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House Judiciary Committee Holds First Impeachment Hearing; Three Legal Experts Testify Trump Committed Impeachable Offenses, One Expert Disagrees; Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) is Interviewed About the Impeachment Hearing. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired December 4, 2019 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
RATCLIFFE: -- unsupportable in the House and unsustainable in the Senate.." Do you remember writing that?
TURLEY: Yes, I do.
RATCLIFFE: Why did you write that?
TURLEY: Because I think it's true. The fact is, this was reviewed by main Justice. The special counsel did not reach a conclusion on obstruction, he should have. I think that his justification, quite frankly, was a bit absurd on not reaching a conclusion. But the attorney general -- deputy attorney general did, and they came to the right conclusion.
I don't think this is a real case for obstruction. But then, this body would be impeaching the president on the basis of the inverse conclusion. I don't believe it would be appropriate.
NADLER: Gentleman's time has expired.
DEAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Words matter. In my earlier life, professors, I was a professor of writing. I taught my students to be careful and clear about what they put to paper. That is a lesson that the framers of our Constitution understood far better than anyone. They were laying the foundation for a new form of government, one that enshrines democratic principles and protects against those who would seek to undermine them.
The Constitution explicitly lays out that a president may be impeached for treason, bribery, high crimes and misdemeanors. We've heard a lot of words today, foreign interference, bribery, obstruction of justice. Professors, I would like to go through the president's conduct and the public harms we have discussed today, and ask if they would fit into what the forefathers contemplated when crafting those words of the impeachment clause.
Professor Karlan, I would like to ask you about the foreign interference in elections. As Americans, we can agree foreign interference, foreign influence erodes the integrity of our elections. And as you said so plainly, it makes us less free. Yet, on July 25th, 2019, the president coerced Ukrainian President Zelensky to announce an investigation into his political rival -- Trump's political rival, which was corroborated by multiple witnesses throughout the Intelligence Committee hearings.
Professor Karlan, can you explain for the American people, in your opinion whether the framers considered solicitation of foreign interference and would they have considered it a high crime or misdemeanor? And does the president's conduct rise to that level?
KARLAN: The framers of our Constitution would have considered it abhorrent, would have considered it the essence of a high crime or misdemeanor for a president to invite in foreign influence either in deciding whether he will be reelected or deciding who his successor would be.
DEAN: Thank you.
Professor Feldman, I'd like to talk to you about bribery. During the course of the Intelligence Committee hearings, multiple witnesses gave sworn unrebutted testimony that the president withheld nearly $400 million in congressionally-approved aid on the condition that Russia -- excuse me, that Ukraine announce investigations into his chief political adversary.
Professor, in your opinion, given those facts and the framers' specific concerns, would you describe the president's behavior here and the use of his public office for a private benefit as rising to those levels?
FELDMAN: The framers considered, as you said, bribery to consist -- bribery under the Constitution to consist of the president abusing his office corruptly for personal gain. If this House determines and if this committee determines that the president was in fact seeking personal gain in seeking the investigations that he asked for, then that would constitute bribery under the Constitution.
DEAN: Thank you.
Professor Gerhardt, I would like ask you about obstruction of justice. The president has categorically refused to produce any documents responsive to congressional subpoenas, attacked and intimidated prospective and actual witness, including career and military and civil servants as discussed here, like Ambassador Yovanovitch, Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, Ambassador Taylor, Jennifer Williams, and others. And he directed all current and former administration witnesses to defy congressional subpoenas.
Professor, based on that set of facts, does this conduct meet the threshold for obstruction of justice as envisioned in the Constitution?
GERHARDT: Yes, ma'am, I believe it does. I remember when I was here 21 years ago, along with Professor Turley, testifying before a differently constituted committee on a very serious question regarding impeachment, and I remember a number of law professors very eloquently talking about President Clinton's misconduct as an attack on the judicial system, and that's what you just described to me.
DEAN: Thank you. And thank you, professors, all of you, all four of you. What you did today is you brought a part of our Constitution to life, and I thank you for that. You have shown what the framers were mindful of when they wrote the impeachment clause of our Constitution.
They chose their words and their words matter. You know, it was my father, Bob Dean, a terrific dad and a talented writer, who instilled in me and my brothers and sister a love of language. He taught us our words matter, the truth matters. It's through that lens which I see all of the serious and somber things we're speaking about today, foreign interference, bribery, obstruction.
The framers likely could not have imagined all three concerns embodied in a single leader, but they were concerned enough to craft the remedy: impeachment. The times have found -- the times have found us. I am prayerful for our president, for our country, for ourselves. May we the people always hold high the decency and promise and ambition of our founding, and of the words that matter, and of the truth.
With that, I yield back, Mr. Chairman.
NADLER: The gentlelady yields back.
MUCARSEL-POWELL: Thank you.
And thank you, professors, for your time today. It's been a long day.
I want to tell you, I did not have the privilege of being born into this country. As an immigrant, when I became a citizen to this great nation, I took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution from all foreign and domestic enemies. And I had the fortune of taking that oath once again when I became a member of Congress. And that includes the responsibility to protect our nation from continuing threats from a president, any president.
You testified that the president's actions are a continuing risk to our nation and democracy, meaning that this is not a one-time problem. There is a pattern of behavior by the president that is putting at risk fair and free elections. And I think that we are here today because the American people deserve to know whether we need to remove the president because of it.
During the Nixon impeachment, the Judiciary Committee said, quote, "The purpose of impeachment is not personal punishment; its function is primarily to maintain constitutional government."
Professor Karlan, to me, that means that impeachment should be used when we must protect our American democracy. It is reserved for offenses that present a continuing risk to our democracy. Is that correct?
KARLAN: Yes, it is.
MUCARSEL-POWELL: Thank you. And I want to show you an example of what the president said, just one week after the transcript of the July 25th call was released, when a reporter asked the president what he wanted from President Zelensky, and he responded with this.
