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House Panel Debates Impeachment Articles Against Trump Before Vote. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired December 12, 2019 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our Special Coverage. I am Jake Tapper. It was a truly historic day today and any moment, we expect the House Judiciary Committee to return from the break they took and to resume debating the two Articles of Impeachment that have been drafted against President Donald Trump. One, abuse of power. The second one, obstruction of Congress.
Let's start by going to Capitol Hill where we find CNN senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju. Manu, what do we expect to happen for the rest of the day today laid out for us?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, a lot more fireworks. We expect Republicans to continue to offer amendments to try to undercut the two Articles of Impeachment. The Article that the Democrats had put forward alleging abuse of power in the President's handling in relations with the Ukraine; also, alleging obstruction of Congress by not cooperating with the Impeachment Inquiry.
Republicans plan to offer according to what Doug Collins told me just moments ago, quote, "good many number of amendments" still and that could take several hours to get through.
Ultimately, it will be a decision for Republicans to decide if they're satisfied, if they're essentially tired and want to move on. There's some desire by some folks to go to the White House Christmas Congressional Ball today where President Trump is attending, and so that could also motivate the things to get things wrapped up before seven o'clock or so.
But nevertheless, we do expect the ultimate vote on the Articles of Impeachment -- those two Articles of Impeachment to be taken by the House Judiciary Committee today that's going to be approved along party lines and sent to the full House where that vote will take place, probably by the middle of next week.
Now, also at this moment, Jake, Republican leadership on the floor, taking the temperature of their caucus. They're whipping their members to determine to see if they're going to vote against those Articles next week.
Republican leaders are confident that they're not going to lose any of their members. The one former Republican turned Independent, Justin Amash, is expected to vote for those two Articles.
And on the Democratic side, the leadership there, Nancy Pelosi saying she will not whip her members and not pressure them to vote the party line. She said they can vote however they so choose.
And we do expect at least two defections on the Democratic side when it comes to the full House vote next week, maybe a couple more. Now, a number of moderates are still holding their cards close to their vest, but truly a historic moment is going to happen in just a matter of hours here in the House Judiciary Committee who is going to advance those two Articles of Impeachment to the floor for next week's consideration -- Jake.
TAPPER: Manu, you say that the House Democrats, House Speaker Pelosi, they're not whipping their members, meaning that they're not telling them how to vote and also just assessing what their votes are. Do they know - are they confident that the votes are there to impeach President Trump among the Democratic Caucus?
RAJU: There is confidence from the Democratic leadership for sure that they need a majority of votes and that's expected to be that threshold. It is actually going to be 216 votes on the floor because of some vacancies, it is now 216 votes and they do expect they'll be able to meet that threshold.
Now, they do expect that there will be those defections, like I mentioned. So it could be two, it could be four or five or six. A lot depends on some of these members from Trump districts, Jake, when they go back home this weekend.
Starting today, they're done voting after today, until next week, what do they hear from their constituents when they decide to vote against those Articles of Impeachment? That's going to be a key test for some of those members, particularly freshmen from those swing districts -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Manu Raju on Capitol Hill, and you heard that, and of course the big headline, Jeff Toobin, there is the Democrats have the votes to impeach President Trump and that is monumental.
This is only the fourth time in the history of this nation that that will have happened.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: And that in and of itself is just, you know, that is -- it is -- we're going to -- the Impeachment Articles will be read by historians forever.
But you know the timing of it that really jumps out at me is that in the first 200 years of our country, we had one impeachment.
TAPPER: Andrew Johnson.
TOOBIN: Andrew Johnson right after the Civil War, and now we've had three in the last 45 years. I think that is indicative of the toxicity of our politics and how angry and combative our politics have become in that period. That doesn't mean the impeachments are wrong, but it does mean that
the stakes of disagreements with Congress keep going up.
TAPPER: Dana Bash, tell us your impression of the hearing so far. I have not heard -- I've heard a lot of things said in defense of the President that are just not factually correct.
For instance, the idea that the Ukrainians had no idea that there was an issue with the military aid being held up, that's in direct contradiction to the testimony we heard from a Pentagon official who said that the Ukrainian Embassy reached out on July 25th, the very day of the phone call.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right and there were others -- there is other testimony from people who were in Ukraine that it was even earlier, so you're right about that.
