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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
House Panel Debates Impeachment Articles Against Trump Before Vote. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired December 12, 2019 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHABOT: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield to the ranking member.
COLLINS: Just real quickly, the gentlelady from California just misstated something that I addressed head-on last night. And Undersecretary Hale stated this was prospective money. It was not interfering. It was not dealing with the issue that's going on now. You're in a war. For those of us who have actually been in a war zone, people do die in a war zone. This money did not stop that. That is something that cannot continue to be perpetrated upon this world (ph).
I yield back to Mr. Chabot.
CHABOT: Thank you.
Reclaiming my time, Mr. Chairman.
The biggest difference in the Clinton impeachment and this one is that President Clinton committed a crime, perjury. This president isn't even accused of committing a crime.
The Constitution is pretty clear on what constitutes an impeachable offense, treason, bribery and other high crimes and misdemeanors. It's not treason, bribery and other high crimes and misdemeanors or whatever else Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff deem impeachable.
Now, I think we can all agree that no president should abuse the powers of his or her office, just like the chairman of the House Committee shouldn't abuse the powers of his office to obtain and publish the phone records of the president's personal attorney, a member of the media and the ranking member of that same committee. But that doesn't make alleged abuse of power a high crime or misdemeanor.
In their newly authored memo on constitutional grounds for impeachment, the majority on this committee goes to great lengths to explain why abuse of power is an impeachable offense, specifically mentioning it was one of the charges against both Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton. What they don't mention is that the House of Representatives has never adopted alleged abuse of power as a charge in a presidential impeachment.
Why? Because there's no criminal statute describing what alleged abuse of power actually is. Abuse of power is therefore a vague, ambiguous term open to the interpretation of every individual.
Because abuse of power lacks a concise legal definition, there's a higher burden of proof on those pursuing such a charge to show the actions of the president rise to the level of impeachment.
I believed that Bill Clinton had abused the power of his office, but we failed to convince our colleagues in the House, and that particular charge was rejected by the full House.
In this case the evidence provided is less convincing. In fact, I'd argue it's nonexistent. First, there was no quid pro quo.
Second, it's a widely known fact that Ukraine is one of the most corrupt countries on the planet. It's why Congress required the administration to certify that the Ukrainian government had taken steps to clean up corruption before military aid could be provided to the country. President Trump was well aware of that fact and quite skeptical of giving Ukraine foreign aid long before the now famous July 25th phone call.
Third, Ukraine actually received the aid after the president was satisfied that Ukraine had taken meaningful steps to address corruption, which, again, is an obligation required by law.
Based on the actual facts of this case, as opposed to the hearsay and innuendo compiled by the Intelligence Committee, it's clear that no abuse of power ever took place, and there certainly isn't enough evidence to support an article of impeachment.
Mr. Chairman, as you well know, there's another significant difference between the abuse of power charges against Nixon and Clinton and those presented here.
In the Nixon and Clinton impeachments, abuse of power was a tacked-on charge, far less important in those cases than the actual high crimes charged against both of them. Here it's the main thrust of the House Democrats' entire case.
CHABOT: Let me put it another way. The entire argument for impeachment in this case is based on a charge that is not a crime, much less a high crime, and that has never been approved by the House of Representatives in a presidential impeachment before ever in history. If that's the best you got, you wasted a lot of time and taxpayer dollars all because so many of you Mr. Chairman hate this president. And one last thing, I guess we now know why Nancy Pelosi was focus grouping bribery as a potential charge, because she was desperately searching for a crime -- any crime -- to justify this sham impeachment. But that that effort was abandoned because she knows most members of Congress know, now the American people know, there simply wasn't a crime committed here and there shouldn't be in impeachment here either. I yield back.
UNKNOWN: Will the gentleman yield...
UNKNOWN: Mr. Chairman? NADLER: The gentleman yields back?
UNKNOWN: Mr. Chairman?
NADLER: For what purpose does Mr. (ph) Swalwell seek recognition?
SWALWELL: To strike the last word.
NADLER: The gentleman is recognized.
SWALWELL: There are no crimes here. That is the defense my colleagues across the aisle are putting forward? How about the highest crime that one who holds public office could commit, a crime against our Constitution?
After all, the Constitution is the highest most supreme law of the land. Every other law, statutory laws included, derived from the Constitution, not the other way around. The president committed the highest crime against the Constitution by abusing his office, sheeting (ph) an election, inviting for interference for a purely personal gain while jeopardizing our national security and the integrity of our elections.
Now the Constitution does not require President Trump have committed statutory crimes; after all, we in Congress are not criminal prosecutors. We do not prosecute crimes, we protect the Constitution. But since my colleagues keep bringing up what potential crimes a criminal prosecutor could charge the president with, what's go through some of them because President Trump's conduct overlaps with criminal acts.
Let's start with criminal bribery ,18 US code 201B2A (ph) relevant here, criminal bribery occurs when a public official commands or seeks anything of value personally in return for being influence the performance of an official act. Additionally, the public official must carry out these acts corruptly. Demands or seeks President Trump demanded and sought the announcement and conduct the politically motivated investigations by President Zelensky. Anything of value personally. For the purposes of anti-bribery law, the phrase anything of value has been interpreted by the courts broadly to carry out the congressional purpose of punishing the abuse of public office. In return or be an influence, the third requirement.
As the Intel committee report demonstrated, President Trump sought an announcement of these investigations in return for performing two official acts, first the conditional release of vital military assistance on President Zelensky's investigations, and second, he conditioned a head of state meeting on these investigations. Fourth, performance of an official act. The courts have defined an official act as any decision or action, matter, cause, suit, proceeding or controversy that may be pending or brought before a public official. Both of the acts in question, the military aid and the White House meeting, meet this requirement. Finally, corruptly. President Trump behaved corruptly throughout this course of conduct because he used his official office in exchange to seek a private benefit.
