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House Judiciary Committee Holds Impeachment Hearing. Aired 9- 10a ET
Aired December 9, 2019 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And the president, since he's been in office, has stoked that in an unprecedented way. So the argument that they're going to make about the fact that he's obstructing certainly matters on the constitutional level but does it matter in terms of who cares level out there in the public?
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: This is also an issue -- you know, I think the loss of institutional integrity is because our politics are so tribalized and so divisive. This is why Nancy Pelosi did not want to move forward with impeachment for the longest time because it would be so divisive and now she feels like her hand has been -- you know, that there's no choice but to move forward.
But whether it's -- I remember during the health care debate, Senator Dodd said this is a really bad idea to do this on a party line vote. Doing impeachment this way is really hard because it allows one side to cast the other as just seeking to legitimize them. That's what the American people should not want because it undermines our institutions.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to hear, you know, Jeffrey, from three witnesses basically at length today and our viewers are going to learn a lot more about Barry Berke, the majority counsel for the Judiciary Committee, Steven Castor, the minority counsel for the Judiciary Committee, Daniel Goldman, the majority counsel for the Intelligence Committee, and Steven Castor, who's also the minority counsel for the Intelligence Committee. They will be testifying and making their arguments.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Right. Steven Castor will be doing double duty for both committees and -- for the Republicans and the Democrats are going to be splitting it. What's interesting about the three witnesses --
BLITZER: By the way, there he is. That's Steven.
TOOBIN: There's Steven Castor. Is they come from three different worlds in the legal world. Daniel Goldman is a career prosecutor with the Southern District of New York, the federal prosecutor's office in Manhattan. He's going to be sort of laying out the prosecution case. Steven Castor, who is representing the Republicans, is a professional congressional staffer. He has worked for the Republicans on Capitol Hill since 2005.
Barry Berke, who was also representing the Democrats, is a very successful criminal defense lawyer in New York City. So it will be interesting to see how their professional backgrounds inform how they express themselves before the committees today. All three of them are very good. I think they will be able to put the best foot forward for their sides but they will be really pressed here because as we have been discussing, this is a very contentious partisan process and so each one is going to be closely cross examined by the party in opposition.
BLITZER: The members are now arriving. And there you see Barry Berke shaking hands with Steven Castor. This is -- Ross, you're familiar with these witnesses as well.
ROSS GARBER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. And, you know, we've seen a bit of each one of them before and I -- you know, I think what we're going to see is them sort of honor, you know, their experiences. You know, Goldman is this career prosecutor. We saw some very, very crisp, you know, direct questioning by him. I think we will expect and should expect that he's going to be very crisp and sharp.
You know, same thing with Barry Berke. You know, very, very smart guy. Very experienced, you know, courtroom lawyer. And Steve Castor has much more experience than either of the Democrats' lawyers with the institution of the House of Representatives. But, you know, interestingly, none of them are, you know, sort of, you know, elected politicians. And so, you know, it will be interesting to see how they sort of play to the masses, how they play to, you know, TV which is, you know, not normally what, you know, these lawyers are doing.
BLITZER: And right now Barry Berke and Steve Castor, they're in their seats. They will be the witnesses. They will be making their respective cases during those first -- I think it's going to be about an hour long session, Carrie, and then in the second round Daniel Goldman from the Intelligence Committee, all of us are familiar with the questioning that he posed, he will join in, in this discussion, and Barry Berke will leave.
CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. I think it's a challenge really for Steve Castor to have to do both hearings because Barry Berke is going to be able to focus on the report that the House Judiciary Committee prepared regarding the constitutional grounds for impeachment. And Mr. Goldman is going to focus on the facts, the extensive factual record that House Intelligence Committee was able to develop over a period of weeks through witnesses, and Steve Castor, for the Republicans, has to be able to do both and straddle both of those and argue on the law piece and the constitutional precedent for the first part and then pivot and move over to the factual records which really, again, I will be very curious to see whether he even is willing to take on the factual allegations or whether he uses the Republican talking points that are really more of diversions than counters to the factual assertions.
BLITZER: And we're just getting this in, Jeffrey. I wonder if you know Ashley Callen, I'm not familiar with her, but Republicans, according to our Jeremy Herb, say she will be the Republican Judiciary Committee staffer asking questions this morning.
She normally is assigned to the House Oversight Investigations Committee but she's going to be -- she's the chief counsel of Oversight Investigations for the House Judiciary Committee and so we're going to see a new face today.
TOOBIN: Yes. And --
BLITZER: Representing the Republicans.
TOOBIN: And, you know, I think one thing that is unambiguously better about these hearings than earlier hearings in the -- when the Democrats have been in control of the House of Representatives, is they have let the lawyers ask the questions for the first 45 minutes as opposed to these four-minute posturings by the members themselves. Just in terms of public understanding, it is a much better thing for a witness -- for a lawyer to be able to develop a line of questioning and at least let the witness talk.
I mean, you know, just for the -- not even, you know, for partisan reasons, just to tell a clear story, you have to let a witness talk for more than 45 -- for more than five minutes and that's nothing but good for both sides.
GREGORY: Well, one question I have is we watch, we witness real time the machinery of impeachment, one upside here is you'll hear, as Jeffrey said, the lawyers make their statements, in effect their arguments, about what the evidence shows. My question is what new evidence might come to light between now and a Senate trial? That might be interesting because presumably the Intelligence Committee, as I've said, as Adam Schiff has said, they're still out there trying get more information.
TOOBIN: And this is not --
BLITZER: The chairman, by the way, Jerry Nadler is now walking in. He's about to be seated. Once he's seated the photographers, presumably, will leave that center stage over there and he'll bring this historic session to order. Go ahead, Dana.
