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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
House Judiciary Committee Begins Debate on Articles Of Impeachment. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired December 11, 2019 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We'll see what happens. We're going to have special live coverage throughout the night, of course. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Out special impeachment coverage continues right now with Erin Burnett OUTFRONT.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, the breaking news. Just moments from now, you see the room, the House Judiciary Committee will begin debate on two articles of impeachment against President Donald J. Trump.
This is only the fourth time in American history that a president has faced articles of impeachment and this is live, what is happening in that room. Members are getting seated. This is prime time. The first time that any of these hearings have happened during this time. This is the debate. This is how they are choosing to start it.
The Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler, is about to gavel the hearing into session. I want to go straight outside that hearing room to Manu Raju. Manu, you've been seeing everyone come in. What do you expect tonight?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A contentious fight partisan debate over the articles of impeachment. Democrats is going to make the case very clearly why the President deserves to be impeached on these two counts. Republicans pushing back and contend this process is unfair. Going to make the argument that the President did nothing impeachable and demand that they should have had their own witnesses as well. I expect that to be the tone from the very top of this hearing.
Now, each in this hearing, the 41 members of the House Judiciary Committee, each will get a chance for five minutes to make their case to the public, about why they believe the President should or should not be impeached. This is the formal consideration of those articles of impeachment.
BURNETT: All right. I'm sorry, Manu, to interrupt you. Chairman Nadler has just gaveled the session. Let's listen in.
REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): ... without objection, the Chairs authorized to declare recess at anytime. Pursuant to Committee Rule 2 and House Rule 11 Clause 2, the Chair may postpone further proceedings today on the question of approving any measure or matter or adapting an amendment for which a recorded vote for ayes and nays are ordered.
Today, we meet to begin consideration of articles of impeachment against President Donald J. Trump. Although it is our custom to limit opening statements to the Chair and Ranking Member of the Committee, as I informed the Ranking Member, I believe that for such an important and solemn occasion as this, it would be appropriate for all members to have an opportunity to make an opening statement.
Before we begin, I want to note the absence of our colleague, Ted Lieu, who required a medical procedure Monday evening and will be unable to attend this markup. I understand he is in good spirits and plans to be back at work next week. His statement will be made part of the record, and I know that all of my colleagues join me in wishing him a speedy recovery.
I will now recognize myself for an opening statement.
Today, we begin consideration of two articles of impeachment against President Donald J. Trump. The first article charges that the president used the powers of his public office to demand that a foreign government attack his political rivals. The second article charges that the president obstructed the congressional investigation into his conduct.
Other presidents have resisted congressional oversight, but President Trump's stonewall was complete, absolute, and without precedent in American history. Taken together, the two articles charged President Trump with placing his private political interests above our national security, above our free and fair elections, and above our ability to hold public officials accountable.
This committee now owes it to the American people to give these articles close attention and to describe their factual basis, meaning, and importance. I believe that three questions should frame our debate. First, does the evidence show clearly that the president committed these acts? Second, do they rise to the level of impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors? Third, what are the consequences for our national security, for the integrity of our elections, and for our country if we fail to act.
To the first question, there can be no serious debate about what President Trump did. On July 25th of this year, when he spoke to President Zelensky of Ukraine by telephone, President Trump had the upper hand. Ukraine had been invaded by Russia. Zelensky had only recently been elected; he badly needed our help. He needed it in the form of military aid already appropriated by Congress because of our national security interests in Ukraine. And he needed help in the form of an oval office meeting so he could show the world that the United States stands with him against Russian aggression.
President Trump should have focused on America's national security and on the interests of the American people on that call. Instead, he completely ignored them in order to push his own personal political interests. President Trump asked for a favor. He wanted Ukraine to announce two
bogus investigations: one into former Vice President Biden, his leading opponent in the 2020 election; and another to advance a conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia attacked our elections in 2016.
These were not legitimate requests, neither was supported by the evidence. One investigation was designed to help President Trump conceal the truth about the 2016 election. The other was designed to help him gain an advantage in the 2020 campaign. Both were divorced from reality and from official U.S. policy.
The evidence proves that these requests were not related to any real interest in rooting out corruption. President Trump eagerly does business with corrupt governments every day. The evidence shows that President Trump did not care if real investigations took place. A public announcement that the government of Ukraine was investigating his rivals would have been enough for him to release the aid whether or not an actual investigation ever took place.
After the call, President Trump ratcheted up the pressure. He dangled the offer of an oval office meeting. He withheld $391 million in military aid. His personal lawyer traveled to pressure the Ukrainians directly. The President deployed other agents, including outside the official channels of diplomacy, to make his desires clear.
By September, President Zelensky was ready to comply to announce the two fake investigations. Then, the scandal broke into the open. Caught in the act, the President was forced to release the aid.
When the House of Representatives opened an inquiry into the President's actions, President Trump did everything in his power to obstruct the investigation. He declared across the board resistance. He ordered every official in the federal government to defy all subpoenas related to the inquiry, at his command, the administration also refused to produce a single document related to the inquiry, not one.