TRUMP: Well, I would think that if they were honest about it, they'd start a major investigation into the Bidens. It's a very simple answer. They should investigate the Bidens because how does a company that's newly formed -- and all these companies, if you look at -- and by the way, likewise, China should start an investigation into the Bidens. Because what happened in China is just about as bad as what happened with -- with Ukraine.
MUCARSEL-POWELL: We've heard, today, conflicting dialogue from both sides. And I just want to ask, Mr. Feldman, is this clear evidence from a president asking from -- for a foreign government to interfere in our elections?
FELDMAN: Congresswoman, I'm here for the Constitution. We're here for the Constitution. And when the president of the United States asks for assistance from a foreign power to distort our elections for his personal advantage, that constitutes an abuse of office and it counts as a high crime and misdemeanor and that's what the Constitution is here to protect us against.
MUCARSEL-POWELL: Thank you.
And, Professor Karlan, are the president's actions a continuing risk that the framers intended impeachment to be used for?
KARLAN: Yes. This takes us back to the quotation from William Davey (ph) that we've all used several times in our testimony, which is, "A president -- without impeachment, a president will do anything to get re-elected."
MUCARSEL-POWELL: Thank you. And I want to show you one more example from the president's chief of staff, when asked about the president's demands of the Ukrainian president.
(UNKNOWN): But to be clear, what you just described is a quid pro quo. It is, funding will not flow unless the investigation into the -- into the Democratic server happens as well.
MULVANEY: We do -- we do that all the time with foreign policy. When McKinney said yesterday that he was really upset with the political influence in foreign policy, that was one of the reasons he was so upset about this. And I have news for everybody: Get over it. There's going to be political influence in foreign policy.
MUCARSEL-POWELL: Professor Karlan?
KARLAN: I think that Mr. Mulvaney is conflating or confusing two different notions of politics. Yes, there is political influence in our foreign affairs. Because President Trump won the election in 2016, we've exited climate accords, we've taken a different position on NATO than we would have taken had his opponent won.
But that's different than saying that partisan politics in the sense of electoral manipulation is something that we need to get over or get used to. If we get over that or we get used to that, we will cease to become the democracy that we are right now.
MUCARSEL-POWELL: Thank you. And I think that that is our greatest fear and threat, and I don't think that anyone is above the law. The Constitution establishes that. This type of behavior cannot be tolerated from any president, not now, not in the future.
And I yield back.
NADLER: The gentlelady yields back. That concludes
NADLER: Have I -- who have I missed? I'm sorry.
Ms. Escobar? I had her checked off at (ph) some (ph) point (ph). Ms. Escobar is recognized.
ESCOBAR: Thank you, Chairman.
Professors, thank you so much for your testimony and time today. Many facts, including the president's own words in that famous phone call, have been laid out before our very eyes and ears for months, despite the president's repeated efforts at a cover-up.
But it appears that some have chosen to ignore those facts. What we've seen today from those who choose to turn a blind eye is not a defense of the president's actions because, frankly, those offenses are indefensible. Instead, we've seen them attack the process and attempt to impugn your integrity. For that, I am sorry.
Now to my questions. Some have opined that instead of considering impeachment, we should just let this pass and allow the people to decide what to do next or what to do about the president's behavior in the next election.
The framers of our Constitution specifically considered whether to just use elections and not have impeachment, and rejected that notion. One statement from the framers really stuck with me, and it's up on the screen. George Mason asked, "Shall the man who has practiced corruption and by that means procured his appointment in the first instance, be suffered to escape punishment by repeating his guilt?"
Professor Feldman, I have two questions for you. Briefly, can you please explain why the framers decided that a corrupt executive could not be solved through elections? And can you tell us why impeachment is the appropriate option at this point, considering all the evidence Americans have seen and heard rather than just letting this be decided in the next election?
FELDMAN: The framers understood human motivation extremely well. And they knew that a president would have a great motive to corrupt the electoral process to get re-elected. And that's exactly why they thought that it wasn't good enough to wait for the next election because the president could cheat, and could make the next election illegitimate. That's why they've required impeachment.
And if they couldn't impeach a corrupt president, James Madison said, that could be fatal to the republic. The reason that it's necessary to take action now is that we have a president who has, in fact, sought to corrupt the electoral process for personal advantage. Under those circumstances, the framers' remedy of impeachment is the only option available.
ESCOBAR: Thank you.
I want to play two clips: the first of President Nixon, and the second of President Trump.
NIXON: Well, when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.
TRUMP: Then I have an Article II, where I have the right to do whatever I want as president.
ESCOBAR: (inaudible) that they are above the law. Professor Karlan, what happens to our republic, to our country if we do nothing in the face of a president who sees himself above the law, who will abuse his power, who will ask foreign governments to meddle in our elections and who will attack any witness who stands up to tell the truth? What happens if we don't follow our constitutional obligation of impeachment to remove that president from office?
KARLAN: We will cease to be a republic.
ESCOBAR: Thank you.
I represent a community that, a little over a decade ago, was marred by corruption at the local government level. There was no retreat into a partisan corner or an effort by anyone to explain it away.
We also didn't wait for an election to cure the cancer of corruption that occurred on our watch. We were united as a community in our outrage over it. It was intolerable to us because we knew that it was a threat to our institutions, institutions that belonged to us.
What we face today is the same kind of test, only one far more grave and historic. From the founding of our country to today, one truth remains clear: The impeachment power is reserved for conduct that endangers democracy and imperils our Constitution.
Today's hearing has helped us to better understand how we preserve our Republic and the test that lies ahead for us. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield back my time.
NADLER: The gentlelady yields back. That concludes the testimony under the five minute rule. I now recognize the Ranking Member for any concluding remarks he may have.
COLLINS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Well, today has been interesting, I guess, to say the least. It has been -- we have found many things. In fact, three of our four witnesses here today alleged numerous crimes committed by the president.