But what was noteworthy, and we were discussing some of this earlier is that after all this time of Republicans talking process, process, process; finally, at the 11th hour, you did hear some Republicans, the President's closest and staunchest defenders like Jim Jordan start to talk a little bit about the substance of the transcript, the summary of the phone call and parsing it.
So pushing back a little bit, just even on the notion that the President was asking for an investigation or what kind of investigation that he was asking for. We never heard any of that, you know, on a large scale. And finally, right now, they were doing that and their argument was, he was saying, do it for us, America, not do us a favor.
TAPPER: Do us a favor.
BASH: Which is what the President actually tweeted earlier today. And so it's like, I don't know, maybe you know this that there was suddenly a eureka moment after this sentence has been out there for, you know, for three months, that they can finally figure out a way to discuss it.
But why wait until -- never mind whether that's accurate or not, but just on the strategy, why wait until now?
TAPPER: John King, just on the history of this. This is the second impeachment of a U.S. President that you have covered as a journalist. It's pretty momentous, and it's easy to get lost in the sniping and the partisan attacks and we heard some personal attacks against Hunter Biden earlier from Congressman Matt Gaetz, one of the President's biggest supporters.
But really, this is -- this will be a stain on the Trump presidency one way or another.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And I remember in the Clinton White House days where there were people, including the President telling his aides, we can turn this toward our advantage politically. That's one thing. President Trump is trying to find ways to turn this to his advantage politically.
But that does not mean that a President wants to be impeached to turn it to his benefit politically. That's the President trying to make the best of a horrible, terrible, historic situation.
It is a stain on your presidency. It was a stain on the Clinton presidency. Any Democrat who was involved at the time, think about the time when Bill Clinton was President: A booming economy, a President who said he was going to try to do things that we're still talking about now 25 years later -- reform Social Security, reform Medicare, reform the immigration system -- none of that happened. None of that happened. Because --
BASH: But we did have the budget.
KING: He did. Well, he had a great economy, but that was it. The moment, for any President, whether you're a Democrat or a Republican, to be President, that moment when the government was actually running an operational surplus to deal with the other big structural problems, none of it happened in the second Clinton term.
I always joke when Senator Santorum is here, Bill Clinton and Senator Santorum went around the country doing Town Halls on Social Security reform, because it was actually a bipartisan effort to get things done. It just was flushed by the impeachment because it made Bill Clinton raw and angry at the Republicans. It made him want retribution, and you see very much the same thing now in President Trump.
We thought at the time, in the Clinton days that this town had just become impossibly partisan and impossibly polarized. It seems like a quaint little small town America to think back 21 years to where we are today.
TAPPER: One of the things -- one of the arguments being made by Republicans, Laura, is that there's no crime that President Trump committed or the Democrats are pointing out accurately that the Constitution doesn't actually require a crime for impeachment, even with the mention of high crimes and misdemeanors.
There was an interesting moment where Congressman Eric Swalwell, the Democrat of California talked about how he -- he is was a former prosecutor -- how he saw it, how there were potential crimes in there. As a prosecutor, what did you think of the case he laid out?
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it was actually a good one and very persuasive because it talks about the elements essentially. I know in high crimes and misdemeanors, the notion of there's no exact and precise measurement or requirement or recipe to figure out what it would constitute.
But if you're actually trying to show the American people and lead them to the idea of what constitutes an abuse of power? What was at stake? Looping in the contextual clues of the Founding Fathers and what they actually wanted to accomplish and why an abuse of power and foreign interference in a nation had a Declaration of Independence would be important. It is persuasive. But they still have not hammered home enough this point.
It's like the "Godfather" scene where Michael Corleone says no one should go against the family ever. Congress has to persuade the American people and one another, the notion that if Congress is the family, you are going against your own interests by allowing somebody to siphon their power away to the Executive Branch of government.
If the Executive Branch of government can essentially say, you don't matter and whatever you tell me for a congressional subpoena just doesn't have any weight, then I have given over the separation of powers argument. And they still continue to focus on essentially, as last night you saw their personal journeys to becoming congressmen and women, and that's important from their own perspectives for their own jurisdictions, but you're trying to persuade people about which Articles of Impeachment have the most impact on the future of democracy.