The second crime, honest services fraud, 18 US code section 1346, President Trump knowingly and willfully orchestrated a scheme to defraud the American people of his honest services as president of the United States. This has been aligned often in the courts with bribery except that also includes using a wider communication...
UNKNOWN: Will the gentleman yield for a question?
SWALWELL: I will not yield. Clearly the July 25 phone call constitutes a wider communication. So there you have it, at least two criminal statutory crimes. However, all of these conversations about statutory crimes are moot because the president of the United States refuses to allow his own Department of Justice to indict him. So the president may be charged with crimes statutorily one day, but that's not what we're doing here on this day and we are not restricted like the Department of Justice is, so we will uphold our duty to charge the president with the crimes against the Constitution that he has committed using your taxpayer dollars, jeopardizing the integrity of your vote for a purely political purpose and a purely personal gain. And Mr. chairman with that...
LOFGREN: Would the chairman...
SWALWELL: And I will yield to the gentleman from California.
LOFGREN: I appreciate the gentleman's recitation of that facts (ph) as a former prosecutor. You speak was tremendous authority. I would just like to note that the argument that somehow lying about a sexual affair is an abuse of presidential power, but the misuse of presidential power to get a benefit somehow doesn't matter. If it's lying about sex, we could put Stormy Daniels' case ahead of us. We don't believe that's a high crime.
UNKNOWN: Does (ph) the gentlewoman yield?
LOFGREN: No. And it is not before us, and it should not before (ph) us because it's not an abuse of presidential power. I yield back.
NADLER: The gentleman's time is expired. For what purposes does Mr. Gohmert seek recognition?
GOHMERT: I have risen (ph) support of the amendment.
SENSENBRENNER: Can (ph) the gentleman yield briefly?
NADLER: The gentleman has the time. Does the gentleman wish to yield to...?
SENSENBRENNER: Will (ph) the gentleman yield briefly?
NADLER: The gentleman yields.
[10:10:00] SENSENBRENNER: The important -- the important thing is, is that Bill Clinton lied to a grand jury. That is a crime. The article of impeachment that passed the house accused Bill Clinton of lying to a grand jury, a crime and something that obstructs the ability of the courts to get to a true -- to the truth. This is not what is happening here. Big difference.
GOHMERT: Thank you. I'm reclaiming my time.
NADLER: The gentleman reclaims his time.
GOHMERT: It is interesting though, we're here because of fraud, not by president, but from within the Department of Justice. And I realize people on the other side of the aisle have been so busy trying to find some kind of charge, criminal charge to bring against the president, none of which worked, that they may not have been aware of the most recent Horowitz report. But it is clear now, it is clear now that the whole investigation that has brought us here with crime after crime being alleged and then having to be dropped, was a fraudulent effort before the FISA court to have a of surveillance warrant done against Carter Page. They lied initially, said that he was a Russian agent when actually he been used by the CIA as a spy against Russia. And so they lied, it was fraudulent and there hopefully will be people that will answer for their crimes and their fraud in the Department of Justice in the days to come, and it sounds like that should be the case.
And there was fraud all the way through, but for three years we had been hearing about the crimes of the Candidate Trump and then the crimes of President Trump, and we come now today based on the initial fraud that got this whole impeachment stuff started, and no one on the other side is willing to acknowledge the fraud that brought us here nor the fact that so many people here have been screaming about the president's crimes and we're even hearing today like we just did, oh yes, there were crimes. Well then why aren't they in this impeachment document? Because they don't exist. They've been disproven over and over and over again, and that's why the gentleman's amendment is so well-taken.
There - you don't want to go down this ground. I think it's a bad idea when it was proposed before. High crimes and misdemeanors if it's not treason or bribery (ph), even misdemeanors are crimes. And so, we've had to drop the fraud of all the crimes being alleged, people saying in here and in the public, gee, we're going to get the president because he colluded with Russia. How terrible was that? Well, that's all been disproved and dropped.
So now we were left with bribery and extortion, and now we're even - those had to be dropped because there were no crimes. And I appreciate the gentleman bringing up crimes, but those are not alleged here.
And so, let me just say this is a day that will live in infamy for the Judiciary Committee. The days of exemplary chairs like Daniel Webster when he stood for principle, those are going to be gone because this became a tool of the majority to try to defeat - use taxpayer funds to defeat a president. And by the way, the Ken Starr report, 36 boxes, he came in a testified. We were kept out of hearing the witnesses. There were in the Watergate, these witnesses testified on television. It was public. It was not a star chamber like the Schiff chamber became. And I would like to yield back the remainder of my time to my friend, Mr. Jordan.
JORDAN: Well, I would just say when did it happen? Everything Mr. Swalwell just said, when - if it all happened, why isn't it in the resolution? Democrats say there's some scheme to have an announcement made by President Zelensky to get a phone call with the president, to get a meeting with the president, and to get the aid released.
When did the announcement happen? They got the call on July 25. They got the meeting on September 25. They got the money on September 11. There was never an announcement from the Ukrainians to do an investigation. So you can keep saying all of this stuff and all the points that this happened, this happened. Didn't happen, not the facts. Those are not the facts.
And we know why the aid ultimately got released because we learned that this guy - this new president was actually - was actually the transformer, the real deal was actually going to deal with the corruption issue in his country. That's what happened. You can make up all the things you want, but those are not the facts.
NADLER: Gentleman's time has expired. Mr. Jeffries - for what purpose does Mr. Jeffries seek recognition?