BASH: I think that's -- you just hit the nail on the head. I mean, we're talking a lot about the specifics of what we're going to hear but as we, you know, wait for them to actually start, it is history. Every moment, every one of these hearings are a milestone in something that few people witness because it doesn't happen that much in history. And there is a reason for that. This is the ultimate of Congress using its power to try to put the executive branch, the President of the United States, in check. And it is happening in, as you said, tribal partisan times and that is what we're likely to witness in this hearing, but it is a moment for all of us to remember.
BLITZER: Yes. And it's interesting, if you see the 30 -- you see 30 minutes on that clock over there, each side will have an opening 30 minutes, respectively, the Democrats and the Republicans, Berry Berke on the Democratic side, Stephen Castor on the Republican side. They'll make their -- Carrie, they'll make their opening statements which will arguments, on the Democrat side, in favor of impeachment, on the Republican side clearly against impeachment.
CORDERO: Thirty minutes is a long time, actually, for a lawyer to present a matter before Congress. Having testified before Congress and prepared five-minute statements, 30 minutes is a long time. And they do have at least from the majority perspective, a very lengthy report to base his statements on and so he's really going to want to -- Barry Berke is going to want to go through the constitutional grounds for impeachment in depth and it will really be -- I'm very interested to see how Steven Castor for the minority is able to counter those arguments on the constitutional basis.
BLITZER: And we'll hear from the Democrats side first. The Republican side second. Here we go.
REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): Without objection the chair is authorized to declare recesses of the committee --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I object.
NADLER: Objection noted.
The quorum is present. We are conducting the hearing into President Donald J. Trump.
Presentations from the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Judiciary Committee 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.
After that, we will hear two sets of presentations. We will hear 30- minute opening arguments from counsels for the majority and the minority of this committee...
PROTESTER: Jerry Nadler and the Democratic Party are committing treason against this country. You can kick me out, but he's the one committing crimes. You are, Jerry Nadler. You're the one committing treason. America's done with this. America's (OFF-MIKE).
(UNKNOWN): Order, order. Order in the room.
NADLER: Order in the room. Order in the room.
NADLER: Order in the Committee room.
PROTESTER: (OFF-MIKE). We voted for Donald Trump, and they're trying to remove him (ph) because they don't like him. Americans are sick of the (OFF-MIKE). They're sick of the Democratic treason. We don't (OFF- MIKE).
NADLER: Committee will come to order.
Obviously I shouldn't have to remind everyone present that the audience is here to observe but not to demonstrate, not to indicate agreement or disagreement with any witness or with any member of the Committee. The audience is here to observe only, and we will maintain decorum in the hearing room.
And again, I will say here is how the committee will proceed for this hearing. I will make and opening statement, and then I will recognize the ranking member for an opening statement.
After that, we will hear two sets of presentations. We will hear 30- minutes opening arguments from counsels for the majority and the minority of this committee. Then we will hear 45-minutes presentations of evidence from majority and the minority counsel from the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, followed by 45 minutes of questioning by the chair and ranking member who may yield to counsel for questioning during this period.
Finally, all of our members will have the opportunity to question the presenters from the Intelligence Committee under the five-minute rule.
I would note that the president's counsel was given the opportunity to participate today, but the White House has declined the invitation.
I will now recognize myself for an opening statement.
No matter his party or his politics, if the president places his own interest above those of the country, he betrays his oath of office. The president of the United States, the speaker of the House, the majority leader of the Senate, the chief justice of the Supreme Court, and the chairman and ranking members of the House Committee on the Judiciary all have one important thing in common: We have each taken an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
NADLER: If the president puts himself before the country, he violates a president's most basic responsibility: He breaks his oath to the American people. If he puts himself before the country in a manner that threatens our democracy, then our oath, our promise to the American people requires us to come to the defense of the nation. That oath stands even when it is politically inconvenient, even when it might bring us under criticism, even when it might cost us our jobs as members of Congress. And even if the president is unwilling to honor his oath, I am compelled to honor mine.
As we heard in our last hearing, the framers of the Constitution were careful students of history and clear in their vision for the new nation. They knew that threats from -- to democracy can take many forms; that we must protect against them. They warned us against the dangers of would-be monarchs, fake populous and charismatic demagogues. They knew that the most dangerous threat to our country might come from within in the form of a corrupt executive who put his private interests above the interests of the nation.
They also knew they could not anticipate every threat a president might someday pose, so they adopted the phrase "treason, bribery, and other high crimes and misdemeanors" to capture the full spectrum of possible presidential misconduct. George Mason, who proposed this standard, said that it was meant to capture all manner of great and dangerous offenses against the Constitution.
The debates around the framing make clear that the most serious such offenses include abuse of power, betrayal of the nation through foreign entanglements and corruption of public office. Any one of these violations of the public trust would compel the members of this committee to take action. When combined in a single course of action, they state the strongest possible case for impeachment and removal from office. President Trump put himself before country.
Despite the political partisanship that seems to punctuate our hearings these days, I believe that there is common ground around some of these ideas, common ground in this hearing room and common ground across the country at large. We agree, for example that impeachment is a sound, serious undertaking. We agree that it is meant to address serious threats to democratic institutions like our free and fair elections. We agree that when the elections themselves are threatened by enemies foreign or domestic, we cannot wait until the next election to address the threat. We surely agree that no public official, including and especially the president of the United States, should use his public office for private gain.
And we agree that no president may put himself before the country. The Constitution and his Oath of Office, his promise to American citizens, require the president to put the country first.
If we could drop our blinders for just one moment, I think we would agree on a common set of facts, as well.
On July 25th, President Trump called President Zelensky of Ukraine and asked him for a favor. That call was part of a concerted effort by President Trump to compel the government of Ukraine to announce an investigation, not an investigation of corruption writ large, but an investigation of President Trump's political rivals, and only his political rivals. President Trump put himself before country.