To put this obstruction into context, during the Watergate hearings President Nixon turned over recordings of his conversations in the Oval Office. Later, President Clinton handed over his DNA. President Trump's instruction was, by contrast, absolute, those are the facts. They are overwhelming. There is no denying them.
Having reviewed the evidence, we come to our second question: is the President's proven conduct impeachable? The answer is simple: absolutely. Under Article I of the Constitution, the President can be impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors. The highest of high crimes is abuse of power. It occurs when the President uses his official powers to serve his own personal selfish interests at the expense of the public good. To the founding generation that had fought a king and won our freedom, it was a specific well-defined offense.
The first article of impeachment charges President Trump with abuse of power. The article describes President Trump's conduct and lays out two aggravating factors that we must consider. In pressuring Ukraine for a personal favor, President Trump both betrayed our national security and attempted to corrupt our elections. When the President weakens an ally who advances American security interests by fighting an American adversary, the President weakens America. And when the President demands that a foreign government investigate his domestic political rivals, he corrupts our elections. To the founders, this kind of corruption was especially pernicious. Free and fair elections are the bedrock of our democracy. If our elections are corrupt, everything is corrupt.
The President faces a second article of impeachment for his ongoing efforts to obstruct a lawful investigation into his conduct. We have never, in the history of our nation, seen a President categorically defy Congress in this manner. If the President can first abuse his power and then stonewall all congressional requests for information, Congress cannot fulfill its duty to act as a check and balance against the executive. And the President becomes a dictator.
Later tonight, you will hear more about both articles and how they describe a pattern of behavior that President Trump seems determined to repeat again and again. My colleagues will also address various procedural objections that have been raised in the President's defense.
But there is one of those objections that I wish to address right away. Some ask why not take more time? Why is this necessary now? Why do we need to impeach the President? Why not let the next election handle it? This brings us to the third and final question: what is the risk if we do not act?
Over the past 94 days since the House investigation began, indeed, over the last three years, one indisputable truth has emerged. If we do not respond to President Trump's abuses of power, the abuses will continue. We cannot rely on an election to solve our problems when the President threatens the very integrity of that election. Nor can we sit on our hands while the President undermines our national security and while he allows his personal interests and the interests of our adversary Russia to advance.
The President's personal lawyer was in Ukraine again just last week. That was not three years ago, that was not three months ago, that was Saturday. President Trump's continuing abuses of power jeopardize our security and our elections. The threat is urgent. If we do not act now, what happens next will be our responsibility as well as his.
I will close with the word to my Republican colleagues. I know you. I have worked with many of you for years. I consider you to be good and decent public servants. I know this moment may be difficult, but you still have a choice. I hope every member of this committee will withstand the political pressures of the moment. I hope that none of us attempt to justify behavior that we know in our heart is wrong. I hope that we are able to work together to hold this President or any President accountable for breaking his most basic obligations to the country and to its citizens.
And while you think about that choice, please keep in mind that one way or the other, President Trump will not be President forever. When his time has passed, when his grip on our politics is gone, when our country returns as surely it will to calmer times and stronger leadership, history will look back on our actions here today. How would you be remembered? We have each taken an oath to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. I hope to be remembered for honoring that oath. I hope you feel the same.
And so with a heavy heart but clear in my duty to our country, I support these articles of impeachment. I urge my colleagues to support them as well.
I yield back to the balance of my time. I now recognize the distinguished Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee, the gentleman from Georgia, Mr. Collins, for his opening statement.
COLLINS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I find it amazing at best, hilarious, I guess, at worst, that we come to quote a solemn and amazing moment. We've been on this path since November 2016. This is not new. We've been trying this for almost three years, if you're a majority member of this party. The only thing that has changed is the opportunity from last November when you became the majority. The only thing that changed in your desire to impeach this President was that you became the majority. And we have spent all year in this committee trying to impeach the President.
We have occasionally had markups on bills; most of which so partisan they cannot even go forward in the Senate, most of which that do not address any issue that we've talked about. But it is amazing to me that we're taking it now as such a solemn oath that we've made up something to now come to this point to say this is very solemn like it jumped up and snuck up on you. It's about like the holiday season. It doesn't jump up and sneak up on you when you've been expecting it the whole time. And that's what we've been doing.
What has been amazing to me was is some things that we have seen. So let's just take some perspective here for a little while. What has our committee, this great committee, come to? That's the question for us. Let's just take it for just a moment inside these impeachment hearings. This is our third, I will count it into tomorrow for three, three hearings in this committee of impeachment and that's all we're having. What did we get out of those three hearings? We had a bunch of law professors; three of which who cannot stand the President, who cannot stand his voters, and could not stand the fact that he's still in office telling us why he should be impeached. And that inferences were OK to find impeachment.
We had a hearing just two days ago from staff lecturing us on what's relevant and not relevant. And what they found in a report while the member wrote the report hid in his closet, somewhere, I guess, or in his office, not wanting to come face the questions of this committee. That should be abhorrent to everyone here. So let's think about what we've seen and what we've not seen. And, again, Chairman Schiff is nowhere to be found.