NADLER: Gentleman's recognized.
JEFFRIES: Let's actually go through the facts. We're here today because the president abused his power. We're here today because he solicited foreign interference in the 2020 election. It welcomed foreign interference as it relates to Russia. He solicited foreign interference on the White House Lawn with China, and he did it with Ukraine.
He's a serial solicitor. Let's go through the facts. Congress allocated $391 million in military aid on a bipartisan basis to Ukraine currently at war with Russian-backed separatists in the east. Ukraine's a friend. Russia's a foe. Ukraine's a democracy. Russia's a dictatorship.
The United States is probably the only thing standing between Vladimir Putin and Ukraine being completely overrun as part of Putin's fantasy to reconstruct the Soviet Union, which would be adverse to the national security interests of the United States, and every single fact witness before this Congress said so. You can't even dispute that.
So we allocated aid on a bipartisan basis, but then the aid was withheld. So the American people deserve to figure out why. In February, there was a letter sent by the Trump administration saying, OK, the aid is on the way, but it never arrived.
In April, he had a phone call - the president - with Zelensky. The word corruption was not mentioned once. And then in May, the Department of Defense wrote to this Congress and said, "all necessary preconditions for the receipt of the aid have been met by the new Ukrainian governed, including the implementation of anticorruption protocols." We have that letter. It was sent to you and it was sent to us.
Then in July on the 18th at an Office of Management and Budget meeting, the aid was officially frozen at the direction of the president. Twice during the summer, Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican Majority Leader, publically stated he called the Trump administration. What happened to the aid? Mitch McConnell couldn't get a good answer because there was no good answer.
Then on July 25, there's another call between President Trump and President Zelensky. The word corruption is not mentioned once, but here's what was said. Zelensky talks about defense, and the immediate response is, "Do us a favor, though." And President Trump says, "I need you to look into some things," not related to procurement of defense arms, but related to a wild conspiracy theory connected to the 2016 campaign and also says I want you to look into Joe Biden.
And then what's interesting since you think it was such a perfect call, he mentioned Rudolph Giuliani -- I'm looking at the transcript right now - not once, not twice, but three times. Why on an official call would the president mention Rudolph Giuliani? He's not an ambassador. He's not the Secretary of State. He's not a member of the diplomatic core. He's President Trump's political enforcer.
And then what happens? You said you want to talk about the facts. In August, Giuliani travels to Madrid and meets with the Ukrainian government as a follow up to Trump saying to Ukraine, "go meet with Giuliani." And then a statement is drafted about this phony investigation and sent to the Ukrainians.
But what happened? In August, the whistleblower complaint is filed. Then on September 9, the whistleblower complaint is made public to Congress. Two days later on September 11, all of a sudden the aid is released. Why was the aid released? Because the president was caught red handed trying to pressure a Foreign Government to target an American Citizen. I yield back.
NADLER: Gentleman yields back. For what purpose does Mr. Gaetz (Inaudible).
NADLER: Gentleman is recognized.
GAETZ: There were five meetings that we have detailed that show why the aid was released. There was a belief on the administration previously that Ukraine was one of the most corrupt countries in the world. That they had not engaged in sufficient reforms. And after a number of events with the Vice President, with the bipartisan Senate delegation there was a resolution of that aid. But this debate just lacks a certain sincerity. I heard earlier, my friend from California, Mr. Swalwell, say like list out all these crimes. And so if I'm watching at home I'm thinking well where are they in the Impeachment. That is just a Democrat drive by. To go and list crimes that you don't allege and that you don't have evidence for.
If there is ever a microcosom of how to consume this day and the importance of it with the American people it's that they're naming crimes and debate that they don't even have in their Impeachment Resolution because they can't prove them because there are no underlying facts. And then I hear my friend from New York, Mr. Jeffries, bring up Russia. Russia the residue of Impeachment Theories past and failed. How is debating about how are we even here debating about military aid, Javelins, that President Trump delivered that President Obama withheld.
I hear them, you know. Crying these alligator tears, clutching their pearls over this notion that all well Trump didn't give this aid, we've got to go and Impeach him for it. Where was all this concern about how to make the Ukraine great again when Obama was President. You want to know our (inaudible) defense it's four things, they've never changed. I think Mr. Jordan dreams of them in his sleep. Both President Trump and President Zelensky said there was no pressure. We saw the call transcript and there's no conditionality. There was never awareness on the part of the Ukraine that there was a delay in aid. And the Ukraine got the aid without opening the investigation that seems to be so troubling to Democrats.
Everything you're going to hear them say today can be pretty much categorized into three areas. First it's either stuff people presumed and had no direct evidence of, kind of their water cooler theory of the case. Second it's hearsay, somebody told somebody told somebody else that created some concern about the President's conduct. Or it is reflective of a sincere policy disagreement about how to make the Ukraine great again. I mean I heard all these folks come by that are part of the Diplomatic (inaudible) they sure seem to believe that we ought to do everything for the Ukraine but if the President disagrees with that it is not Impeachable conduct.
Essentially they're alleging a shakedown. But think most Americans know that you can not have a shakedown if the person allegedly being shookdown doesn't even know about the shakedown. You have President Zelensky himself saying I felt no pressure and then talk about bad timing. We got this "Time" article that comes out on the 10th of December, just a few days ago, because their theory of the case is well even if Zelensky didn't know there was pressure there's this other guy, Yermak. And Yermak knew from Gordon Sondland that there was pressure but the same day that they introduced their articles of Impeachment, Yermak give this interview with "Time Magazine" and he says and I quote "Gordon and I were never alone together" we bumped into each other in the hallway next to the escalator as I was walking out. And I remember everything. It's fine with my memory.
