or imposed by another. Such an impeachment will produce divisiveness, bitterness in politics for years to come and will call into question the very legitimacy of our political institutions."
The American people are watching. They will not forget. You have the votes. You may have the muscle, but you do not have legitimacy of a national consensus or of a constitutional imperative. The partisan coup d'etat will go down in infamy in the history of the nation.
How about this one? "I think the key point is that the Republicans are still running a railroad job with no attempt at fair procedure. And today when the Democrats offered amendments, offered motions in committee to say we should first discuss and adopt standards so that we know what we're dealing with, standards for impeachment that was voted down or ruled out of order. When we say the important thing is to start looking at the question before we simply have a vote with no inquiry first, that was voted down and ruled out of order."
"So, frankly, the whole question of what material should be released and what is secondary, but that's all we discussed. The essential question, and here it is, which is to set up a fair process as to whether the country -- put this country through an impeachment proceeding. That was ruled out of order. The Republicans refused to let us discuss."
Those were all Chairman Nadler before he was chairman. I guess 20 years makes a difference.
It's an interesting time. We're having a factless impeachment. You just heard a one-sided presentation of facts about this president. Today we will present the other side, which it gets so conveniently left out. Remember, fairness does dictate that, but maybe not here, because we're not scheduling anything else.
I have a Democratic majority who has poll-tested what they think the ought to call what the president they think he did. Wow, that's not following the facts.
We have a -- just a deep-seated hatred of a man who came to the White House and did what he said he was going to do.
The most amazing question I got in the first three months of this gentlemen's presidency from reporters was this: "Can you believe he's putting forward those ideas?" And I said, "Yes, he ran on them." He told the truth and he did what he said.
The problem here today is, this will also be one of the first impeachments -- the chairman mentioned there was two of them, one that before -- he resigned before then one in Clinton -- in which the facts, even by Democrats and Republicans, were not really disputed. In this one, they're not only disputed, they're counterdictive of each other. There are no set facts here. In fact, they're not anything that presents an impeachment here, except a president carrying out his job in the way the Constitution saw that he see fit to do it.
This is where we're at today. So the interesting thing that I come to with most everybody here, is this may be a new time, a new place, and we may be all scrubbed up and looking pretty for impeachment, but this is not an impeachment, this is just a simple railroad job. And today's is a waste of time, because this is where we're at.
So, I close today with this. It didn't start with Mueller, it didn't start with a phone call. You know where this started? It started with tears in Brooklyn, in November 2016, when election was lost.
So, we are here, no plan, no fact witnesses, simply being a rubber stamp for what we have, but hey, we've got law professors here. What a start of a party.
Mr. Chairman, before I yield back, I have a motion, under Clause 2, Rule 11.
NADLER: The gentleman -- the gentleman was recognized for the purpose of an opening statement, not for the purpose of making a motion.
COLLINS: I yield back. And now I ask for recognition for a motion under Clause 2, Rule 11.
NADLER: The gentleman is recognized.
COLLINS: Mr. Chairman, pursuant to Clause 2 of Rule 11, I move to require the attendance and testimony of Chairman Schiff before this committee and transmit this letter accordingly.
NADLER: For what purpose does the gentlelady seek recognition?
NADLER: Motion on the table is made and not debatable. All in favor of the motion of the table say aye.
The motion on the table is agreed to.
COLLINS: Recorded vote.
NADLER: Recorded vote is requested. The clerk will call the roll.
COLLINS: Parliamentary inquiry, Mr. Chairman.
NADLER: The clerk will call the roll.
COLLINS: Parliamentary inquiry, Mr. Chairman.
NADLER: You're not recognized for parliamentary inquiry at this time. There's a vote in process.
COLLINS: Just a reminder, any no votes says you don't want Chairman Schiff coming, correct?
(UNKNOWN): Mr. Nadler...
NADLER: The Clerk will call the role.
CLERK: Mr. Nadler?
CLERK: Mr. Nadler votes aye.
CLERK: Ms. Lofgren votes aye.
Ms. Jackson Lee?
JACKSON LEE: Aye.
CLERK: Ms. Jackson Lee votes aye.
CLERK: Mr. Cohen votes aye.
Mr. Johnson from Georgia?
H. JOHNSON: Aye.
CLERK: Mr. Johnson of Georgia votes aye.
CLERK: Mr. Deutch votes aye.
CLERK: Mr. Richmond?
CLERK: Mr. Richmond votes yes.
CLERK: Mr. Jefferies votes aye.
CLERK: Mr. Cicilline votes aye.
CLERK: Mr. Swalwell votes yes.
CLERK: Mr. Lieu votes aye.
CLERK: Mr. Raskin votes aye.
CLERK: Ms. Jayapal votes aye.
DEMINGS: Aye. CLERK: Ms. Demings votes aye.
CLERK: Mr. Correa votes aye.
CLERK: Ms. Scanlon votes aye.
CLERK: Ms. Garcia votes aye.
CLERK: Mr. Neguse votes aye.
CLERK: Ms. McBath votes aye.
SCIUTTO (?): So as the Democrats and Republicans fend off over these procedural motions, we're just going to check in quickly with Jeffrey Toobin and other members of our panel.
It seems as though this is the second time that Republicans have forced a procedural vote and Chairman Nadler, the Democrat, is moving to table it, will no doubt be successful. What's the purpose of this other than to kind of gum up the works, Jeffrey?
TOOBIN: I think you summed it up quite well. I don't think there is a purpose besides that.
And, you know, what's significant about the rules of this committee is that the Republicans, even when they make frivolous motions like that one, to delay this hearing to -- is that they can get a roll call vote. Which, as we're watching here, you know, there are more than 40 members of this committee. It just takes a long time.