NADLER: The record shows that President Trump withheld military aid allocated by the United States Congress from Ukraine. It also shows that he withheld a well -- a White House meeting from President Zelensky. Multiple witnesses, including respected diplomats, national security professionals and decorated war veterans, all testify to the same basic fact: President Trump withheld the aid and the meeting in order to pressure a foreign government to do him that favor. President Trump put himself before country. When the president got caught, when Congress discovered that the aid has been withheld from Ukraine, the president took extraordinary and unprecedented steps to conceal evidence from Congress and from the American people.
These facts are not in dispute. In fact, most of the arguments about these facts appeared to be beside the point.
As we review the evidence today, I expect we will hear much about the whistleblower who brought his concerns about the July 25th call to the inspector general of the intelligence community. Let me be clear: Every fact alleged by the whistleblower has been substantiated by multiple witnesses again and again, each of whom has been questioned extensively by Democrats and Republicans alike.
The allegations also match up with the presidents own words as released by the White House, words that he still says were perfect.
I also expect to hear complaints about the term "quid pro quo," as if a person needs to verbally acknowledge the name of a crime while he is committing it for it be a crime at all.
The record on this point is also clear: Multiple officials testified that the president's demand for an investigation into his rivals was a part of his personal political agenda, and not related to the foreign policy objectives of the United States. Multiple officials testified that the president intended to withhold the aid until -- intended to withhold the aid until Ukraine announced investigations. And, yes, multiple officials testified that they understood this arrangement to be a quid pro quo for the president's personal political benefit. President Trump put himself before country.
The president's supporters are going to argue that this whole process is unfair. The record before us is clear on this point as well: We invited the president to participate in this hearing, to question witnesses, and to present evidence that might explain the charges against him. President Trump chose not to show. He may not much have much to say in his own defense, but he cannot claim that he did not have an opportunity to be heard.
Finally, as we proceed today, we will hear a great deal about the speed with which the House is addressing the president's actions. To the members of the committee, to the members of the House and to my fellow citizens, I want to be absolutely clear: The integrity of our next election is at stake; nothing could be more urgent.
The president welcomed into -- foreign interference in our elections in 2016, he demanded it for 2020, then he got caught. If you do not believe that he will do it again, let me remind you that the president's personal lawyer spent last week back in Ukraine meeting with government officials in an apparent attempt to gin up the same so-called favors that brought us here today and force Congress to consider the impeachment of a sitting president. This pattern of conduct represents a continuing risk to the country.
The evidence shows that Donald J. Trump, the President of the United States, has put himself before his country. He has violated his most basic responsibility to the people: He has broken his oath.
I will honor mine. If you would honor yours, then I would urge you to do your duty. Let us review the record here, in full view of the American people, and then let us move swiftly to defend our country.
We promised that we would.
I now recognize the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee...
BIGGS: Mr. Chairman?
NADLER: ... the gentleman from Georgia, Mr. Collins...
BIGGS: Mr. Chairman, I have a unanimous consent.
NADLER: ... for his opening statement.
BIGGS: Mr. Chairman, I have a unanimous consent.
NADLER: The gentleman from Georgia is recognized. The gentleman from Georgia is recognized. The gentleman from Georgia is recognized.
COLLINS: So, you're not going to recognize a possible motion before me?
BIGGS: Unanimous consent, Mr. Chairman.
COLLINS: It's a unanimous consent request. It's a unanimous consent request.
NADLER: The gentleman from Georgia is recognized. We'll entertain that later.
BIGGS: Point of order, Mr. Chairman.
NADLER: The gentleman from Georgia is recognized.
BIGGS: Mr. Chairman, I have a point of order.
NADLER: The gentleman will state his point of order.
BIGGS: Mr. Chairman, last week you were furnished with a proper demand for minority hearing pursuant to Clause 2J1 of Rule 11. In a blatant and egregious violation of the rules, you are refusing to schedule that hearing. Therefore, I insist on my point of order unless you are willing to immediately schedule a minority hearing date.
NADLER: That is not a proper point of order in today's hearing. As I have told the ranking member several times now, I am considering the minority's request.
COLLINS: It's not to be considered, Mr. Chairman.
NADLER: The ranking member -- the gentleman will suspend. If the ranking member thinks we would be violating the rules of the House if we considered articles of impeachment before holding a minority day hearing, this point of order would be timely at a meeting where we considered articles of impeachment. That is not the purpose of today's hearing and the point of order is not timely.
The gentleman from Georgia.
COLLINS: Well, that got us started again: the chairman completely not answering a question. It is timely, and it's, frankly, not up to his discretion. But again and again we've not really cared about from the start to begin with.
So, my question is, just schedule the hearing, but undoubtedly that's not what they want out there.
So, let's start over, now that the chairman has recognized and we've got that point.
You know, there have been famous moments in impeachment. There have been famous moments in impeachment as we've gone forward. There are famous lines from Nixon like, "What did the president know and when did he know it?" From the Clinton impeachment, there was, "I did not have sex with that woman."
What would be known about this one is, probably, where is the impeachable offense? Why are we here?
I tell you, this may be, though, become known as the focus group impeachment, because we don't have a crime, we don't have anything we can actually pin, and nobody understands really what the majority's trying to do except to interfere and basically make sure that they believe the president can't win next year if he's impeached.
The focus group impeachment takes words and then takes them to people and say, "How can we explain this better because we don't have the facts to match it?"
A focus group impeachment says, "You know, we really aren't working with good facts, but we need a good P.R. move." That's why we're here today.