We talked about how well the meeting went, that is all we talked about. So here they are with no crime, with no victim, with no witnesses, with no knowledge of any shakedown and yet they proceed. To accept the Democrats theory of the case, you got to believe that the Ukrainians are lying to us. You got to believe when they say there's no conditionality, no pressure, nothing wrong that they're so weak and they're so dependent on the United States that we can't believe a word they say. Well again where were you during the Obama Administration when this weak ally didn't get Javelins that were then withheld.
I support the Jordan Amendment because this Article 1, this abuse of power that they allege in the Impeachment Theory is a total joke. They have to say abuse of power because they don't have evident for obstruction. They have to say abuse of power because they no evidence for bribery or treason. They have to say abuse of power because all those specific crimes that the gentleman from California named can not be supported by the evidence. This is sort of the Rorschach Inkblot test theory of Impeachment. So that the country can stare at the inkblot and everybody can see what I guess they want to see.
This notion of abuse of power is the lowest of low energy Impeachment Theories. Heck, I don't know any political party that doesn't think when the other sides in the White House that they abuse power, they do too much. I got a lot of constituents that think Barak Obama abused his power. But you know what we didn't do this to the country. We didn't put him through this nonsense and this Impeachment.
You all set the standard. We didn't set it. You said this would have to be bipartisan, compelling and overwhelming. It ain't that and this looks pretty bad. I yield back.
NADLER: Gentleman yields back. For what purposes Ms. Jayapal recognition.
JAYAPAL: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Just in response.
NADLER: (Inaudible) strike the last word,
JAYAPAL: Yes. Move to strike the last word. Thank you.
NADLER: And the lady's recognized.
JAYAPAL: In response to my colleague from Florida, you can not argue things both ways. You can not say that the President was so concerned about Ukraine that he released aid. Which is true, he released aid in 2017, he released aid in 2018 and then suddenly he became concerned in 2019 right after Vice President Biden announced that he was going to run. So if your argument is that he was so concerned about Ukraine that he released aid in 2017 and 2018 then why in 2019 after the Department of Defense cleared Ukraine on charges of corruption why then did he decide he was so concerned about corruption that he was not going to release aid.
JAYAPAL: That makes. I'm sorry I'm not yielding. I am not yielding. I am not yielding.
(UNKNOWN): They got a new President, that's why.
NADLER: The gentlelady has the time, the Committee will be in order and people will not interrupt.
JAYAPAL: They got a new President ...
NADLER: This is not proper here.
JAYAPAL: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
NADLER: Gentlelady will continue.
JAYAPAL: They got a new President who was known to be an anti- corruption fighter. So that argument has not weight what so ever. Now if you want to argue that the President was so concerned about corruption at that particular moment you have to look at the whole record of US Policy and our agreement that the Department of Defense would look under certain conditions before they release military aid to determine whether or not a country had satisfied those requirements around corruption and the Department of Defense released that report.
No where between the time, that Donald Trump withheld air and the time that he released that aid was there an additional assessment required or done. In fact the Department of Defense decided they didn't need to do another assessment because they had already done the assessment. So at the end of the day I have only two questions for my colleagues on the other side. And these are the two questions. Forget about President Trump, forget about President Trump, will any one of my colleagues on the other side say that it is an abuse of power to condition aid -- to condition aid on official acts? Will - forget about President Trump. Forget about President Trump. Is any one of my colleagues willing to say that it is ever OK for a President of the United States of America to invite foreign interference in our elections? Not a single one of you has said that so far.
GOHMERT: I'll say...
ESCOBAR: Would the gentlelady yield?
JAYAPAL: I yield to my colleague from Texas.
NADLER: Gentlelady yields...
UNKNOWN: Would the gentlelady yield so we can answer the questions?
ESCOBAR: Thank you. Thank you, Representative Jayapal.
GOHMERT: Yes, I'll be glad to answer the questions. She asked us a question. We collect to answer it.
ESCOBAR: I want to break this down...
NADLER: The gentlelady has the time and the members...
GOHMERT: And she asked us a question.
NADLER: The members - the members here know perfectly well it is out of order to interrupt members who have the time. Gentlelady...
GOHMERT: Unless they ask you a question...
NADLER: Gentlelady has - yielded to whom?
GOHMERT: She asked us a question.
NADLER: Gentlelady yielded to whom? Ms. Escobar now has the time yielded by Ms. Jayapal.
ESCOBAR: Thank you, Chairman. Thank you, Chairman. Thank you, Representative Jayapal. I want to break this down in simple terms for the American public because our Republican colleagues are working over time to try to convince us that we didn't see what we saw with our own eyes and we didn't hear what we heard with our own ears.
Let's bring it down to an example that was used during the hearing. If a governor - if a community suffers a natural disaster and the governor of the state has aid that will help that community but calls the mayor of your community and says, "I want you to do me a favor, though," and conditions with giving the aid to the community on the police chief smearing his political opponent. Has there been a crime? The answer is yes, and that governor would go to jail.
If that governor later releases that aid after he got caught, it doesn't matter. He still committed the crime. Furthermore if that governor says during the investigation, "I'm going to defy the subpoenas. We're going to fight the subpoenas," guess what would happen to that governor? He's committed a crime. He would go to jail.
If the governor then tried to cover up his wrongdoing, cover it up so that his people, his constituents couldn't see his wrongdoing, what would happen to that governor? Did he commit a crime? Yes. He would go to jail.
So as wildly as they're trying to convince you that there was no wrongdoing, I want the American public to understand what's going on here. It's clear as day. We've seen it with our won eyes. We've heard it with our own ears. Facts matter. I yield back.