And at times it seemed like we were even trying to make up crimes as we go about well, if it wasn't this well it was the intent to do it. It went along that as interesting today as I started this day and I'm going to come back to it now.
As I much as I respect these who came before us today, this is way too early because we have not, as a committee, done our job. We've not as a committee come together, looked at evidence, taken fact witnesses, (inaudible) here in front of us under oath to say what happened and how did it happen and why did it happen.
We're taking the work of the Intel Committee and the other committees. We're taking it seemingly at face value and I will remind all that the Chairman even is the biggest proponent of this (ph) not happening in his earlier statements almost 20 years ago when he said we should not take a report from another entity and just accept it, otherwise we are a rubber stamp.
Now to my Democratic majority, they may not care because as I've said before, this is about a clock and a calendar. A clock and a calendar. They're so obsessed with the election next year that they -- they just gloss over things. In fact what is interesting is, as I've said earlier, there of the four witnesses alleged numerous crimes committed by the president.
However, during the Intel Committee hearings, none of the fact witnesses identified a crime. If you're writing about this that should alarm you. So this impeachment narrative being spun by the majority is a fake one. Its majority is spinning 3 percent of the facts while ignoring 97 percent of the other.
In fact, Professor Turley earlier said today impeachment needs proof not presumptions. We have one of the fact witnesses in the Intel Committee. I presume that was what was going on. Mr. Sondland.
You know what is happening here today is also we found out today -- I thought it was really interesting. This is the Judiciary Committee but we also found out something today that facts don't matter.
In fact, facts don't matter unless we can fit those facts to fit the narrative we want to spin before this committee and the American people. If they don't matter, we also heard one of the witnesses state today that it doesn't matter if aid was released or not.
Of course it matters. But unfortunately the only one of the many facts ignored by majority. They're ignoring a ton of sustaining (ph) facts that matter. It apparently doesn't matter to the Democrats that Ambassador Volker, the former Special Envoy to the Ukraine made clear in his testimony there was no conditionality on the White House meeting or the aid.
The Democrats and their witnesses haven't mentioned that because it's unhelpful to the narrative they're spinning. It apparently doesn't matter that Democrats, to the Democrats in the majority here that the president did not condition his aid on investigation.
In fact, Mr. Sondland's statement is -- to the contrary was presumption. It was right here in this room he called it a guess. Right where you're sitting. Called it a guess, a presumption. It's what he thought.
God forbid if we walk into our court rooms or in our -- our proceedings now to find somebody guilty of something we're calling a crime. And we walk into court now and all of the sudden, well I thought it was. The witness said I presumed it was.
God forbid this is where we're at. But you know we've also heard today that you can make inference though. It's OK if you're just inferring. I don't know about the professors here, for those of us in court on both sides of the aisle, I've never heard (inaudible) judge say just infer what you think they meant and that'll be enough.
It's not inference. You know it probably doesn't matter that the president didn't condition a meeting on an investigation. He met with Zelensky with no preconditions. Zelensky didn't find out about the hold on the aid until it was after a month after the call when he read it in Politico.
The aid was released shortly thereafter and Ukraine didn't have anything to do to get the aid released. Not only was the aid released but lethal aid was given as well. And if you think that doesn't matter, there were five meetings between the aid -- time the aid was stopped and the time the aid was released.
And in none of those meetings between ambassadors and other, including the vice president and senators, none of that was ever connected to a promise of anything on the aid. Nothing was ever connected. Five times. And two of those were after President Zelensky learned that aid was being held.
Tell me there's not a problem here with the story. That's why fact witnesses aren't here right now. The evidence against the president is really about policy differences. In fact, three of the Democratic star witnesses; Hill, Taylor, and Kent weren't even on the call. They read transcripts like everyone else.
On July 26th, Zelensky met with Volker and Sondland and made no reference to quid pro quo or hold on aid. They met several more times, no references. But none of those are in -- those are in -- those -- none of these inconvenient facts or so many other convenient facts matter to the majority. Moreover, we don't even know what, if additional hearings we will have to address other facts. This is the part that bothers me greatly. It is something we have seen from January of this year, no concern about a process that worked but simply a getting to an end that we want.
You know, I agree with Professor Feldman, he may find that strange but I do agree with you on something. It's not his job to assess the credibility of witnesses; it is this committee's job. And I agree.
But this committee can't do our jobs if none of the witnesses testify before our committee, even ones that we're -- have talked about calling today and the majority has said we don't want.
Due to (ph) that we still don't have an answer on what this committee will do once this hearing ends. The committee received Mr. Chairman Schiff's report yesterday but we still don't have the underlying evidence.
The rules even setup by this body are not being followed to this day but yet nobody talks about it on the majority side. The witnesses produced by Chairman Schiff and the American people talk about their feelings, their guesses, their presumptions, but even though the facts may not matter to the majority, 97 percent of the other facts do matter to the American people.
So my problem is this, as the ranking member of this committee, one of the oldest most should be fact based, legal based committees we have here where impeachment should have been all along, I have a group of members who have no idea where we're headed next.
I bet you though if I ask the majority members outside the chairman, they don't have a clue either. Very much one. Because if they have it, they should share it because this is not a time to play hide the ball. This is not a time to say we're going to figure it out on the fly.
You're talking about overturning 63 million votes or a president dually elected who is doing his job every day. And by the way, was overseas today while we're doing this, working with our NATO allies.
So the question I have is where do we head next. We've heard this ambiguous presentation. But here's my challenge as (ph) I've already been voted in table (ph) today, Mr. Schiff should testify. Chairman Schiff, not his staff, must appear before this committee to answer questions about the content of his report.
That's what Ken Starr did 20 years ago and history demanded. I told the chairman just awhile ago and a couple of weeks ago when we were doing a mark-up. I said Mr. Chairman, the history lights are on us. It is time that we talk and share how we're going forward. I'm still waiting for their answers.