Well, we understand this. We look forward. Tonight, it has started again. We talk about tearing down of national institutions and we start talking about putting our security at risk when tonight even in the Chairman's opening statement we start with one of the most amazing takedowns I have ever seen. When they can't make their argument that the President pressured Mr. Zelensky, they then attacked Mr. Zelensky and then say that he was pressured when Mr. Zelensky on numerous occasions he said I have not been pressured, I'm not being used, I have no -- the call was fine. I'm not paying (ph) pressured to do anything. Then here's what the majority is saying. The majority is saying Mr. Zelensky is a liar, and we in this body, the Democrats, are tearing down a world leader in the eyes of those that don't like him in his own country and Russia who is attacking him.
Think about that one for just a second. Let that sink in. When we can't make our case, we tear down not only try to tear down the leader of the free world, President Trump, we're tearing down the newly elected leader of the Ukraine. This is amazing to me. You can't make your case against the President because nothing happened. And when President Zelensky confirms nothing happened, we start tearing him down.
I never thought we would cross outside of the ocean to try and basically impugn the integrity of a world leader like we have been for the last two hearings. We have also found other things that we have found in our very minimal hearings here in this body is we have seen that other committees have used political vendettas against ranking members and others, including members of the press who are sitting here tonight by putting phone records in, naming names.
I mean you talk about getting even. We put names, Mr. Nunes, Mr. Solomon, others, on those four numbers that we looked at; and nobody would own up to it. Mr. Goldman, Mr. Schiff, of course, wasn't here, but even Mr. Goldman wouldn't own up to who said to do that when they could have simply put in the record, congressman one, congressman two, reporter one. No, they got what they wanted. They got their drive- by. They got their political smear. That's the record being built in Judiciary Committee, not a record of facts against this President, a record of a Democratic party who's lost all moorings of fairness and good taste. That's what we're seeing here. And we can have all the flowery opening statements tonight we want, but they can't get away from that fact.
What is the big lie that is being perpetrated here on us? The big lie is this. And one of the Democrats have told the American people they have said this for three years the big lie that we're hearing perpetrator tonight is, one, the end justifies the means, the lies that the Sham impeachment is OK because the threat is so real and so urgent and so imminent. The big lies that political expediency is honorable and justifiable. And history has shown that to be untrue and dangerous. The big lies that Adam Schiff had gained evidence in plain sight. He said President Trump colluding with Russia. And Special Counsel Mueller's report debunked that lie, but it continues to spread like a cancer every time we meet.
The big lies that the evidence of the impeachment are overwhelming and uncontested, the facts are undisputed. The very fact that people in this committee dispute the facts make them disputed facts not undisputed facts. The problem that we're seeing here is when you even get to the articles themselves. Abuse of power, when you look at these articles and compare them to history, I'm glad the Chairman brought up history, because I would not write history. It will be written for us at a later time. Because they will not always be the majority as he talked about, this President not always being President. I do believe he will be President for five more years.
But at this time, there will be a turnover at some point. And what do we have? This is the articles that we wrote after all these hearings and all these grand pronouncements, and all these thoughts of crimes in plain sight, we get abuse of power with no real dates on? This is the abuse? It's just generic, vague statements. You know why I believe that is, it is because the Democrats can't come up with the argument for it. They don't have the who knew it and when they knew it. All they have is, well, here, members, we're going to give you abuse of power, you go home, pick something you don't like about the President, there's your abuse of power. This is as much about political expediency as it is anything else, and that should never be in articles of impeachment. And anybody to defend that is treading on very thin ice.
And then obstruction of Congress. You know, the only obstruction we've seen here is obstruction from Chairman Schiff of this investigation. He did not turn over the documents as he was supposed to. We get those last Saturday in a massive document after we've already heard a hearing, after we had another -- getting ready for another hearing in which we were supposed to lay out the report. And tonight, tonight, he sends a letter of classified information that has been classified over to us tonight. Don't think for a second, American public. That this majority wants you to find the truth, the obstruction has only occurred from Adam Schiff and the HPSCI and the majority, keeping people from actually trying to find the truth. That's the only obstruction here. So why don't we just have that as an obstruction charge, but it would be against Adam Schiff and the majority, not the President.
Two articles like that? Abuse of power and obstruction of Congress in 70-something days? The only abuse of power here is the majority racing the fastest they've ever had to clock in the calendar, determining what impeachment looks like. That's the abuse of power as Professor Turley said.
But before I finish, I cannot stop without this. The real legacy of this impeachment hearing will not be the removal of Donald Trump as President. In fact, if anything, they see the majority for what they are on a three-year vendetta to get someone that they couldn't beat. And they're desperate to do it before he beats them again next year.
Here's the real damage. It's the institutional damage to this body. It's the institutional damage to getting information even after hearing started, from not having the rules followed, for having this committee as the Chairman warned us about 20 years ago when he said this great committee, the Judiciary Committee should never accept a report from someone else without verifying and having hearings to make sure it was there, unless, as the Chairman said, we become a rubber- stamp. I don't know about you, but I'm not a rubber stamp. And I don't like what I had been forced to do. Sit here. Be lectured to by law professors and a staff that does not wear a pin telling us what's relevant or not.