So, anyway, I don't want to interrupt.
CLERK: Mr. Chairman, there are 24 ayes and 17 nos. REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY), CHAIR, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: The -- the
motion to -- the motion to table is adopted. And I now recognize Professor Karlan for her testimony.
KARLAN: Mr. Chairman and remembers of the committee, thank you so much for the opportunity to testify. Twice I have had the privilege of representing this committee and its leadership in voting rights cases before the Supreme Court. Once when it was under the leadership of Chairman Sensenbrenner, it's good to see you again sir. And with Mr. Shabat (ph) as one of my other clients, and once under the leadership of Chairman Conyers.
It was a great honor for me to represent this committee, because of this committee's key role over the past 50 years in ensuring that American citizens have the right to vote in free and fair elections. Today you're being asked to consider whether protecting those elections requires impeaching a president. That is an awesome reasonability -- that everything I know about our constitution and it's values and my review of the evidentiary record and here, Mr. Collins, I would like to say to you sir, that I read transcripts of every one of the witnesses who appeared in the live hearing because I would not speak about these things without reviewing the facts, so I'm insulted by the suggestion that as a law professor I don't care about those facts.
But everything I read on those occasions tells me that when President Trump invited, indeed demanded foreign involvement in our upcoming election. He struck at the very heart of what makes this a republic to which we pledge allegiance. That demand as professor Feldman just explained constituted an abuse of power. Indeed, as I want to explain in my testimony, drawing a foreign government into our elections is an especially serious abuse of power, because it undermines democracy itself.
Our constitution begins with the words we the people for a reason. Our government in James Madison's words derives all its powers directly or indirectly from the great body of the people. And the way it derives these powers is through elections. Elections matter. Both to the legitimacy of our government and to all of our individual freedoms, because as the Supreme Court declared more than a century ago, voting is preservative of all rights.
So it is horridly surprising that the constitution is marveled with provisions governing elections and guaranteeing governmental accountability. Indeed a majority of the amendments to our Constitution since the Civil War have dealt with voting or with terms of office. And among the most important provisions of our original Constitution is the guarantee of periodic elections for the presidency. One every four years.
America has kept that promise for more than two centuries and it has done so even during wartime. For example, we invented the idea of absentee voting so that union troops who supported President Lincoln could stay in the field during the election of 1864. And since then countless other Americans have fought and died to protect our right to vote.
But the framers of our Constitution realized that elections alone could not guarantee that the United States would remain a republic.
One of the key reasons for including the impeachment power was a risk that unscrupulous officials might try to rig the election process. Now you've already heard two people give William Davey his props. You know, Hamilton got a whole musical, and William Davey is just going to get this committee hearing, but he warned that unless the Constitution contained an impeachment provision, a president might spare no efforts or means whatsoever to get himself re-elected.
And George Mason insisted that a president who procured his appointment in the first instance through improper and corrupt acts should not escape punishment by repeating his guilt. And Mason was the person responsible for adding high crimes and misdemeanors to the list of impeachable offenses. So we know from that, that the list was designed to reach a president who acts to subvert an election. Whether that election is the one that brought him into office, or it's an upcoming election where he seeks an additional term.
Moreover, the founding generation like every generation of Americans since was especially concerned to protect our government and our democratic process from outside interference. For example, John Adams during the ratification expressed concern with the very idea of having an elected president writing to Thomas Jefferson that, "you are apprehensive of foreign interference, intrigue, influence. So am I, but as often as elections happen, the danger of foreign influence recurs."
And in his farewell address, President Washington warned that history and experience proved that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government, and he explained that this was in part because foreign governments would try and foam (ph) at disagreement among the American people and influence what we thought.
The very idea that a president might seek the aid of a foreign government in his reelection campaign would have horrified them, but based on the evidentiary record, that is what President Trump has done. The list of impeachable offenses that the framers included in the Constitution shows that the essence of an impeachable offense is a president's decision to sacrifice the national interest for his own private ends.
Treason, the first thing listed, lay in (ph) individuals giving aid to a foreign enemy. That is putting a foreign enemies adversaries interests above the interests of the United States. Bribery occurred when an official solicited received or offered a personal favor or benefit to influence official action risking that he would put his private welfare above the national interest. And high crimes and misdemeanors capture the other ways in which a high official might, as Joseph Story explain, disregard public interests in the discharge of the duties of political office. Based on the evidentiary record before you, what has happened in the case today is something that I do not think we have ever seen before, a president who has doubled down on violating his oath to faithfully execute the laws and to protect and defend the Constitution. The evidence reveals a president who used the powers of his office to demand that a foreign governed participate in undermining a competing candidate for the presciently.
As President John Kennedy declared, the right to vote in a free American election is the most powerful and precious right in the world, but our elections become less free when they are distorted be foreign interference.
What happened in 2016 was bad enough. There is widespread agreement that Russian operatives intervened to manipulate our political process, but that distortion is magnified if a sitting president abuses the powers of his office actually to invite foreign intervention.
To see why, imagine living in a part of Louisiana or Texas that's prone to devastating hurricanes and flooding. What would you think if you lived there and your governor asked for a meeting with the president to discuss getting disaster aid that Congress has provided for, what would you think if that president said I would like to do you -- I would like you to do us a favor. I'll meet with you and I'll send the disaster relief once you brand my opponent a criminal.
Wouldn't you know in your gut that such a president had abused his office? That he betrayed the national interest and that he was trying to corrupt the electoral process? I believe that that evidentiary record shows wrongful acts on that scale here. It shows a president who delayed meeting a foreign leader and providing assistance that Congress and his own advisors agreed serves our national interest in promoting democracy and in limiting Russian aggression.