JAYPAL: Thank you, Ms. Escobar. And I would just, again, close with this single question. Is it ever OK for a president to condition official action on personal gain? I yield back.
CLINE: Mr. Chairman? Unanimous - Mr. Chairman?
NADLER: Who seeks recognition? For what purpose does the gentleman seek recognition?
CLINE: A unanimous consent request. I'd like to ask unanimous consent to introduce into the record... NADLER: I cannot hear you, sir.
NADLER: I can't hear you.
CLINE: I'd like to introduce - ask unanimous consent to introduce into the record the transcript of the call where the president says, "I would like you to do us a favor."
NADLER: Without objection, the transcript will be introduced. The call record will be introduced. For what purpose does Mr. Buck seek recognition?
BUCK: Strike the last word.
NADLER: Gentleman is recognized.
BUCK: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to address Mr. Swalwell's - thank you for coming back - Mr. Swalwell's comments that there are definitely crimes in this situation. First of all, I believe Mr. Swalwell during the Mueller investigation went on national T.V. and said something to the effect of an indictment is coming. He knew it. An indictment is coming.
So I know Mr. Swalwell knows crimes. He was a prosecutor. He also knows the obligation that a prosecutor has not to bring a crime, not to bring a charge unless there's a reasonable probability of conviction. I would direct Mr. Swalwell to the elements of bribery. Whoever being a public official corruptly demands or seeks personally anything of value in return for being influence in the performance of a official act.
The Department of Justice's criminal division public integrity section (ph) opined September that something as nebulous as an investigation is not of sufficient concrete value to constitute something of value under this statute. They also - the other element that is at question here and one of the reasons I think that we need more than one week as the committee of jurisdiction to look into this matter is because if there are crimes, we should be bringing experts, we should be bringing in testimony. And if there is a crime, I think it is far more fair to charge - to pass articles of impeachment on a president where the president can defend against specific elements as opposed to something as vague as abuse of power.
Mr. Swalwell, the official act that you talk about under the McConnell - Supreme Court - McConnell decision, that decision says setting up a meeting talking to another official or organizing event without more (ph) does not fit the definition of official act. There are two elements missing in your analysis, but that doesn't surprise me because there were no elements that were - that the special counsel found in this situation.
I think that it is unfortunate when the gentleman from Rhode Island talks about the president sending Mr. Giuliani to the Ukraine to smear - to smear Vice President Biden. Let's talk about what Vice President Biden did. His son sat on a board and made an outrageous amount of money for someone that had no background in energy, no background in the Ukraine while his father was the Vice President. If that is not a fair topic for discussion in the world of politics, I don't know what is.
Smearing is trying to conjure up false information or making a vague argument based on false information. This isn't smearing. This is seeking the truth about corruption. Not a single member on the other side of the aisle has been willing to condemn the conduct of the former vice president. How frustrating it must be to be President Trump and have your son spend over a million dollars on attorney's fees when the special counsel is investigating something that never happened.
There was no collusion. There was no conspiracy between the Russia and the Trump campaign. But there was clear - there is clear evidence of wrongdoing between Hunter Biden, the former Vice President, Joe Biden...
UNKNOWN: Would the gentleman yield?
BUCK: No, I will not. And the Ukraine and the corporation Burisma. So the idea that there was a smear going on, let's look at the facts. And I will yield to my friend from Arizona, Mr. Biggs.
BIGGS: Thank you very much. Let's talk about what was going on in 2017, 2018 (inaudible), in 2019 there was a pause put on it. We have a new administration in the Ukraine and the benchmarks, the anticorruption benchmarks were done under the previous administration, Poroshenko. That was testified to in this committee. But what we know is several of the previous corrupt administrators and cabinet-level officials including some oligarchs had close relationship to Zelensky. There was a concern whether Mr. Zelensky was the real deal. The aid was prospective and the pause was unknown. U.S. officials continue to meet with Ukrainian officials and they determined that Zelensky was the real deal and so they made every effort to convince President Trump that was the case. Once two new anticorruption measures were released within two days, so was the funding. That's what changed. I yield back.
SWALWELL: Mr. Chairman, unanimous consent for...
NADLER: For what purpose does the gentleman from California seek recognition?
SWALWELL: Just to -- in response to Mr. Buck, a unanimous consent request for a Vox November 15, 2019 article, all of Robert Miller's indictments including the 34 people and three companies that he indicted in his lengthy investigation.
NADLER: Without objection...
UNKNOWN: (inaudible). NADLER: The gentleman reserves an objection. He wants to see it, that's fair. Does -- for what purpose does the Mr. Reschenthaler seek recognition?
RESCHENTHALER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I move to strike the last word.
NADLER: Without objection. I mean, the gentleman is recognized.
RESCHENTHALER: I yield to my friend and colleague from Florida.
GAETZ: I thank the gentleman for yielding and I just got to come back to this interview with Yermak because it's like the tree that fell in the forest that nobody heard that completely demolished the entire Democrat case. They have no evidence that the Ukrainians ever knew that this aid was withheld. So they're literally trying to prosecute an impeachment against the president for a shakedown when the alleged people being shook down one, said they felt no pressure, and two, did not even know it was happening. And so -- then time and again, you heard them in -- in debate, in press conferences and the whole circus show that's going on, hearsay (ph), well we've got this testimony from Gordon Sondland, we all remember Gordon. Gordon Sondland wandering his way to an escalator with this guy who speaks English as a second language and Gordon says, well maybe I said something to about this.