So Mr. Chairman, as we look ahead, as the Democratic majority promised that this was going to be a fair process when it got to Judiciary for the president and others. The president, and you may say he could have come today, what would this have done. Nothing. There's no fact witnesses here. Nothing to rebut. In fact, it's been a good time just to see that really nothing came of it at the end of the day. So why should he be here. Let's bring fact witnesses in. Let's bring people in because as you said, Mr. Chairman, you said, your words; we should never on this committee accept an entity giving us a report and not investigate it ourselves.
Undoubtedly, we're well on our way to doing that because of a calendar and a clock. So Mr. Chairman, I know you're about to give a statement and they've worked on it and you've worked on it very hard I'm sure, but I want -- before you gavel this hearing, before you start your statement, before you go any further, I would like to know two things.
Number one, when do you plan on scheduling our minority hearing day. And number two, why or with (ph), when are we actually going to have real witnesses here that are fact witnesses in this case. When? Or what you said many years ago has faded just like the leaves in fall. I don't really care anymore that somebody else gives us a report.
(Inaudible) is Chairman Schiff is chairman over everything with impeachment and he doesn't get to testify. He's going to send a staff member. But I don't even know if we're going to have a hearing past that to figure out anything that's been going on.
So my question as I started out today is where is fairness. It was promised, it's not being delivered. The facts talked about were not facts delivered. This president, as facts were given, did nothing wrong, nothing to be impeached and nothing for why we're here.
And in the words of one of our witnesses, Mr. Turley, if you rush through this you do it on flimsy grounds. The American people will not forget the light of history. So today, before you give you're opening statement -- or you're closing statement, before you get to this time, my question is will you talk to this Committee -- you're a Chairman, you hold a very prestigious role, will you let us know where we're going, or are we going to adjourn from here after you sum up everything saying that they all did good and go out from here, we're still wondering. The lights are on, it's time to answer the question. I yield back.
NADLER: The gentleman yields back. I want to -- before my closing statement acknowledge that I received a letter today requesting a minority day (ph) of testimony under Rule 11. I have not had a chance to read the letter but look forward to conferring with the Ranking Member about this request after I have had a chance to review it.
COLLINS: Mr. Chairman I have a question -- you can't review a letter that is a demand that we have --
NADLER: The gentleman is not -- the gentleman is not recognized.
COLLINS: There's nothing for you to review.
NADLER: I now recognize myself for closing statements. George Washington's Farewell Address warns of a moment when cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people in to usurp for themselves the reigns of government.
President Trump placed his own personal and political interests above our national interests, above the security of our country, and most importantly above our most precious right -- the ability of each and every one of us to participate in fair elections free of corruption.
The Constitution has a solution for a president who places his personal or political interests above those of the nation -- the power of impeachment. As one of my colleagues pointed out, I have in the past articulated a three part test for impeachment -- let me be clear, all three parts of that test have been met.
First, yes, the president has committed an impeachable offense. The president asked the foreign government to intervene in our elections, then got caught -- then obstructed the investigators -- twice. Our witnesses told us, in no uncertain terms that this conducts constitutes high crimes and misdemeanors, including abuse of power.
Second, yes the president's alleged offenses represent a direct threat to the Constitutional order. Professor Karlan warned drawing (ph) a foreign government in to our election process is an especially serious abuse of power because it undermines democracy itself.
Professor Feldman echoed, if we cannot impeach a president who abuses his office for personal advantage, we no longer live in a democracy -- we live in a monarchy, or under a dictatorship.
And Professor Gerhardt reminded us if what we're talking about -- if what we're talking about is not impeachable, then nothing is impeachable. President Trump's actions represent a threat to our national security, and an urgent threat to the integrity of the next election.
Third, yes, we should not proceed unless at least some of the citizens who supported the president in the last election are willing to come with us. A majority of this country is clearly prepared to impeach and remove President Trump.
Rather than respond to the unsettling and dangerous evidence, my Republican colleagues have called this process "unfair." It is not. Nor is this argument new. My colleagues on the other side of the aisle unable to defend the behavior of the president have used this argument before.
First they said that these proceedings were not Constitutional because we did not have a floor vote -- we then had a floor vote. Then they said that our proceedings were not Constitutional because they could not call witnesses -- Republicans called three of the witnesses in the live hearings of the Intelligence Committee, and will have an opportunity to request witnesses in this Committee as well.
Next they said that our proceedings were not Constitutional because the president could not participate, but when the Committee invited the president to participate in this hearing -- he declined. The simple fact is that all these proceedings have all the protections afforded prior presidents. This process follows the Constitutional and legal precedents, so I am left to conclude that the only reason that my colleagues rush from one process complaint to the next, is because there is no factual defense for President Trump.
Unlike any other president before him, President Trump has openly rejected Congress' right as a co-equal branch of government. He has defied our subpoenas, he has refused to produce any documents, and he directed his aids not to testify.
President Trump has also asked a foreign government to intervene in our elections, and he has made clear that if left unchecked he will do it again. Why? Because he believes that in his own words quote, "I can do whatever I want."
That is why we must act now. In this country the president cannot do whatever he wants. In this country, no one -- not even the president is above the law. Today we began our conversation where we should, with the text of the Constitution.
We have heard clearly from our witnesses that the Constitution compels action. Indeed, every witness -- including the witness selected by the Republican side agreed that if President Trump did what the Intelligence Committee found him to have done, after extensive and compelling witnesses from the Trump administration officials -- he committed impeachable offenses.
While the Republican witness may not be convinced that there is sufficient evidence that the president engaged in these acts, the American people and the majority of this Committee disagree.
I also think that the Republican witness, Professor Turley, issued a sage warning in 1998 when he was a leading advocate for the impeachment of Bill Clinton, he said quote, "if you decide that certain acts do not rise to impeachable offenses, you will expand the space for executive conduct."