We're a rubber stamp of the worst kind because we didn't even try to make a point. The minority hearing day, which by the way, get ready, we'll talk about this more, we're going to talk about something tonight, and we'll get it shot down tomorrow. And Rules Committee will take care of it but for reporters and for media and people who've watched this body and the institution that I've loved all of my life in Washington since I was an intern up here being destroyed day after day.
If the minority has no right, and one day this majority will be back in the minority, and they will be crying and screaming for minority rights to be upheld. And I'll just point back to 2019 and say, this is the year you put a dagger in minority rights. Justify the most basic obligations of this committee have been overrun.
So, tonight, we've experienced we're in December after a year of trashing this institution, a year of trying to trash this administration and this President. We come up with abuse of power and can't define it? We come up with obstruction of Congress after 72 days. I know they're desperate. You know how I know it? Adam Schiff's own words yesterday, "We can't go to court. That would take too long. An election is coming." Let me finish the last part of that sentence as he like to put words into President Trump's mouth when he faked the call transcript. No, Adam, what you need to continue to say is, we can't beat him next year. The only thing we need is a 30-second commercial saying we impeached him. That's the wrong reason to impeach somebody. And the American people are seeing through this. But at the end of the day, my heart breaks for a committee that has trashed this institution, and this is where we are now.
With that, I yield back.
NADLER: The gentleman yields back. We will now proceed with five-minute opening statements from other members of the committee.
I now recognize the gentlelady from California, Ms. Lofgren, for five minutes. [19:25:00]
LOFGREN: This is a serious moment for our country. I've worked on presidential impeachment as part of this committee twice before, and a third time brings me no joy. Members of Congress all take an oath to uphold the Constitution. When the President violates the constitutional order, we have an obligation to live up to our oath of office to deal with that. Last week, this committee got direct evidence about the
President's actions to threaten our national security, undermine the integrity of the next election, and his violation of his oath. As a staff member to my predecessor, Congressman Don Edwards, I watched his opening in the Nixon impeachment and it rings true today. He said, the value and beauty of our Constitution and representative government if it's going to work requires that we all respect and obey the Constitution. It's the compact we have with each other. Put simply, no one is above the law, and the President of the United States must follow the Constitution. President Trump has not only abused his power for the upcoming election, he used a foreign power to do it. George Washington would likely be astonished since he warned again the insidious wiles of foreign influence.
One of my most vivid memories in the 1974 impeachment was Representative Chuck Wiggins, one of the most vigorous defenders of President Nixon, when he realized that Nixon had lied to him. I've been waiting for Republican members here to have their Chuck Wiggins moment. But it seems like we live in an alternate reality where as one columnist recently said, if it swims and quacks like a duck, it's a piano. It's understandable that Republicans feel loyalty to the leader of their party. But loyalty to our country and our Constitution must be greater.
I reviewed what Republican Committee members said during the Nixon impeachment. Representative Larry Hogan said, "It's not easy for me to align myself against the President to whom I gave my enthusiastic support. I cannot in good conscience turn away from the evidence." Caldwell Butler and other pro-Nixon Republicans said, the misuse of power is the very essence of tyranny, and that Nixon's lack of remorse for his misconduct and concern for his constitutional responsibility were a factor in his supporting impeachment.
That is a problem today as well. President Trump continues his misconduct. He's not contrite, he poses an ongoing threat. Representative Butler said this about the Republicans, "It is we, not the Democrats, who must demonstrate that we are capable of enforcing the high standards."
Where are the Caldwell Butlers and Larry Hogans of today in the Republican Party? What is before us is a serious abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. And I hope that every member here will vote their conscience.
We are blessed to live in a wonderful free country. An important thing that keeps us free is the Constitution of the United States and the generations of Americans who've defended that Constitution on the battlefield, in the courts, in the Congress. The founders included the impeachment clause in the Constitution purposefully, and they gave Congress the sole authority to impeach for a reason. If the President who had been granted vast powers abused that power, threatened the constitutional order, then Congress could and should act to try to curb that abuse. It is the foundation of our free society.
The power to impeach is not to punish a President, it is to protect Americans from a President who would abuse his power, upend the constitutional order, and threaten our democracy. Regrettably, President Trump has engaged in the abuse of power. His failure does not permit us to fail to fulfill our oath. It is with considerable regret that I find our country faced with the need to impeach President Trump for his abuse of power, but the future of our democracy and constitutional order require it.
And I yield back.
NADLER: The gentlelady yields back. Mr. Sensenbrenner.
SENSENBRENNER: Mr. Chairman, I agree with everybody that tonight is a very solemn night. This is the third time in the last 40 years, 45 years that this committee has sat to debate articles of impeachment against the President of the United States.
What we're debating here in my opinion is the weakest case in history. And yet the Democrats have decided to go full speed ahead again because of the clock and the calendar with an incomplete record simply by using hearsay evidence, and trashing the rules of the House every time they can in order to speed things up with a preordained conclusion. And that is a partisan vote for impeachment; something that both the Speaker and the Chairman of this Committee rejected earlier on when they thought they could make this bipartisan. If they could have made it bipartisan, they blew their opportunity very early on with their thrashing of the rules. And the thrashing of what is in the history of this committee.