Well I mean, that -- that was the whole deal for them, and then, I mean, you talk about embarrassing. The same day that they introduce their articles of impeachment that we knew they were going to introduce one way or another the moment they took the majority, it comes out that Yermak denies the whole thing, so show me the Ukrainian that was pressured. Show me Ukrainian the knew that any of this was tied to any conditionality. There's no conditionality in the call, so it's quite easy answer Ms. Jayapal, the gentlelady from Washington's, question; very easy. In this case there, is no conditionality. You can't prove it, you have no evidence of it, and frankly even the Ukrainians, even your purported victims are coming out in the press and saying their theory of the case is wrong, their fundamental premise has been rejected. I yield to the gentleman from Ohio.
UNKNOWN: You have to yield back to...
GAETZ: I yield back to the gentleman from Pennsylvania.
RESCHENTHALER: Yes, I yield to my friend from Ohio.
JORDAN: I thank the gentleman for yielding. Exactly what changed is that we've got a brand-new president who ran -- Zelensky ran on anticorruption. Let's see if he's the real deal, and that's exactly what happened in the 55 days the aid was paused. We talked about five critical meetings that took place, five meetings. The last one I think is the most important because you had a Democrat senator and a Republican senator meet with President Zelensky in Kiev. They knew the aid had been paused that time, Ukrainians knew, they had learned a few days before that, and the issue never came up. But what did come up is both of these senators came back and said, this guy is the real deal, worth the risk, worth sending the harder tax dollars of the American people to Ukraine. That -- that is what happened and the facts are very clear. You can make up all the stuff you want, but the facts are on the president's side, they've always been on the president's side.
Democrats keep saying to get the call, to get the meeting, to get the money, there had to be an announcement. December 12th. There is yet to be an announcement from Ukraine about any type of investigation into Burisma or the Bidens yet because it's not going to happen, because it never needed to happen. That wasn't the point. But they got the call July 25th, they got the meeting September 25th, and they got the money September 11th.
The other thing I want to point out, I don't how many times I've heard this, the Democrats talk about this one sentence the president said in the now famous call transcript of President Zelensky, I would like you to do us a favor, though. Democrats don't read the plain language. in fact, your star professor witness who was here last week, she talked about this being the royal we, she read the sentence the way you guys always try to portray the sentence. She said it was, I would like you to do me a favor, though. That's not what it says. It says, I would like you to do us a favor, though, because -- and guess what the next two words are? Guess what the next two words are? Because our country, not because I. The president doesn't say I would like you to do me a favor, though, because I've been through a lot. He doesn't say that.
Very clear, I would like you to do us a favor, though, because our country has been through a lot. And that is the understatement of the year. Heck yeah our country's been through a lot, this is the day after Bob Mueller sat in front of this committee and we learned there was nothing there; but two years he put our country through all kinds of turmoil because of you guys, that's what the president is pointing out. Because in the end of this paragraph, he references Bob Mueller. That's what he's talking about. Heck yeah our country had been through a lot, and the president was pretty ticked about it, he wanted to find out what was going on. That's very legitimate, that is working on behalf of the American people. But again as I said last night, you guys don't respect the 63 million people who voted for this guy. That's why the -- that's why the speaker the House call the president an impostor, what's wrong. I would like you to do us a favor, though because our country has been through a lot. I yield back.
NADLER: The gentleman yields back. For what purpose does Mr. Johnson seek recognition?
JOHNSON: I move to strike the last word.
NADLER: The gentleman is recognized.
JOHNSON: I just want to slow this down be very methodical about it because most of us here are attorneys, and in this case we're supposed also be findings of fact and we're supposed to carefully and objectively analyze the claims against the record. So let's do that. There are two articles to this impeachment resolution of course, abuse of power and obstruction of justice. On the first, Democrats know there is zero direct evidence in the record of these proceedings to show that President Trump engaged in any scheme of any kind as is alleged in the resolution or that he intended in his dealings with Ukraine to influence the 2020 election. No impeachment should ever proceed on the basis of hearsay and conjecture and speculation, that wouldn't even be admissible in a local traffic court, and we say that over and over.
To my friend Ms. Jayapal, there is simply no evidence of any condition, and I guess I need to repeat the four indisputable facts again that are in this record, because repetition apparently is really necessary here. First, both President Trump and Zelensky said there was no pressure exerted, number two, the July 25 call transcript shows no conditionality between aid funded (ph) in an investigation, number three, Ukraine was not aware of the aid as has been said over and over here, that it was being delayed, and number four, they never opened an investigation, they still received the aid and they got the meeting.
Our colleagues keep misrepresenting the facts. Not only do they misrepresent the "Do me a favor" versus "Do us a favor," but only three of the 17 witnesses called by Chairman Schiff listened in on the call, OK, only three of them.
And contrary to the assertions that we've heard this morning, they didn't provide key incontrovertible firsthand testimony of what happened on the call. All three of the testimonies contradicted each other. So the three people that listened in directly didn't even know.
The evidence shows that President Trump holds a deep-seated, genuine and reasonable skepticism of Ukraine, due to its history of pervasive corruption. And his administration sought proof that the newly elected president was a true reformer.
Of course, as has been pointed out, the president soon found out that he is a swamp-drainer, and that's why the funds were released.
President Trump wanted to ensure that the American taxpayer-funded security assistance would not be squandered by what has been reported as the "third most corrupt nation in the world" before Zelensky.
And the discussions they had were never about what happened in -- what will happen in 202 but rather about what happened in 2016.
So the second claim of this resolution is that the president obstructed Congress. But he simply did what virtually every other president in the modern era has also done. What's his -- what's his -- what's his big infraction here?
He asserted a legitimate executive privilege and legal immunity to question subpoenas issued by various -- to various White House officials. There's no evidence of any impeachable conduct with that. It's very commonplace.