This is -- this is all about, as I said last week, a clock and a calendar. And it really became evident to me that this was true because last Wednesday, after we had a long day of hearing here, the next morning, before anything else could get started, the speaker of the House walked up to the podium and said, "Go write articles of impeachment." She just quit. She just stopped. "Go write articles of impeachment."
I appreciate that the majority practiced for two days this weekend on this hearing. I appreciate that the fact that you got to try and get it right to try and convince the American people of your problem, but your speaker's already undercut you. She took the -- the -- the thrill out of the room. You're writing articles of impeachment. Why couldn't we just save that time today, and if you're going to write the articles of impeachment, go ahead and write them?
Well, there's probably a reason for that, because the chairman laid out some amazing claims, none of which I think after this hearing today the American people can honestly look at and see that there was overwhelming evidence, there is a proper reason he abused his power, because as the speaker, another statement she said, "That to do impeachment, you have to be so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan," all of which we are not.
So, why not? Why are we here?
Well, I think we can do this. Let's look at -- let's look at the three things that typically are associated with making your case or a crime. Let's do it against what the majority has said. And I think they have motive; they have means; and they have opportunity.
What's their motive? It's November 2020. It's been said over and over and over again. The chairman said it again this morning. It's been said all along that we have to do this because, if we don't impeach him, he'll win again next year.
The reason is shown as clearly as last week on the jobs report in the economy, and as I had a man come up to me in the grocery store this weekend. He said, "Keep doing what you're doing." He said, "I've never seen an economy this good." He said our -- he said, "People are working; people are being taken care of." And this is just a fatal distraction on a president that they don't like.
Motive is easy. November 2016, they lost. January 2017, just a few minutes in, The Washington Post confirmed what every Democrat had been talking about. Now's the time for impeachment.
We see tweet after tweet saying, "Now let's get" -- it's amazing that they start with impeachment and then they spent two years trying to figure out what do we impeach him on?
Well, the means became what we see now. The means is, is to always talk about impeachment, to always say this president's doing something wrong, to say he's illegitimate, as the chairman has said before, that he's not even a -- a legitimate president. It's to constantly tear down at a president who is working on behalf of the American people.
This sham impeachment, when we go through this -- I think the chairman said something that was interesting. He said that a president should not be above the law and should be held accountable for the oath of their office. I think Congress ought to be held accountable for their oath of office as well and not to do what we're doing right now, and that is run a process that doesn't fit fairness or decorum; to run a process and a fact pattern that you're having to force against a president you don't like.
Well, what was the opportunity?
The opportunity came last November when they got the majority and they began their impeachment run. They began in the process even as to selecting the chairman. The chairman said that "I would be the best person for impeachment." This is November of last year -- before we had any hearings, before we had -- even were sworn in to this Congress.
For anyone, the media or watching on TV or watching in this room, for anyone to think that this was not a baked deal is not being honest with themselves.
You see, presumption has now become the standard instead of proof. It should cause anyone to begin to question, because the entire case is built on a presumption, or as we found out last week from three scholars, that inference is OK. If you just infer that that's what they mean, then we'll take that. That was an interesting line.
You know, it was interesting. They made their whole case built on Gordon Sondland. You're going to see that a lot today. He testified that he presumed that the aid was connected to an investigation, but he said nobody ever told him that.
When Sondland even asked the president directly -- he said, "What do you want?" The president: "I want nothing. I want Zelensky to do what he ran on." Ukraine did nothing and got the aid anyway.
(inaudible) know that this is also a problematic experience. Just look over the past three weeks, when the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, who, by the way, is absent today. I guess he can't back up his own report. But he started his own hearing by making up the factual call. When he made it up, he started the fairy tale that we're having today. If you can't even put the transcript in the right context, just read it.
Chairman Schiff couldn't even read the transcript. He had to make it up, because if he didn't make it up, it didn't sound as bad. It didn't sound as bad. He said, "Listen" -- he said, "Let's make up some dirt." That's not what was said. The transcript -- the chairman misled the American people.
As an attorney, as a chairman, as a member of Congress who swore an oath to tell the -- basically, to be honest with the American people and to uphold the Constitution, that was such a massive malpractice I've never seen. Because, you know why? Again, they don't care about what actually was in the transcript. They don't actually care what happened.
And we heard last week from witnesses, they don't even care that the aid was released. They're simple looking at the facts to make it fit their narrative.
Well, what else happened? You know, this is also the Chairman Schiff who also said that he had seen (ph) collusion in plain sight, that it was already there before the Mueller report ever came out, that all of this was going to happen. But, you know, I guess, maybe, I might need to just not stop commenting on Chairman Schiff and his (inaudible) because I may end up on the next phone records subpoena, as we go forward.
You see, we've taken a dangerous turn in this Congress. Subpoenas are fine, properly done, and should be done properly. But they should never be at the expense of a political vendetta.
Professor Turley testified last week, "Presumption is no substitute for proof. The current legal case for impeachment is not just woefully inadequate but in some respects dangerous and the basis for impeachment of an American president."
Today what we were supposed to get was like what I'm -- I love my friends on the majority of this committee -- said Mueller -- when we got the Mueller report, it didn't go real well. So we had a lot of hearings, didn't go real well. Then we finally got Bob Mueller and they said, "This is going to be the movie version."
In fact, what happened, they did -- my colleagues on the majority had live readings from Capitol Hill; they made dramatic podcasts. They even wrote a comic book rendition that breathed life into the Mueller report. And it didn't work.
So they brought Bob Mueller. This was the movie version. They told us Robert Mueller's testimony would be the thing that people watched and would be convinced. Guess what? They wasn't (ph) convinced. In fact, it fell flat.
But, you know, today I guess is the movie version of the Schiff report, except one thing. The star witness failed to show up. Mr. Nunes is here. His staff is here. The leading headline is there, "Schiff Report." But where's Mr. Schiff?