Now let's look at these two articles. Unlike, the Nixon and Clinton impeachment, there is no crime that is alleged to have been committed by the President of the United States. There are policy differences. But I would submit that given the definition of treason, bribery, and other high crimes, and misdemeanors, that does not mean that policy differences should be enough to remove a President from office. There's no allegation of bribery in these articles. There is no allegation of extortion. They have defined for themselves what a high crime and misdemeanor will be.
This bar is so low that what is happening is that a future President can be impeached for any disagreement when the presidency and the House of Representatives are controlled by different parties. And that goes back to establishing a parliamentary system which the framers explicitly rejected at the time of the Constitutional Convention.
In the United Kingdom or Canada or other parliamentary democracies, if the government loses the confidence of a majority of the lower house, the government's out. And there either is a new government or a new election that happens.
The framers didn't want that. We had an independent presidency. The President was independently elected. He did not serve at the sufferance of Congress. You know, he served for a fixed term, and it was only if he really obstructed the functions of government or was treasonous, he could be impeached. Now let's look at obstruction of Congress. You know, again, in
the past whenever the executive and legislative branches in the United States have had a disagreement. They've gone to court and the third branch decides this difference. This committee and this majority are so hidebound to their clock and their calendar that they will not allow the judicial process to work out. What brought Richard Nixon down, honestly, was the Supreme Court saying that he had to turn over certain documents. And within two or three weeks after that, the President knew his time was up. The Republicans, they have convinced him of that, and he resigns mooting out the impeachment.
So, yes, the Constitution is at stake. The framers of our Constitution's enlightened decisions are at stake. We are not to go on a road to becoming a parliamentary democracy like England and Canada are. We need an independent President who does not have to suffer to anything a congressional majority might throw at him. That's what the courts are for to figure it out.
And I would appeal to my Chairman, the majority members of this committee, to listen to what Madison and Hamilton had to say during the ratification of the Constitution and during the debates at the convention. Put aside your partisan politics and don't listen to what Pelosi, Schiff, and Nadler are telling you because the future of our country and the viability of our Constitution as the framers decided are at stake. I yield back.
NADLER: The gentleman yields back. Ms. Jackson Lee?
JACKSON LEE: The Constitution begins with, "We the people of the United States," among other things, promote the general welfare and establish this constitution for the United States of America. The President of the United States Donald J. Trump perpetrated constitutional crimes.
Why does this matter today now in this moment of the journey of America's history? Because truth matters and where truth rests, trust builds. The Constitution is a plain language set of laws that Americans for generations have adhered to and been protected by. It is a list of crimes, of framers, for feared, and our forbidden actions not to be taken by our governors. The founding fathers believed the Bill of Rights is a living document, freedom of speech and privacy, ending slavery.
So today, my case will rest on truth and trust. I will ignore the politics of impeachment, but rather the facts and truths I must abide by. The Congress has the power to impeach the president. The president can be impeached and removed from office for the convictions of treason, bribery, high crimes, and misdemeanors. This is the law of the land.
So here are the facts. First, President Trump violated his oath of office by placing his personal and political interests above the national interest by scheming to get Ukraine to investigate a potential election opponent. Second, President Trump betrayed the national interests by withholding vital congressionally appropriated security to a beleaguered and besieged ally facing armed aggression from Russia, America's implacable foe. Third, the essential purpose of the scheme concocted by President Trump was to enlist a foreign country to help him fix the 2020 Presidential election in his favor, the very type of interference our framers most feared. And then he blocked witnesses and documents obstructing Congress.
These acts are precise and evidence-based, and must stand the test of truth and trust in a constitution that had been the foundation of this nation for centuries. The truth is this President did ask for a favor, though. Witnesses under oath swore to that. The truth is $391 million are withheld. The truth is the only goal of the President's acts harm the American people, violated his oath, and promoted his 2020 election. Now truth raises a question again that the President follows oath, another sacred duty, to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, that the law saved a besieged small nation, those monies that were needed by Ukraine.
Many lives during that time of delay were lost in a country fighting for its survival. Yes. And was America's national security in jeopardy? Yes. The bright light of this constitutional democracy dimmed because of his acts. The truth is no longer for all. It is for one man, Donald J. Trump; his truth, his way.
We must reject that abuse of power because this is not America. No one is above the law. Reminded of my and grandfather who left his native land to join with his wife and to bring his aspirations and hopes to the United States. I'm reminded that he died in early death because of lack of access to health care, but yet I'm told he was still inspired by this nation. And I'm reminded that my widowed grandmother watched Eric (ph), Alan (ph), and Samuel (ph) go off to war in World War 2.
These are America's stories; families who believe. And when the commander-in-chief violates his oath and abusive power corrupts our democracy, it is a continuing threat to our national security. The truth is it becomes like the leaves on a tree. It falls to the ground, and the trust that is a cornerstone of our democracy shakes in the stare of a government no longer for the people and by the people, but a government led by a President who undermines our democracy over and over again and even looking forward to interfering with our election in 2020.