That was the caution of Professor Turley in 1998 in the impeachment of President Clinton, that caution should guide us all today. And by any account, that warning is infinitely more applicable to the abuses of power we are contemplating today. Because as we all know, if these abuses go unchecked they will only continue, and only grow worse.
Each of us took an oath to defend the Constitution, the president is a continuing threat to that Constitution and to our democracy. I will honor my oath, and as I sit here today having heard consistent, clear, and compelling evidence that the president has abused his power, attempted to undermine the Constitutional role of Congress and corrupted our elections -- I urge my colleagues stand behind the oath you have taken.
Our democracy depends on it. This concludes --
COLLINS: Mr. Chairman --
NADLER: Today's hearing -- COLLINS: Mr. Chairman, could I add one thing? Mr. Chairman --
NADLER: What purpose does the gentleman seek recognition?
COLLINS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Pursuant to rule (ph) -- pursuant to Committee rule eight, I am giving notice to intent to file dissenting views to the Committee's report on Constitutional grounds for presidential impeachment.
NADLER: Noted. This concludes today's hearing --
(UNKNOWN): Mr. Chairman --
NADLER: This concludes today's -- this concludes today's hearing --
(UNKNOWN): Gentlemen --
NADLER: We thank all of our witnesses for participating --
(UNKNOWN): Chairman, I'd ask --
NADLER: Without objection
(UNKNOWN): Unanimous consent --
NADLER: All members will have five legislative days to submit additional written questions for the witnesses or additional material --
COLLINS: We have a unanimous consent request -- we have a unanimous consent request.
NADLER: Too late (ph).
COLLINS: It's too late? It's too late for unanimous consent request?
NADLER: Witnesses for additional materials for the record.
Without objection, the hearing is adjourn.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, that's just typical, isn't it? Just typical.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN THE SITUATION ROOM: A rather acrimonious ending, 8 1/2 hours of testimony. It started at 10:00 Eastern earlier today, now just after 6:30 P.M. here on the East Coast. We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in The Situation Room.
The House Judiciary Committee's first impeachment hearing, truly a historic event just concluding. House Democrats laying the legal groundwork for impeaching the president of the United States as the committee moves towards drafting charges against articles of impeachment. Three constitutional experts called by the Democrats testifying that the president did commit impeachable acts in his dealings with Ukraine, one of them declaring Mr. Trump's misconduct is worse than the actions of any previous president. A legal scholar invited by Republicans strongly disagreed, arguing that impeachment isn't warranted and the process is simply moving too fast.
Let's get analysis from our experts over here. Jeffrey Toobin, you were watching, all of us were watching since 10:00 this morning.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Indeed. And remember at the beginning, people were saying, oh, it's going to be a circus. It wasn't a circus. It was actually a very serious, good discussion about these constitutional issues. I thought both sides got to make their points, and good for them. I mean, I think that was the purpose of this hearing. And in that way, I thought it was all appropriate.
Three points that I thought came through here, one, it is clear under the Constitution that an impeachable offense does not have to be a crime, does not have to be a violation of federal or any kind of law. I think everybody -- all four agreed about that.
The other point, the idea that the president withholding evidence the way he has issued a complete wholesale refusal to allow witnesses, to have produced documents, emails, texts, that is a very serious part of this investigation, and, in many ways, paralyzes the impeachment power that Congress possesses under the Constitution.
The third point both sides I thought made very important points on, which is whether there's enough evidence here. The pro-impeachment lawyers made the point that the fact that the president is withholding all this evidence entitles the members of Congress to draw an inference against the president, that this is further evidence that the president deserves to be impeached.
Jonathan Turley, for the defense, as it were, said, no, no, the fact that there's not enough evidence at this point means the process should slow down and it shouldn't -- and the impeachment should not proceed.
But that was my take, but I thought it was a good day for the Congress and a good day for the Constitution.
BLITZER: Jim Sciutto?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jonathan Turley's point was interesting because his effective argument was you haven't proven the case yet. Because there were moments, I mean, that, quoting Greg (ph) here, he said if you prove a quid pro quo, you might have an impeachable offense. He was, in effect saying, take more time, Democrats, if you are serious about this process, go to the courts, if necessary, to compel witnesses that are essential to establish, for instance, the president's direction for withholding the aid for political favor. That's one thing. I would say that on the facts here, there are a lot of things the Republicans in their defense use as facts, which have since been belied by sworn testimony in these proceedings here. One, for instance, we heard this at the end from Doug Collins saying, the Ukrainians didn't even know that the aid was delayed until after the Zelensky-Trump phone call. We already know that's not true. Laura Cooper, a Defense Department employee, and she talks about emails, Ukrainians were asking about it in early July. That still has life even though it has been disproven.
Another stated as fact that President Zelensky has said repeatedly, no pressure. That is true. You might understand the circumstances why a smaller ally might not publicly call out the U.S. president for squeezing him here. But I should note, two days ago, President Zelensky said the following in an interview, and this part of the quote that the Republican congressman did not complete the rest of the quote. He said, we're at war. If you're a strategic partner, then you can't go blocking anything from us. I think that's just about fairness.
That's the president of Ukraine saying what the core of this process is about here. Ally at war, crucial aid was blocked. It's up to sitting Congressmen and women and the American people whether that's impeachable. But on that issue, the Ukrainian president has confirmed that in his public statement.
BLITZER: A very important point.
JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: He's going to meet with Putin here on Monday, I think, next week for the first time to talk about potential peace in the (INAUDIBLE). And he's going to be going in with a weak hand because Putin knows that he doesn't have the full backing of the United States. So that was a very important quote, and it does speaks not only to the pressure that he's under externally but the pressure that he's under internally right there in his own --
BLITZER: Nia, what do you think?
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: I thought Madeleine Dean at the end said said she thought that this hearing brought the Constitution to life, and I thought so too. It's very much a crash course in the Constitution and put us in the minds of the framers. Listen, the framers were obviously flawed men for all sorts of reasons but very concerned about foreign influence in elections.