In Mueller, Robert Mueller testified. The Ken Starr report, Ken Starr testified. The author of the Schiff report is not here.
Instead he's sending his staff to do his job for him. I guess that's what you get when you're making up impeachment as you go.
So as we look forward here, there's going to be plenty of time to discuss the factual case for this in the statements that are not been made. What is very detrimental to me, though, is this. This committee is not hearing from a factual witness. This committee is not doing anything past hearing from law school professors and staff.
We've not been given -- the chairman said something about the president not being able to come. Show me where he would actually have a proper process in this that's not talking to staff and not talking to law school professors, when we could actually have witnesses that will be called by both sides.
But I want to say this, in ending. I love this institution. I was here as a 19-year-old kid, as an intern, almost 32 years ago. This institution as we see it today is in danger. We see chairmen who are issuing subpoenas for personal vendettas. We see committees such as the Judiciary Committee that has held many, many substantive hearings, has been the very center point of impeachment, being used as a rubber stamp because we get not our marching orders from this committee and what it should be doing but from the speaker and the Intelligence Committee chairman.
We're not able to do what we need to do because we're a rubber stamp. I love this institution, but in the last three days I have -- over the last three or four days I have seen stuff that just bothered me to no end and should bother everyone.
The speaker of the House, after hearing one day of testimony in the Judiciary Committee, said, "go write articles, facts be damned." Al Green, another member of the House majority, said we can keep impeaching him over and over and over and over again.
Adam Schiff, when he told us he wasn't going to come, instead hide behind his staff, he also told us that we're going to keep investigating, because they know this is going nowhere in the Senate and they're desperate to have an impeachment vote on this president.
The economy's good, job creation is up, military is strong, our country is safe, and the Judiciary Committee has been relegated to this. Why? Because they have the means, they have the motive, and they have the opportunity. And at the end of the day, all this is about is about a clock and a calendar, because they can't get over the fact that Donald Trump is the president of the United States and they don't have a candidate that they think can beat him. It's all political. And as we have talked about before, this is a shove.
Unfortunately today the witness who is supposed to be the star witness chose to take a pass and let a staff answer for him.
With that, I yield back.
BIGGS: Mr. Chairman, I have a point of order.
NADLER: Thank you, Mr. Collins.
BIGGS: Mr. Chairman, I have a point of order.
NADLER: Gentleman will state his point of order.
BIGGS: Mr. Chairman, Clause 2J1 of Rule 11 requires you to schedule a minority hearing date; not to consider it, not to meet to discuss it, but to schedule one. And to schedule it at a reasonable time; not after articles have been drawn, not after there's been a vote on articles of impeachment.
I inquire and insist, Mr. Chairman, that you immediately schedule a minority hearing day or tell us why you are ignoring the rules.
NADLER: The gentleman -- the gentleman...
(UNKNOWN): We've already gone through that. NADLER: We've already gone through that, but I will repeat that is not a point -- proper point of order in today's hearing. As I've told the ranking minority member several times, I'm considering the minority's request.
If you think we'd be violating the rules of the House if we considered articles of impeachment before holding a minority day hearing, that point of order would be timely at a meeting where we considered such articles. That's not the purpose of today's hearing, and the point of order is not in order.
COLLINS: Mr. Chairman, since I've been...
NADLER: And now and without objection...
COLLINS: ... since I've been indicated in this, I'd like to ask a second...
NADLER: Without objection...
COLLINS: Our (inaudible) have not talked about that (ph).
NADLER: Without objection, all other opening statements will be included in the record.
COLLINS: Reserve my point of objection on that.
NADLER: OK, the point of objection...
COLLINS: I have a question. You've brought -- you've brought my name into this.
NADLER: The gentleman...
COLLINS: You have brought my name into this.
NADLER: They gentleman will suspend.
The gentleman is recognized.
COLLINS: OK. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Telling me that you're considering something you have nothing to consider -- and you have told me that, I will admit on record -- is nowhere close to actually following your duty as a chairman to follow the rules.
And so, I think the point of order is very well-taken. I think the issue that we have is not -- I think your timing is -- I mean, show me, please, in the rule -- have your parliamentarian show me in the rules where you come to a time of actually being able to deny this up until certain point.
SENSENBRENNER: Further observing the right to object.
NADLER: As I -- as I have said, the point... SENSENBRENNER: Further reserving the right to object.
NADLER: As I have said, the point of order would be in order at the meeting where we are considering articles of impeachment.
SENSENBRENNER: Further reserving the right to object.
NADLER: We will now hear presentations...
SENSENBRENNER: Mr. Chairman, I appeal the decision of the chair.
NADLER: There is no decision to appeal. There was not a ruling and a motion.
We will now hear presentation...
COLLINS: You have to rule on a point (ph)...
BIGGS: You're ruling on a point of order...
COLLINS: You made a ruling on the point of order.
(UNKNOWN): You made a ruling on the point of order, Mr. Chairman.
(UNKNOWN): You can't then not allow us to appeal the ruling of the chair.
NADLER: The gentleman -- the gentleman will suspend.
It was not a cognizable point of order. It was not -- it was not a cognizable point of order. It was not in order at this time to make that point of order. There is no ruling to appeal -- to appeal.
BIGGS: But, Mr. Chairman, the rule was the...
NADLER: We will now -- gentleman...
BIGGS: ... obligation, not a consideration.
NADLER: The gentleman will suspend.
BIGGS: You are obligated to schedule, not to consider. You made a ruling. It is in order to appeal.
NADLER: The gentleman will suspend.
We are doing what we have to do under the rules.
We will now hear presentation of evidence...
(UNKNOWN): Mr. Chairman...
BIGGS: Mr. Chairman, further...
NADLER: Gentleman is not recognized.