It matters to the waitress on an early bus for the breakfast shift, it matters to the steel worker helping to build America, it matters to the teacher in our 5th grade social studies class, it matters to a mother kissing her young military recruit before they go off to their service to this nation. It is important that we begin to understand that we cannot be stopped by distractions. This must be the time when we rise and sacrifice so that the wheels of justice turn toward right. Our sacrifice is unselfish. Our truth will set this nation free.
For this reason I vote aye and must vote aye on the articles of impeachment, Article I and Article II, for his truth is marching on, his truth is marching on. Impeachment cannot be walked by equivocation wrapped in doubt. It must be done both by the past and present. The question is the America that we know and love, can it survive the pillars of abuse? No, it cannot. And that is why I put my faith in trust and truth, and that is why we stand tonight for America's future. 3
I yield back.
NADLER: The gentlelady yields back. Mr. Chabot.
CHABOT: Mr. Chairman, as we consider this evening articles of impeachment, that if adopted by this committee, the full House, and God forbid, garners a two-thirds vote in the Senate would result in the overturning of a Presidential election, it seems appropriate to consider how in the world we got here.
We are witnessing, I believe, the most tragic mockery of justice in the history of this nation. We are witnessing an inexplicable rush to impeach a President who is disliked, no, loathed, by most of my Democratic colleagues and by their supporters. And as a result of that loathing, they see fit to abandon all basic tenets of fairness, due process, and justice guaranteed to every American under the Constitution.
After the farce in the Intelligence Committee, we had dumped in our laps a report recommending impeachment with no time to adequately consider or review the materials, so much for the rules allowing members of the Judiciary Committee or any committee for that matter to responsibly consider much such materials especially if they're involving something as important as the impeachment and potential removal of the President of the United States.
The report from the Intelligence Committee was based largely on testimony taken in secret depositions in the basement of the Capitol building, which was closed to most members of Congress, closed to the media, and closed to the American people. If that's not bad enough. The reports scandalously published the phone records of the President's personal attorney, a member of the media, and a fellow member of this body. Under what legal authority these phone records were obtained? We have no idea.
Then last Wednesday, this committee, the committee actually charged with 33handling impeachment, held the first of two hearings in which we heard from exactly zero fact witnesses. On Saturday, the Democrats on this committee announced that they had, without precedent, changed the requirements for impeachment so that the commission of an actual crime would no longer be necessary to satisfy the standard of high crimes and misdemeanors. And they announced that the President would not be permitted to present a case in his own defense.
Every schoolchild in America knows that it is improper and unfair to change the rules in the middle of the game, Mr. Chairman. It's an ex post facto law and forbidden under the Constitution. The flaunting of the law by the majority on this committee has been breathtaking.
This past Monday, during our second hearing, again, without any fact witnesses, we had the bizarre situation in which rather than members questioning witnesses, we had staff questioning staff. And even had a staff witness get up from the witness stand down there, walk over to this dais, and begin questioning another staff witness. At the same time, Republicans on this committee were denied the absolute right to have a 33333minority hearing day, which is guaranteed by this committee's own rules.
The Chairman of this Committee and the majority have seen fit to abuse this committee's rules and ignore the rights of the minority with impunity. The majority should keep in mind that they will one day be in the minority and they are setting a precedent in which they will likely one day be the victim themselves.
Now we're debating articles of impeachment drafted by the majority on this committee, really, by Nancy Pelosi and her cohorts, without any consultation with minority party and based on what constitutional scholar, Jonathan Turley, called wafer-thin evidence. Tomorrow, this committee will hold a vote to impeach a President without having heard from a single fact witness and without allowing the minority party the ability to call any witnesses or present any defense. What a travesty of justice.
In summary, over the last few weeks, House Democrats have either actively participated in or acquiesced to the drafting of impeachment articles based solely on evidence collected in secret hearings closed to the media and to the American people.
Constitutionally prohibited ex post facto rules were welcome. The President's Fourth Amendment rights under the Constitution were ignored. The President's due process rights under the Fifth Amendment and his right to face his accusers and present a defense under the sixth amendment were also totally ignored. If George Orwell had written this script, no one would have believed it. People would say that it's ridiculously implausible and yet here we are.
To satisfy their bases' extreme hatred of President Trump, House Democrats have taken a blowtorch to House rules, the rule of law, and most frighteningly to the Bill of Rights. This is a sad day in American history, Mr. Chairman. The folks in the liberal media might be cheering you on. But I highly doubt that either history or the American people will judge you so leniently. And I yield back.
NADLER: The gentleman yields back. Mr. Cohen?
COHEN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Our Constitution embodies our values and laws, and at best, the power of our government and the authority of the people expressed through free and fair elections. When President Trump for his own personal political gain asked for a favor from a foreign leader, he did exactly what our founding fathers feared most; he invited the influence of a foreign power into our elections. This is one of the primary reasons the founders placed impeachment in our Constitution.