And one of the things I think that Democrats have failed to do is make that case over and over again, that this is about the president trying to disrupt an American election. We talk about Ukraine, we talk about them being in hot war (ph), which is important but doesn't necessarily, I think, connect with the average American sort of viewer on this.
So I thought grounding it in the Constitution, obviously making the case. This is the first time we've heard from witnesses of an impeachment actually is the remedy that the founders envisioned because they were so worried about this and this idea that Republicans are obviously saying, you should wait until the election. And they're saying, no, you shouldn't wait until the election if this is an American president that actually wants to interfere in this election. There is a clear and present danger so this remedy is important to do right now.
BLITZER: Yes, that's an important point, indeed.
Susan Glasser, what did you think?
SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, I'll tell you, Wolf, it made me feel a little bit old, right? There's a sense of deja vu all over again if you watched the Clinton hearings. Maybe people switched sides or different seats. Jonathan Turley was arguing the opposite case in the Clinton impeachment. Obviously Chairman Nadler's words calling it a partisan coup d'etat, came back.
So there was a sense of -- I think Congressman Sensenbrenner, who pointed out that he's participated in four impeachments, every single one has had an extensive argument over what exactly is the nature of an impeachable offense. Because, in the end, if the Constitution is a living document and it's the members of Congress who get to decide what is an impeachable offense.
But to this point about the success of President Trump's strategy of stonewalling Congress, I found that that was really the theme that ran through today's hearing. How should we think about that in terms of -- is it, by its very nature, disrupting the constitutional balance of power to enable the president to refuse evidence and then to have the main Republican witnesses say, therefore there's not enough evidence to produce an impeachable offense.
[18:40:16] So I thought that really got at the heart of it. But I agree. I was worried that it would be sort of a circus and we got through it and there didn't seem to be.
BLITZER: It was pretty substantive, the whole 8 1/2 hours.
KIRBY: Yes, no kidding. I mean, there was a lot of detail that came out. And, frankly, and this is what I didn't understand about Congressman Collins' objection at the end there about how it was waste of time to listen to these constitutional scholars. I, for one, found it very illuminating.
And I think at the beginning of the Judiciary Committee's process, that was a great way to sort of open it up and sort of explain what the Constitution means and doesn't mean and they get conflicting opinion. So I thought it was a terrific scene setter.
BLITZER: People all over the world are watching this right now. America's friends, America's adversaries, they're watching closely to see what is happening. The president returning from this NATO Summit in London right now, where he was meeting with world leaders. Clearly, this is having an impact. MARK MAZZETTI, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: It is. And any time you're having nuanced and thoughtful discussions on constitutional law on national television, I'm all for it. I think it's been said as a good display of exactly what the issues are at stake.
And I thought all four witnesses were quite effective. I thought Jonathan Turley was a very effective witness for the Republicans because it was not, as we've heard in the Intelligence Committee hearings, everyone dismissing the president's behavior, this isn't bad, there's no proof, what's so bad about what he did. He conceded the point that this is not normal behavior, this is behavior necessarily befitting a president but he's making the argument about the process.
And I think that's pretty decent ground for them to be arguing on going forward rather than this was a perfect call, there's no --
TOOBIN: But did you hear one Republican agree with him?
MAZZETTI: No, that it wasn't a perfect call.
TOOBIN: That's their argument. But that's what's so amazing, is that the degree to which we no longer have a Republican Party, as John Boehner has said, we have a Trump party, not one of them even granted that this was a less than perfect phone call.
Turley, to his credit, acknowledged that this was a problem, albeit not one that is grounds for impeachment. But the idea that not a single Republican at that big cast of characters out there acknowledged the less than perfect nature that the president --
BLITZER: So do you think attitudes were changed among Democrats and Republicans? People came in with strongly held views. It looks to me like they're leaving with those same strongly held views.
HENDERSON: Yes, the people on that committee strongly held views. I think they came in with those strongly held views and went away with those strongly held views. This is a process that's going to take a while. Likely go to the Senate, there will be more information that comes out, so I think it's too early to know.
I do think, to the Turley point, Turley is essentially arguing for a longer process and for more information. That doesn't seem to be what the GOP actually wants, more witnesses to come forward --
GLASSER: I think the concern today with the question actually about what that process is. And the Republicans demanded, and Chairman Nadler did not answer, they seemed to suggest this morning in the questioning that they were considering an obstruction of justice article of impeachment that would incorporate elements of the Mueller report that has to do with the president's obstruction.
However, it was pointed out there were no witnesses around this, fact witnesses, as Congressman Collins said. So I'm left wondering what's next.
BLITZER: Hopefully we will find out fairly soon.
I want to speak right now with one of the impeachment experts who testified today. Michael Gerhardt is a professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law. He's also a CNN Legal Analyst.
Michael, I know it's been a long day, but take us inside the room. First of all, what was it like for you?
MICHAEL GERHARDT, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, there's a lot happening in the room. So one of the things you've got to do is really focus very well. You have to ignore the cameras. You have to ignore all people behind you. You have to figure out who's asking the question and listen very carefully. And, of course, that's all happening at once.
And I think it helps that I've been there before. But at the same time, this is a moment that is very -- where there's a lot at stake. There's a lot at stake on both sides, and I think all of us felt that.
BLITZER: Certainly true. What message, Michael, do you think Congress will send if Congress doesn't follow-through with impeachment?
GERHARDT: It's a really great question, and that's one of my biggest concerns, maybe the single biggest. If Congress doesn't follow- through with impeachment, the signal that it sends is whatever this misconduct is, it's okay. It's okay to do it now, the president will likely repeat it and every other president will say, I think, oh, I can do this, I can bend the Constitution in this matter.
So, there may be an impact from this and there may not be a good enduring impact.
BLITZER: As you know, Professor Turley of the George Washington University School of Law, he was the witness for the Republicans and certainly you disagreed with him on several points. But does he have an important and good point that Democrats could potentially build stronger case by slowing the process down?