We will now hear presentations of evidence from House...
(UNKNOWN): I have a parliamentary inquiry.
COLLINS: I haven't removed my objection yet.
NADLER: I will not recognize the parliamentary inquiry at this time.
(UNKNOWN): When will you recognize?
NADLER: We will now hear presentations of evidence from counsels of the Judiciary...
GAETZ: Is this when we just hear staff ask questions of other staff and the members get dealt out of this whole hearing...
NADLER: Gentleman will...
GAETZ: ... for the next four hours? You're going to try to overturn the results of an election...
GAETZ: ... with unelected people giving testimony?
NADLER: Gentleman will suspend.
This order -- this meeting will be -- this hearing will be considered in -- will be considered in an orderly fashion. The gentleman will not yell out and he will not attempt to disrupt the proceedings.
We will now hear presentations of evidence from counsels to the Judiciary Committee for up to 60 minutes equally divided.
COLLINS: I've not removed my objection yet.
NADLER: Barry Berke will present -- Barry Berke will present for the majority and Steve Castor will present for the minority.
Each of you will have 30 minutes to present. To help you stay within that time, there is a timing light on your table. When the light switches from green to yellow, you have one minute to conclude your testimony. When the light turns red, it signals your time has expired.
Mr. Berke, you may begin.
COLLINS: Mr. Chairman, you do realize I've never withdrawn my objection.
NADLER: Gentleman will suspend.
COLLINS: I've not withdrawn my objection. You've not asked -- talked to my objection. I want everybody to have any opening statement.
NADLER: Gentleman will -- gentleman will suspend.
COLLINS: My objection to your opening statement comment, nothing else.
NADLER: Mr. Berke is recognized.
COLLINS: The steamroll continues.
NADLER: Mr. Berke has the floor.
COLLINS: Of course (ph).
BERKE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Collins, and all the members.
Before I had the great honor of being a counsel for this committee, my young son asked me a question. He said, "Dad, does the president have to be a good person?" Like many questions by young children, it had a certain clarity, but it was hard to answer.
I said, "Son, it is not a requirement that the president be a good person, but that is the hope."
And it is not a requirement that the president be a good person. That is not why we are here today. That is not the issue.
But the very document that created the awesome presidency and its powers that we have made clear it is a requirement that the president be a person who does not abuse his power. It is a requirement that the president be a person who does not risk the national security of this nation and the integrity of our elections in order to further his own reelection prospects. It is a requirement that the president not be a person who acts as though he is above the law in putting his personal and political interests above the nation's interests.
That is the lesson of the Constitution. That is the lesson of the founders. They were concerned that someone would be elected president who would use all the power of that office to serve his own personal interest at the expense of the people who elected him. They decided there needed to be a remedy because they had suffered the abuses of King George where they had no remedy.
The remedy they -- they imposed was that if a president commits a grave offense, a high crime or misdemeanor, this body has the power to impeach that president. They wanted to ensure that a president could not serve his own interests over that of the nation. It flows from the very oath that all members of this body must take to support and defend the Constitution and bear true faith and allegiance to the same.
That is why we are here today. And it is an unfortunate occasion that these proceedings are necessary, but the president's actions have left no choice. The founders were very clear in spelling out what they saw to be the greatest abuses that would raise the most concerns for our nation.
They spelled them out as warning signals, that if a president violated or committed one of these that would be a reason to potentially impeach that president.
They were abuse of power, betrayal the national interest, corruption of elections. And what is so extraordinary is the conduct we're going to be talking about today of President Trump didn't violate one of these, but all three.
First, the evidence is overwhelming that the president abused his power by pressure -- by pressuring Ukraine and its new president to investigate a political opponent. The evidence is overwhelming that the president abused his power by ramping up that pressure by conditioning a wanted White House meeting and a needed military aid that had been approved in order to get that president to investigate a political rival. It is clear and overwhelming that in abusing that power, the president betrayed the national interest by putting his own political prospects over the national security of our country. It is clear that the president risked corrupting our elections by inviting foreign interference to knock out an adversary to help his prospects in reelection. It is why, in debating the Constitution, James Madison warned that because the presidency was to be administered by a single man, his corruption might be fatal to the republic.
And the scheme by President Trump was so brazen, so clear, supported by documents, actions, sworn testimony, uncontradicted contemporaneous records that it's hard to imagine that anybody could dispute those acts, let alone argue that that conduct does not constitute an impeachable offense or offenses.
This is a big deal. President Trump did what a president of our nation is not allowed to do. It is why last week, the constitutional scholar, Professor Michael Gerhardt, said, "If what we're talking about is not impeachable, then nothing is impeachable."
President Trump's actions are impeachable offenses. They threaten our rule of law. They threaten our institutions, and as James Madison warned us, they threaten our republic.
Let me begin where we must, with the facts in evidence. First, it's important to understand why Ukraine was so important to our national security. Ukraine was under attack by its aggressive and hostile neighbor, Russia. They had already encroached on its territories. The Ukraine was at great risk that Russia would, again, take further territory, or try. Europe had a stake in this, and so did we.
I'm going to turn to an expert on this, Ambassador Taylor, who was one of the most highly-decorated diplomats and recognized diplomats. For over 40 years, he served our country honorably, and he was appointed by President Trump himself to be in charge of the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM TAYLOR, ACTING U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: The Russians are violating all of the rules, treaties, understandings that they committed to that actually kept the peace in Europe for nearly 70 years. That rule of law, that order that kept the peace in Europe and allowed for prosperity, as well as peace in Europe, was violated by the Russians. It affects the world that we live in, that our children will grow up in and our grandchildren. This affects the kind of world that we want to -- to see, a world (ph)...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERKE: That is Ambassador Taylor explaining why Ukraine was so important and explaining why the president's actions so significantly risk hurting our national security, our national defense policy and our national interest.