On every previous occasion of this assertion in the past, the natural impasse that exists between the executive and legislative branches in our constitutional system has been easily and calmly resolved, either by a good-faith negotiation or a simply filing with the third branch of our government, the judicial branch. And let the courts decide it.
In spite of their allegations here, Democrats know President Trump has lawful cause to challenge those subpoenas in this matter. In this case, House Democrats are trying to impeach President Trump simply for seeking judicial review over whether the direct communications between high-ranking advisers and a president under these circumstances are privileged or should be disclosed.
That case would be expedited in the courts. It wouldn't take that long. But Democrats said they don't have time for that. Why? Because they promised their base an impeachment by Christmas. This whole thing is so absurd.
It should be noted, by the way, that President Trump has consistently cooperated with Congress in fulfilling its oversight and investigation responsibilities here. Over 25 administration officials have testified before our Oversight Committee this year, 20 before this committee. At the start of the impeachment inquiry, the White House produced more than 100,000 pages of documents to the Oversight Committee.
And of course, he also quickly declassified and produced to everyone the call transcript.
Democrats know this is an absurd charge about obstruction. And the truth is, in the history of the republic, there's never been a single- party, fraudulent impeachment process deployed against a president like the one that is being used against Donald Trump.
They're the ones seeking to nullify our vital constitutional safeguards with a sham. Their ultimate objective is to nullify the votes of the 63 million Americans who voted to elect Donald Trump to president. They violated due process and all the rest.
My colleague, Sheila Jackson Lee, a little while ago, invoked and quoted Barbara Jordan. But she's the one that said during the Watergate inquiry, "Impeachment not only mandates due process, but due process quadrupled."
They have violated that here. They have violated the rules, and everybody in the country can see it. This impeachment is going to fail. The Democrats will pay a heavy political price for it. But the Pandora's Box they've opened today will do irreparable injury to our country in the years ahead. That's why we're concerned. That's why the facts matter. And that's why we need to move on. I yield back.
NADLER: The gentleman yields back.
GARCIA: Mr. Chairman...
NADLER: For what purpose does Ms. Garcia seek recognition?
GARCIA: Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.
NADLER: The gentlelady is recognized.
GARCIA: Mr. Chairman, I'm opposed to this amendment. It's incredible to me that the other side of the aisle has -- has not seen the facts and has not, apparently, read some of the evidence before us.
It is obvious to me that this president has put his personal interests above this country. And with that, I'll yield back to the gentleman from Maryland, Mr. Cicilline.
NADLER: Rhode Island.
(UNKNOWN): Rhode Island.
(UNKNOWN): Rhode Island.
GARCIA: Oh, Rhode Island.
CICILLINE: I thank the gentlelady for yielding. We've just heard our Republican colleagues claim that there was no demand, no conditionality for the release of this aid and in fact it was motivated by this president's deep desire to ferret out corruption.
That is laughable. The president of the United States had two phone calls with President Zelensky. He never once even uttered the word "corruption." Because it wasn't about corruption. And the reason we know that is the Department of Defense had already certified that steps had been taken to combat corruption back on May 23rd. And despite that certification, that hold remained in place.
In fact, the professionals testified about them trying to figure out how is it possible it's legal to hold this aid? Because the certification's happened, there's no basis to hold it other than the president ordered it.
So it's not about corruption. It was about extracting a commitment to announce publicly that they were launching an investigation of President Trump's chief political rival, a smear against Vice President Biden.
So this notion that really what happens is the president just satisfied himself that Mr. Zelensky is for real is nonsense and betrayed by all of the evidence collected.
Let me give you some of it, or remind you of it, because you apparently don't remember it.
Ambassador Sondland testified under oath, "Mr. Giuliani's requests were a quid pro quo, for arranging a White House visit for President Zelensky. Mr. Giuliani demanded that Ukraine" -- Mr. Giuliani, by the way, the president's counsel -- "Mr. Giuliani demanded that Ukraine make a public statement announcing the investigation of the 2016 election, the DNC server and Burisma. Mr. Giuliani was expressing the desires of the president of the United States, and we knew these investigations were important to the president."
On the July 25th call, President Zelensky himself recognized the connection between the meeting and the investigations. And he said, "I also want to thank you for your invitation to visit the United States, specifically Washington, D.C. On the other hand, I also want to assure you that we'll try to be very serious about the case and will work on the investigation."
And the president spoke in that call about the Bidens and Burisma. And their -- the OMB ultimately announces that the aid was withheld. It gives no explanation. And everyone in the intelligence community, all the national security team, all recommended the release of the aid.
This was an important ally of the United States facing an active war with the Russians that took part of their country and was continuing to kill people in eastern Ukraine. American military aid was a lifeline for this emerging democracy.
You know, the only people who benefited from this scheme? President Trump, because he thought he was going to get an announcement to smear his political opponent, and Vladimir Putin, Russia. They were trying to weaken the Ukrainians.
And there was a recent article Congresswoman Bass held up that captured this, where it said "President Zelensky Facing President Putin All Alone."
So this benefited Russia, weakening Ukraine. But this notion that the reason that the aid was released because the president was satisfied is defied by all of the evidence collected in a 300-page report by the Intelligence Committee.
It was released because the president got caught. The whistle-blower filed the report, a complaint, alleging an elaborate scheme by the president that betrayed the national interest of our country, that undermined our national security, that advanced the personal political interest of the president, not the national interest of our country, that attempted to corrupt our elections by dragging in foreign interference. It's the highest of high crimes and misdemeanors. Our framers spoke about this abuse of power, of using the office of the presidency to advance your (ph) own personal interests and to undermine the public interests. Now I yield to Mr. Raskin in my remaining (inaudible).