Last week Professor Karlan summed up his wrongdoing well when she stated, quote, "When President Trump invited, indeed demanded, foreign involvement in our upcoming election, he struck at the very heart of what makes this country the Republic to which we pledge allegiance," "That demand constituted an abuse of power," she continued on, "drawing a foreign government into our election process is an especially serious abuse of power because it undermines democracy itself."
It's as if our founders could see into 2019. And when they did, they saw Donald Trump corrupting our democracy by saying to President Zelensky of Ukraine, I'd like you to do us a favor, though.
President Trump's subversive and illegal action in seeking foreign interference are an effrontery to our Constitution and to free and fair elections. They are an affront to our founders. They are an affront to the suffragists who fought for women's voting rights. They are an affront to the memory of Medgar Evers, a civil rights leader assassinated in Jackson, Mississippi. They are an affront to the memories of Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Michael Schwerner, civil rights workers murdered in Philadelphia, Mississippi during the Freedom Summer of '64 while registering African-Americans to vote. They are an affront to the memory of Viola Liuzzo, a mother of five who was murdered by the Ku Klux Klan while she was in Alabama to participate in the Selma to Montgomery march. And they're an affront to the memory of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., who championed the Voting Rights Act of 1965. And they're an affront to every servicemember who has ever fought to defend our nation and our system of self-government which is based upon free and fair elections.
333President Trump's attempt to subvert our election was an attack on America. The President got caught when the whistleblower exposed the President's scheme. Then the President sought to cover up the scheme. He stonewalled Congress as we pursued our investigation. He instructed his staff, cabinet, and other federal officials to do the same.
Previous presidents facing impeachment, even President Nixon, cooperated with Congress. But President Trump has thumbed his nose at constitutional power. And he refused to appear to defend himself.
Congress is a co-equal branch of government and was foremost to the founders' minds. They placed Congress first in Article I of the Constitution. President Trump's obstruction of Congress is an affront to Peter Rodino, who chaired this Committee in the summer of '74 when Congress investigated Nixon's betrayal of his oath of office. It's also an affront to the memory of Representative Barbara Jordan, who is a member of this Committee who said she would not, quote, "be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction of the Constitution." And as an affront to the memory of Congressman Elijah Cummings who knew we were better than this. And it's an affront to the many patriots who love this country enough to defy the President's tyrannical attempt to prohibit their testimony, including Ambassador Yovanovitch, Ambassador Taylor, Lieutenant-Colonel Vindman, and Dr. Fiona Hill.
And further, it is an affront to the memory of Caldwell Butler, a principled Republican of the Judiciary Committee in 1974. He did not support impeachment before the hearings, but he listened to the evidence and that convinced him. He announced he vote for impeachment by saying, "For years, we Republicans have campaigned against corruption and misconduct, but Watergate is our shame." His sense of right and wrong was inviolate. When his mother warned him that his future would go, quote, "down the drain," unquote, he responded, "Dear mother, you are probably right. However, I feel that my loyalty to the Republican Party does not relieve me of the obligation that I have." His mother was wrong. Representative Butler served for another decade.
And President Trump's obstruction of Congress is an affront to the citizens of my district, all members of Congress, and all Americans who support free and fair elections. We, the people's House, have a duty to uphold our oath of office and to be a check on a President who abuses his power, betrays his oath, and corrupts our elections. Those who want to turn a blind eye to President Trump corrupting our democracy will try to get us to look away.
We should not look away. I will not look away. I will remember our founders' great plan for our great nation and I will remember the rule of law. Above all, I will adhere to my oath of office.
I yield back the balance of my time.
NADLER: The gentleman yields back. Mr. Gohmert.
GOHMERT: This is truly a sad day for America. It's a sad week for America.
You want to know where the Hogans and Butlers are? They're right here. There are people here willing to vote against our President. But a funny thing happened on the way to this hearing. We just got a report from Obama's Inspector General, and his report confirms what we had a feeling was true but we were willing to wait and hear what the truth was, and that is the President, nor his campaign, committed any crimes for three years. We've heard from people that are now in the majority talk about the crimes of the president. And where are they? Well, they kept saying Mr. President come in, you got to testify. We will be fair with you, come tell us about the crimes. And here's the crimes you've committed.
And where are they now that we have the articles of impeachment? A vague abuse of power, obstruction of Congress; the very things the majority has done in preventing us from having the witnesses that could shed light on this, not opinion, but fact witnesses, we needed to hear from those witnesses. People like Sean Misko, Abigail Grace, Eric Ciaramella, Devon Archer, Joe Biden, Nellie Ohr, Alexandra Chalupa, and so many others. They don't want fact witnesses. Let's hear from professors who hate Donald Trump, who are willing to sell their education just to make a point against somebody they don't like. This is a dangerous, dangerous time in America.
They talk about abuse of power, but they were willing to obscure evidence in a basement hearing over and over. They're willing to block witnesses from coming in here and testifying before Congress. They're willing to obtain and publish phone records of people. There are no probable cause, there's no crimes by any of these people, but it reminds me a lot of what happened under the Bush Department of Justice when we got an IG report that said there were over probably over 3,000 national security letters like subpoenas sent out on fishing expeditions.