Now, you've already heard there is significant proof that President Trump himself told the new president of the Ukraine, President Zelensky, that he wanted him to investigate a political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, and you'll hear a lot about that today, but that proof is only the tip of the iceberg. There are so many more events and meetings and contemporaneous text messages, e-mails, other documents that show this happened, and happened exactly as it is alleged. And it is clear that in this scheme to pressure Ukraine to investigate a political rival, the person at the center of that scheme was President Donald Trump.
The facts cannot be disputed. President Trump used the powers of government for a domestic political errand to put his political interest above that of the nation.
I'm going to turn to another expert. I'm going to turn to Miss -- to -- to Dr. Fiona Hill, the National Security Council senior director in the Trump administration, and she is going to explain what happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FIONA HILL, FORMER SENIOR DIRECTOR FOR EUROPE AND RUSSIA, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: But it struck me when yesterday, when you put up on the screen Ambassador Sondland's e-mails and who was on these e-mails, and he said, "These are people who need to know," that he was absolutely right because he was being involved in a domestic political errand, and we were being involved in national security foreign policy, and those two things had just diverged.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERKE: And that tells you what the evidence shows: The president put his own domestic political interest over the nation's national security and foreign policy.
A president cannot abuse his power to secure an election. He cannot do that at the expense of the American people. That is an impeachable offense.
The president has tried to make excuses for his conduct, why it's not wrongful or corrupt or an abuse of power, but the truth holds together. It makes sense. It's consistent with the evidence. When someone is offering excuse that is not true, it is not consistent with the evidence, it does not make sense, it cannot be squared with what the facts show, and you will see these excuses do not make sense. The facts are clear that President Trump put his own political and personal interests over the nation's interest.
I'd like to go through what you are going to see about the president's scheme, and you're going to hear about today from the facts that we have.
First, you're going to hear that President Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, pushed Ukraine to open an investigation of his political rival. Mr. Giuliani, prior to the July 25th call, he made public statements that Ukraine should investigate the vice -- former Vice President Joe Biden. He tweeted about it, putting pressure on the new president. He -- he went to Ukraine, and later went again with the assist and direction of U.S. officials who were told to aid the president's personal lawyer on the president's behalf.
You'll hear that President Trump told his aides that he was relying on -- for Ukraine, that he wanted them to, quote, "talk to Rudy". What you're going to hear is that his close advisers had just gotten back on May 23rd from the inauguration of the new president, President Zelensky. They told President Trump, "We were impressed. He was elected on an anticorruption platform, a reform platform. You should schedule a White House meeting. It's very important. This is very good for the United States," and the president's response was, "Talk to Rudy," who had been out there claiming what the Ukraine -- Ukrainian president had to do was investigate his political rival.
You'll hear that President Trump's advisers told President Zelensky that President Trump would not schedule the wanted White House meeting unless he announced a Ukrainian investigation of former Vice President Biden. There are documents, there's sworn testimony. This happened and there is no question from the evidence that the president did this.
And President Zelensky desperately needed a White House meeting, both to show Russia that the U.S. was still supporting Ukraine and for his own credibility as a new president.
You'll hear, then, to ramp up the pressure, what President Trump did is he told his agencies to withhold military and security aid that had been approved and was supposed to be released to Ukraine, hundreds of millions of dollars, in order to put more pressure on Ukraine.
All the agencies involved, State Department, Defense Department, National Security Council, said it should be released, that it had been approved. It was going to be released until President Trump personally stopped it. And again, contemporaneous evidence and documents show it and prove it.
People said that they were shocked. Ambassador Taylor said he was in astonishment. Your (ph) witness said that it was illogical to do this. And the president never offered an explanation. But ultimately it was discovered why he did it.
Then on the July 25th call, President Trump explicitly told him he wanted to conduct -- he wanted him to do two Ukrainian investigations, one of a U.S. citizen and his political rival, and the other about the origins of the -- of interference in the 2016 election, some conspiracy theory that Russia, who all of the intelligence agencies agreed interfered with the 2016 election -- that maybe it was Ukraine. Again, another investigation intended to help the president politically. That is it.
And you know the president cared about the investigations that would help him politically and not Ukraine and not the national security interest, but you don't have to take my word.
I'm going to play something from David Holmes, who has worked in the U.S. embassy in Ukraine, and was speaking to Ambassador Sondland, who Donald -- who President Trump appointed.
Ambassador Sondland had just come to the Ukraine on the 26th. He met with President Zelensky. The went to a restaurant with Mr. Holmes, the U.S. political affairs counsel in Ukraine. And he called President Trump on his cell phone, and Mr. Holmes could hear that call and then he spoke to Mr. Sondland. Let's see what happened on July 26th, the day after that call.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID A. HOLMES, POLITICAL AFFAIRS COUNSEL, U.S. EMBASSY-UKRAINE: I heard Ambassador Sondland greet the president and explain he was calling from Kyiv. I heard President Trump then clarify that Ambassador Sondland was in Ukraine. Ambassador Sondland replied yes, he was in Ukraine, and went on to state, that President Zelensky, quote, "Loves your ass." I then heard President Trump ask, so he's going to do the investigation? Ambassador Sondland replied that he's going to do it, adding that President Zelensky will do anything you ask him to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERKE: That is sworn testimony by David Holmes, who heard it from the president himself.
And it was clear to everyone, the most experienced people in government, who Donald Trump himself appointed in their positions, they knew what was going on. Let's look at a text message from Ambassador Taylor, around this time on September 9th. He said, "As I said on the phone, I think it's crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign."