GERHARDT: He's got a point there. And Democrats could try and do that. The difficulty is they already asked all the witnesses that Mr. Turley was referring to, to testify. But they're all under subpoena, and the president has said -- and directed those people not to testify. They've been trying behind the scenes to get that done.
So, it's not clear that waiting will be any more successful at getting those people to come testify. So, in the sense, the Democrats have tried that and failed. And, unfortunately, Professor Turley didn't give us any other strategy for how the Democrats could be successful getting these witnesses to testify.
BLITZER: Michael, Jeffrey Toobin has a question for you. Go ahead, Jeffrey.
TOOBIN: Michael, no one knows more about impeachment than you do. You literally wrote the book on it.
What -- what about the facts needs to be explored in these hearings? Should there be witnesses who testify about what they saw, as we saw in the Intelligence Committee, or should this be just lawyers and other people who conducted the investigation?
GERHARDT: Jeff, you're right to ask that question. You know, fact witnesses are clearly the most important. People there, witness to it, what they heard, what they saw, what they read, that's the most important thing. I would agree with everybody who talked about the importance of fact witnesses.
We -- you know, our advice hopefully is helpful, but we're not the central part of this story. The important part of the story is all about the facts. And it's the House's job to apply the law to those facts.
TOOBIN: So, are you saying the intelligence committee hearing and the report filed yesterday is not enough for a legitimate basis for impeachment?
GERHARDT: Oh, no, I think it is. I'm just saying that I think to focus on the fact witnesses are critical. And they have given us the foundation and record to support the Intelligence Committee's findings and that comes through the Judiciary Committee.
So, I think on the record, we have enough evidence about impeachable witnesses but I'm all for fact witnesses.
TOOBIN: Michael, Jim Sciutto has a question for you as well.
SCIUTTO: Michael, I wonder as you listen to Jonathan Turley questioned by Democratic Congressman Neguse there, he made the point that the White House has not allowed key witnesses close to the president to testify and has not allowed key documents, has not granted key documents at the request of Congress there.
Based on history, was Congressman Neguse right there, that if you look at previous impeachments, that was the standard and is Trump in effect setting a new standard here for lack of cooperation?
GERHARDT: That was really one of the things I said in my testimony. It's one of the things I kept repeating throughout the day. I think it's a critical problem in this situation.
Every other president facing impeachment inquiry, and not talking about many, they cooperated with it, or at least they acknowledged it was legitimate. But to simply refuse to recognize its legitimacy and refuse to allow any kind of inquiry to go on and trying to find ways to slow it down or impeded or obstructed, that's the problem here.
I think the president, if he were more cooperative actually might find this to be less of a problem for himself.
BLITZER: Michael, you and your fellow witnesses got that questions about your political donations, your political affiliations. Do you worry the partisanship of witnesses today distracted from your testimony, the overall performance?
GERHARDT: I do worry about that. I -- you know, one of the things that struck me when I was there, you asked about this initially, is the importance for the house to recognize impeachment is going to test everyone. It's a test for the House. How are they going to handle this in a civil way, in responsible way. It's a test for witnesses to be able to treated seriously. This is a test for the American people as well.
And I worry when it become as personal attack. Personal attacks have no place in our system of government and they don't advance the understanding of what's going on.
BLITZER: Republicans objected to this process, comparing it to a court of law. But you explained in your statement that not all impeachable offenses are actually crimes and not all crimes are impeachable offenses.
Tell us why that's important in your view?
GERHARDT: It's very important. It's fundamental to the impeachment process. And therefore, what the impeachment process is set up to do, is to insure that we're not focused on the statute, I think that was a mistake today for many members and others who have become so focused what criminal statutes say. In fact, impeachment, historically, has been about what's not in the statutes.
And so, therefore, impeachable offenses are not necessarily criminal offenses. Abuses of power are not outlawed in the statute, but they're forbidden by the Constitution.
And that's what this process is designed to look into and if necessary, the sanctions.
BLITZER: Based on what you heard today, Michael, from the other witnesses, from the questioning from the members of the House Judiciary Committee, what do you expect articles of impeachment to look like?
GERHARDT: Well, I think they're going to probably look rather familiar, based on the discussion today. I think the discussion was focused on figuring out what are the likely impeachable offenses that can be based on the records that were set by the House Intelligence Committee and otherwise is available -- otherwise, other evidence otherwise available to the committee.
So, therefore, I think bribery is likely to be one count. I think obstruction of justice sounds like it will be another. Obstruction of Congress may well be a third, and I can't speak beyond that because those were the focuses of our discussion.
BLITZER: While you were testifying today, "The New York Times" was reporting that Rudy Giuliani actually has traveled to Ukraine to meet with the same officials who were pushing some of the president's conspiracy theories.
What's your reaction to that?
GERHARDT: I don't think that can be good. I -- I think that Mr. Giuliani presumably is doing that at the direction of the president. I presume he's not doing that because it's just his own idea. If he is doing it at the direction of the president, then it sounds like the misconduct that has been of concern today is ongoing, and that is a real concern for the country.
BLITZER: You know, it's -- it's an important moment right now. Step back for a moment and hold on for one moment, Michael.
Jerry Nadler, the committee chairman is meeting with reporters.
REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): Are we ready?
REP. KAREN BASS (D-CA): We're ready.
NADLER: Good evening.
The facts presented at the hearing today were overwhelming and compelling. They were overwhelming as to the president's abuses of power, the president's abuse of Congress the president's betrayal of his oath under the Constitution. They were overwhelming and they were overwhelming in that they clearly show -- and the witnesses testified that they meet all of the requirements for impeachment, that they meet all of the requirements envisioned by the framers for impeachment and that impeachment, in fact, was put in the constitution to protect against the president as this one has.
The evidence is compel -- so obvious, so overwhelming, that the Republicans did not really present or try to present a factual defense. All they kept talking about was process. They pointed out that I have propounded in the past and I talked in the past about a three-part test of impeachability and as you heard in my closing statement, this situation meets all three tests.