I was outraged. Here I am, I'm no Hogan or Butler, and I was talking with Senator Schumer, who was -- I was outraged like he was. The report said of the abuses. And I called the White House and I said, this is outrageous. The abuses of Americans rights. Somebody's got to answer for this, and we needed a new Attorney General. And my mistake was not demanding a new director of the FBI because Mueller stayed and he screwed it up even worse than it had been before.
Yes, some of us stand up and call it like it is no matter which administration is in office. And now we've heard from Horowitz, we've heard from Barr and Durham, all three years screaming about lies were the real lies. And at some point, I would think uh-oh, I'm a Democrat, uh-oh, the report says all these things we said were crimes, they didn't happen, they didn't exist. It was all a fabrication. And in fact, all four of those warrants should never have been issued, and I hope some of my friends across the aisle will finally join me in saying let's either get rid of the FISA courts or figure out a way to make them better because they are so abusive and they have been. And my party didn't want to fix it, their party didn't want to fix it. It needs to be fixed.
Let me just say this, I came in here. I did not want to get emotional. But -- and I've sat through trials that were hard to sit through, but nothing like sitting this week in this committee hearing. Indeed, like Jefferson, I tremble that God is just and his justice won't sleep forever.
But the abuses, the obstruction of Congress have come from Congress. I would have expected Donald Trump to just say you came after me, my business associates, my family now, I'm going back. And I'm going to make billions of dollars. To heck with you guys, but he has hung in there. It's amazing.
At some point, the majority has got to say, but they probably won't, we're really sorry. There was nothing on which to base all those allegations of crimes on, and we owe you indeed apology. Let's see the Hogans and Butlers in the Democratic Party. I hadn't seen one yet.
I yield back.
NADLER: The gentleman yields back.
H. JOHNSON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Until this investigation began, I did not support impeaching President Trump. And I'd like to tell you all what changed my mind: America first. We've heard those words a lot recently. We haven't always agreed on
what they mean. But we know this, our founders created impeachment so that no President could place himself above the law. Impeachment gives Congress the ability and the responsibility to put America first.
I don't take that responsibility lightly. While I didn't vote for President Trump, I respect the office that he holds, I didn't call for impeachment when the President shut down our government or tried to rip health care from those with pre-existing conditions, or embarrassed us on the world stage, or pardoned political cronies, or took money from our troops to fund his wall, or tore babies from their mothers at the border, I didn't call for his impeachment then, not because I supported this president's actions. I simply felt that impeachment should be reserved for moments when our democracy itself is in danger. When the sign says in case of emergency, break glass, there better be one heck of an emergency. I did not call for impeachment before, but I called for impeachment today because this is one heck of an emergency.
The facts are clear President Trump undermined America's foreign policy to pursue what his own national security staff called a domestic political errand. He withheld military aid, putting America's national security at risk in what his hand-picked ambassador called a quid pro quo. President Trump didn't just abuse his power with Ukraine, he made them an offer they could not refuse: help me get reelected or you won't get the assistance you desperately need from the United States of America. And then he tried to cover it up.
But fortunately, we the people are not as dumb as President Trump thinks we are. If you break the law and withhold documents, we know it's not because those in documents make you look good. Maybe that's why more Americans support impeachment now than at any time since Richard Nixon's final weeks. Or maybe it's because the American people understand and how much is at stake. President Trump's high crimes threaten our democracy itself.
I'm a black man representing Georgia, born when Jim Crow was alive and well. To me the idea that elections can be undermine is not theoretical. I have constituents who remember what it's like to live in a democracy in name only, and they can tell you what it's like when powerful men undermine fair and free elections. They know our democratic process is fragile.
We're here because President Trump tried to sabotage that democratic process. He didn't want to let the voters decide. He decided to cheat in the upcoming election and he got caught.
Let me remind my colleagues, there's no such thing as attempted cheating. If a child copies off a test and a teacher catches them in the act, it's not OK just because that child didn't get away with it. The cheater got caught and President Trump got caught. We know there was a conspiracy, a crime, and a cover-up. There's only one thing we don't know, what will Congress do about it?
Will we hold the President accountable or will we serve as his accomplices? We're not voting on whether President Trump should remain in office, that's the Senate's job. Our job today is simply to decide whether the President crossed a line. If you truly believe President Trump's behavior was acceptable, then by all means give him the green light to undermine our democracy again. But if you know what the American people know that this moment is different and our very Republic is at stake, then it's not too late. Put the law above the President, put your oath above your political ambition, put the country we all love above the interest of just one man. Put America first.
And I yield back.
NADLER: The gentleman yields back. Mr. Jordan.
JORDAN: They're never going to stop. Congressman Green said yesterday if the Senate doesn't convict, it will not end. This is not about Ukraine. Facts are on the President's side. Zelensky said he wasn't pressured, Ukrainians didn't even know aid was held at the time of the call, and most importantly they did nothing to get the aid released. This is about one basic fact; the Democrats have never accepted the will of the American people. 33
Three weeks ago, Nancy Pelosi called the President of the United
States an imposter, and the attacks on the President started before the election, July 31st 2016. The FBI opened the Trump Russia investigation and spied on four American citizens associated with President Trump's campaign.