Again, that is President Trump putting his own political and personal interests over the nation's interest, to hold aid, desperately needed by Ukraine in order to combat Russia and show the support. He did it help his own campaign.
Now, there have been excuses offered by the president. I'd like to briefly talk about those excuses.
The first excuse offered by President Trump is that the aid was ultimately released and President Trump met with Mr. Zelensky. We heard it today.
The challenge with that, though, as an excuse, is the aid was only released after President Trump got caught doing this scheme. On September 9th, the committees of this House started their investigation and announced they were investigating his conduct with regard to Ukraine. Two days later was when he released the aid.
And he also -- there also was a news article, which we'll talk about in a moment, by The Washington Post on September 5th exposing his scheme. And it was only after that that he met with Mr. -- with President Zelensky, not in the White House, but in New York.
Another excuse offered: The president was motivated by general corruption concerns.
And again, the evidence shows that is not true that that's what caused him to withhold the aid. President Zelensky, in fact, was elected on anti-corruption platform. He was a reform candidate. His own people told him again and again, President Zelensky is a hope, he's doing it the right way. They urged him to be supportive.
On his call with President Zelensky on July 25th, President Trump ignored the talking points that were prepared to talk about corruption. He only wanted to talk about two things: the two investigations that helped him politically.
Every intelligence agency unanimously supported releasing the aid to Ukraine, that it was appropriate. They did a study, a corruption study; they said release it. The White House never provided an explanation, the aid had already been approved and it was not for any corruption issues that President Trump withheld it.
The next is: Ukraine was not pressured. And the argument about that is, well today, there -- they haven't said they were pressured. Well, Ukraine was pressured then and still is pressured. They are desperately in need of the United States support as they battle the threat of Russia. So, of course, they have to be careful what they said.
But contemporaneous documents, e-mails, texts, from the Ukrainian officials themselves show the pressure they felt, show they knew what the President Trump was doing, showed what they had to do. This is one from Bill Taylor to, again, Ambassador Gordon Sondland and Ambassador Kurt Volker.
"Gordon, one thing Kurt and I talked about yesterday was Sasha Danylyuk's -- a senior aide of President Zelensky -- point that President Zelensky is sensitive about Ukraine being taken seriously, not merely an instrument in Washington domestic reelection politics." They not only felt the pressure, they got the message. They were not going to get a White House meeting, they were, ultimately, not going to get military aid unless the furthered President Trump's reelection efforts. That is a corrupt abuse of power.
Another argument that's made is that Trump never said "quid pro quo." And what you're going to hear is on a call with Ambassador Sondland, after a Washington Post article came out on September 5th, which we will look at.
After -- there was a Washington Post article that came out that, again, exposed the Ukrainian scheme. Days after that President Trump was on a phone call with Ambassador Sondland and without prompting said, "There was no quid pro quo," because he got caught. So he's offering his defense.
But even Ambassador Sondland, in his sworn testimony, didn't buy it, because ultimately then President Trump not only was not dissuaded, he again described what he wanted. He didn't want Ukraine to actually conduct these investigations, he wanted them to announce investigations of his political rival, to help him politically. He continued -- and you'll hear more about that.
Again, none of these excuses hold any water and they are refuted by testimony, contemporaneous records and more.
Now, some have suggested that we should wait to proceed with these impeachment proceedings, because we've not heard from all of the witnesses or obtained all of the documents. But the reason we have not heard from all the witnesses or documents is because President Trump himself has obstructed the investigation, he has directed his most senior aides who were involved in some of these events not to come testify, to defy subpoenas. He has told every one of his agencies with records that could be relevant not to produce those records to us, to try to obstruct our investigation.
Now, this is evidence that President Trump is replaying the playbook used in the prior Department of Justice investigation. In that investigation he directed his White House counsel to create a false, phony record and document and lie, denying that President Trump had told him to fire the special counsel. He did many other things to try to interfere with that investigation. He attacked the investigators and witnesses and called them horrible names, just as he has done here.
And President Trump thought he got away with it. On July 24th was the day that special counsel -- the special counsel testified before this committee and the House Intelligence Committee. The 24th. It was exactly the following day, the 25th, that President Trump spoke to President Zelensky in furtherance of his Ukrainian scheme. He thought he got away with it. Not only that, he thought he could use his powers to interfere with that investigation, so he could do what he wanted, he could act like he was above the law. And if he got caught, he would again use his powers to try to obstruct the investigation and prevent the facts from coming out. And that's exactly what he did.
But fortunately -- fortunately, because of the true American patriots who came forward to testify despite the threats by a president against the people who worked in his own administration, they told the story, they on their own produced documents that provide uncontroverted, clear and overwhelming evidence that President Trump did this scheme.
He put his political reelection interest over the nation's national security and the integrity of its elections. He did it intentionally, he did it corruptly. He abused his powers in ways that the founders feared the most.
No person in this country has the ability to prevent investigations, and neither does the president. Our Constitution does not allow it. No one is above the law, not even the president.
And one of the concerns and requirements of finding an impeachable offense is there an urgency, is there a sense that you have to move because it could be repeated.
Well, again, first, all the constitutional experts who testified recognize that obstructing an investigation is an impeachable offense. But here the offense were talking about that's being interfered or obstructed with is interfering with this very election that's coming up.
And I submit to you, given what happened with the Department of Justice investigation, given what's happening here, if in fact President Trump can get away with what he did again, our imagination is the only limit to what President Trump may do next, or what a future president may do next to try to abuse his or her power to serve his own personal interests over the nation's interests.
I'd like to turn back to what the founders most cared about when we're talking about the ABCs of potential presidential abuses. It is extraordinary that the president's conduct was a trifecta, checking all three boxes. Let's begin with abuse of power. What that means, it's to use the power of the office to obtain an improper personal benefit while ignoring or injuring the national interest.