The president committed impeachable offenses. They were important impeachable offenses, and they go to the constitu -- the heart of our constitutional republic, they threaten the survival of the democracy itself and the integrity of free elections, and the majority of the people and of the House, I believe, understand that. Those are the three tests.
The committee will take the information we receive today and we will proceed pursuant to House resolution 660 and the procedures contained within it. We will receive evidence, more evidence and we will conduct the proper hearings and -- period.
Thank you very much.
REPORTER: When will you have the hearing?
BLITZER: All right. So, there is the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler, making a statement but refusing to answer questions from reporters, lots of questions need to be answered and specifically what happens next?
You know, what does -- Jeffrey Toobin, we don't know what happens next.
TOOBIN: We don't know what happens. I mean, it is remarkably fluid, this situation. Will there be more fact witnesses? Will they try to get Don McGahn in? It seems unlikely that he will because that case is now caught up in the courts, but if there are -- you know, eyewitnesses, fact witnesses, who would they be?
It seems unlikely any of them would turn up. Will they try to have some sort of hearing where they introduce the Mueller report, where they sort of talk about the obstruction of justice and the obstruction of Congress that Director Mueller disclosed in his report?
And will they figure out a way to make Nancy Pelosi's self-imposed deadline of getting an impeachment not just through the committee, but through the entire House of Representatives by the end of the year?
It's a lot and there is no clear road map ahead, at least none that they have disclosed publicly.
SCIUTTO: If I can add one more if to that and Michael Gerhardt teed this up, is that will the president continue to believe that he has license to seek foreign help in this election? Right now, his personal attorney is in Kiev meeting with friendly prosecutors for a sort of documentary, I guess, kind of a political film digging up still dirt on the Bidens.
This is the essential issue here. Did the president seek foreign help in the election and we're 11 months into that election. That's part of the urgency here. It doesn't seem like the president and the team believe they will face hard consequences from continuing that and that's a disturbing thing.
BLITZER: Hold that thought for a moment.
Congressman Ted Lieu is joining us right now. He's a Democrat who serves on the Judiciary Committee, took part in today's historic meeting.
Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.
Based on what you heard today how strong of a legal and historical standing do you and your fellow Democrats have, those of you who support impeaching the president?
REP. TED LIEU (D-CA): I thank you, Wolf, for your question. I think there is a strong case to be made. The witnesses testified very clearly that the framers of the Constitution put in the impeachment provisions specifically to deal with the situation where the president engaged in an abuse of power or bribery.
That looks like what we have here. We have Donald Trump who is basically withholding military aid, as well as a critical meeting with Ukrainian president in exchange for having Ukrainians launch a bogus investigation into his political rival that looks just like bribery.
BLITZER: If the vote were held today, Congressman, would you vote to impeach the president?
LIEU: No decision has been made as to whether or not we will go forward for impeachment. I do think the facts look very bad for the president and the law looks even worse for the president.
BLITZER: Like most member, you focused your questioning on the witnesses chosen by your party. Did Democrats miss an opportunity to engage more with the Republican invited witness, Professor Turley?
LIEU: So, some of our members did, in fact, question Professor Turley, as well. There was so much information that we wanted to ask that it was simply a matter of making sure that we get the information out there to educate the American people in the first place.
BLITZER: Professor Turley made a point that impeaching a president of the United States is one of the most important, one of the most serious things the House of Representatives can do. He says, why are you guys rushing this? Why not build a stronger case? Let things, for example, play out in the courts as far as getting subpoenas answered and witnesses from the White House, from elsewhere in the executive branch to actually show up?
LIEU: Actually, we're not rushing it. In the Clinton impeachment, it was approximately 72 days and we're at day 71 right now, and we've had extensive hearings and extensive witness transcripts and the most damning evidence came out first. It was the White House call record that showing Donald Trump solicited Ukrainian leader to investigate the DNC server, as well as the Bidens. There's no reason for the American president to solicit foreign interference in our election for his personal benefit?
BLITZER: Do you know when the next hearing is going to take place? What happens now?
LIEU: We will have a hearing next week with the House Intel majority, as well as the House Intel minority will present their reports to the Judiciary Committee.
BLITZER: What day is that?
LIEU: I don't know the exact date. It will be next week.
BLITZER: And then what follows after that?
LIEU: That is beyond my pay grade, Wolf.
BLITZER: You will leave it to the chairman to make those decisions.
Ted Lieu, thanks very much.
Nia, what did you think? TOOBIN: That's actually important news he just disclosed. I'm sorry --
HENDERSON: Yes, I mean, we'll see what happens. That's been the big, you know, mystery here. Obviously, Republicans are complaining that they've been in the dark and they're not necessarily in the dark. They can bring witnesses here.
Ted Lieu kind of playing coy here, saying he hasn't made up his mind on impeachment, it sounds like --
BLITZER: We're hearing that from a lot of Democrats even though they clearly have made up their mind, yes.
HENDERSON: Yes, they clearly have made up their mind on impeachment.
BLITZER: Yes, what do you think, Jim?
SCIUTTO: Listen, it's a big question as to whether Nancy Pelosi also senses what they accomplished here and did not yet accomplish, right? And did she make a political calculation, they need more and maybe the time line they discussed if this vote before Christmas was too aggressive? We'll see.
BLITZER: They're trying, Susan, to resolve this and get these articles of impeachment voted on by Christmas.
SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, that's right. Nancy Pelosi met with her caucus today and there were calls from the caucus saying yes, we're ready and she'll be giving her town hall tomorrow. But I think she's going to stick with her plan.
BLITZER: Yes, she's under a lot of pressure. They're all under a lot of pressure, the Democrats and the Republicans.
This has truly been a very important day here in Washington. As I said, it doesn't get much more important than the House of Representatives considering impeaching a president of the United States.
That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.