RASKIN: Thank you very much.
NADLER: It's Ms. Garcia's time to yield, does she wish to yield to Mr. Raskin.
GARCIA: I yield to Mr. Raskin.
RASKIN: Ms. Garcia, thank you very much. to just -- just to flesh out in the detail of what the gentleman from Rhode Island was saying, one of the depositions is from David Homan (ph) who was a State Department official at the U.S. Embassy in Kiev, who was with Gordon Sondland, who testified that there was a quid pro quo, but he saw him on the phone with President Trump and he reported right at that time to him, he said the president doesn't give a blank about Ukraine, he's interested in the big stuff. And what's the big stuff? Whatever can benefit him.
NADLER: The gentleman yields back. For what purposes does Mr. Biggs seek recognition?
BIGGS: I move to strike the last word.
NADLER: The gentleman is recognized.
BIGGS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. You know, last night and today we've heard many times my colleagues on the other side saying the facts of this are not contested; but you know, they are. They really are. An example is one just pointed out and highlighted by my colleague from Louisiana just a moment ago. On the telephone call, listen (ph), of the 17 witnesses that came in, only three actually listened in to the phone call, but each one of them have contradictory testimony, and so even though three witnesses that heard the call conflicted. And why is that important?
Why did I (ph) bring that up? I bring it up because of this, many of my colleagues, in fact, most of my college on the other side of the aisle take every inference in the (ph) light most negative to the president of the United States. That's because there's an animus there that has been manifest since November 9th, 2016, the day after he was elected. And so having watched this procedure closely on the heels of the other procedures in attempts to impeach this president and investigate, I am left wondering, you want every inference to go against the president, why should the American public give you any inference of credibility?
The reality is, when my colleague in California said -- was talking about the Russian issue, not a single American was indicted for conspiring with Russia to influence the elections, not one. He still believes that -- that there was some kind of collusion with the Trump campaign. But what do the facts actually get to? So when my college just talked about -- about them the money was released, the aid was released, again, he takes this inference based on a timeline and he's citing rank -- here's -- a guy comes and says, you know what? I overheard this conversation.
I'm in a restaurant -- actually I was sitting on a patio at a restaurant, lots of people around, but boy I could hear everything. I knew who it was, I knew what was said, and so I was so concerned about it, I didn't tell anybody. I came in once this really got going and revved up.
You want to take every inference against the president, why should we give you any inference of credibility? The only direct evidence in this case remains the same after all this time, no pressure; no pressure in the phone call, Mr. Zelensky has said that repeatedly. He has said that -- he spent eight hours in one press conference -- all day long, talking about no pressure, there was no pressure. Yermak said there was no pressure. Are they lying? No, but we know the whistleblower was lying. We know that Mr. Schiff was lying. Mr. Schiff came out the day before; he said eight times, the president put direct pressure on the Ukrainians. Oops, transcript was (ph) released, not true. That would be -- that would be the facts being contested, absolutely.
We know there was no conditionality. Everybody said there was no conditionality, everybody that participated, everybody listen (ph), Ukraine was unaware of the hold, so how can you leverage them if they were unaware the hold. And there's never any investigation. Or (ph) what happened? What triggered it? You have high-ranking U.S. officials going to the Ukraine, meeting with them, convinced the president. You have the present Ukraine signing two pieces of legislation, reinstituting the anticorruption tribunal and also removing immunity from prosecution of the legislative branch from the Ukraine. Significant anticorruption measures worthy, worthy of convincing this president that yes they're worth the chance. And so with that, you have nothing, your credibility is in tatters quite frankly. With that, I yield to my friend from Colorado.
BUCK: I thank my friend for yielding. And I just want to ask my friends on the other side, Mr. Sondland, Ambassador Sondland your star witness, really? You're basing an impeachment on Ambassador Sondland's testimony? His first statement, his first deposition, he said 325 times, I don't remember, I don't know, I'm not sure; 325 times. You don't think when this gets over the Senate that he's going to be impeached on all the things he didn't remember? Then -- then -- his testimony impeached, not his office I see the smirk. Then what does he do? He reads and he listens to what Ambassador Taylor says that he knows and what Ambassador Yovanovitch says that he knows, and what all these people say that he knows and then his memory is refreshed.
BIGGS: I yield back.
NADLER: The gentleman yields back. For what purpose does Mr. Ratcliffe seek recognition?
RATCLIFFE: I move to strike the last word.
NADLER: The gentleman is recognized.
RATCLIFFE: I thank the chairman. I want to respond to my good friend Congressman Cicilline's comments when he said that President Trump's demand can't be explained by corruption because the word corruption is never uttered anywhere in the transcript. The problem with have is that the Democrats have built this entire fake impeachment scheme around an alleged demand. Guess what word is not anywhere in the transcript? Demand nowhere in that transcript does the president make a demand.
You know where the word demand came from? It came from the whistleblower, that's the first time we heard the word demand. When he notified the inspector general for the intelligence community, he said President Trump made a demand. He thought he could do that as he thought no one would ever be able to prove because what president would take the unprecedented step of releasing the transcript with a foreign leader? This president did nothing that the whistleblower never expected. President Trump, we keep hearing got caught. President Trump we keep hearing is obstructing justice. The president that took the unprecedented step of releasing a transcript so that everyone could see the truth is not obstructing Congress. The president didn't get caught. The whistleblower got caught. The whistleblower made false statements. The whistleblower got caught with Chairman Schiff. Remember, Chairman Schiff, the person that the Democrats instead of the House Judiciary Committee - which has spent a full week on this -