COATES: They've got to hammer the point home that it's now, it's because it is an election and it's because if our power is to mean anything in the future, we have to unify to figure out who is trying to undermine it.
TOOBIN: But Laura, wasn't it Vito Corleone who says that?
COATES: It is - he is talking about Fredo with Mo in the casino in Las Vegas. We'll go there. No, no. We'll go there, Toobin. We'll go there.
TOOBIN: I was -- I thought it was the --
COATES: Don't mess with the family that's on this panel.
BASH: I just want you to say the family like Marlon Brando.
TAPPER: Jen Psaki, your general impression of the case that the Democrats are making. How do you think they're doing?
JEN PSAKI, FORMER OBAMA WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Some better than others, you know, to be honest.
TAPPER: Who has impressed you?
PSAKI: You know, I think there were a couple of interesting moments. Zoe Lofgren actually, given her history on impeachment and her being able to reframe what the Clinton impeachment was actually about.
One point I think more Democrats could make is, look many of your -- maybe not some of the Republicans here today, but many past Republicans voted to impeach President Clinton, as she said, over sex, right? This is much more serious. This is over the national interest of the United States.
I thought the back and forth with Hank Johnson and Matt Gaetz was actually interesting, when he had the moment kind of almost of silence to let Republicans speak up and why -- whether they thought it should be precedent that a future President should be able to seek political dirt on their opponent? You know, that stuck with me. Whether it sticks to the American people, I don't know.
I mean, ultimately, what happened today was, these members were trying to make the case so that they can support their vote at the end of the day and go home to their districts. That's what we were seeing. That's why it wasn't as unified as some of the messages we've seen in the past because they know their districts. They know what people need to hear.
I think what will be interesting to see is what we hear from some of the moderate Democrats on Monday and Tuesday, after they've gone back, they've spoken to people in their district. I think they know where they're going to vote, but they want to hear from people and they want to be able to come back and say, I made the case that I need to put country before my own political future and my own political gain.
I heard from my constituents. I also want to protect the election in the future. This isn't about overturning the election of the past. I think that's what we'll hear from some of them. And that's more interesting to me than kind of what some of the members had to say today.
TAPPER: And David Urban, how do you think the Republicans are doing?
DAVID URBAN, TRUMP 2020 CAMPAIGN ADVISER: Look, I think everyone is -- both sides -- both teams are doing what they need to do for their team. Right? That's what's going on here. There's -- this is the, you know, Act Three in the play right, so we all kind of know, we have the cliff notes. We can read ahead and see how it's going to end. So I think everyone's doing what they need to do.
I don't think -- I think Jen is correct in that, you know, people are making their case so they can go home and kind of make it further. It will be interesting to hear what Max Rose and folks like that say when they come back.
You know, there's not a lot of, you know, people in swing districts on this committee. So nobody is really, you know, kind of weighing the equities like they would have to with these 31 folks in these swings districts and so we'll see, though I think that's the really interesting part when those folks come back and stand the well at the Senate and they talk about -- excuse me -- well, the House and they make their statement and speech about why they're going to vote the way they do.
TOOBIN: You said - you make a really interesting point about the Committee. And this was true in 1998, as well, that, you know, different kinds of representatives are attracted to different committees.
If you are someone who really cares about bringing home the bacon to your district, you're going to go on the Appropriations Committee, or if you care about tax policy, you're going to go on Ways and Means.
Judiciary has always attracted the ideal ones.
TOOBIN: The people who are the most strongly partisan.
BASH: The performers.
TOOBIN: The performers, so you know, thinking back to '98, which we covered, I mean, you had Barney Frank and you had Bob Barr, the Republican.
URBAN: Lindsey Graham.
TOOBIN: Maxine Waters was then on the committee. I mean, you had, you know, real colorful personalities as you still do. But that doesn't necessarily tell you how the moderates in the party are thinking.
TAPPER: Everyone stick around. We've got a lot more to talk about. Any moment, the House Judiciary Committee will pick back up and continue debating these two Articles of Impeachment against President Trump. We're going to squeeze in a quick break. We'll be right back.
TAPPER: We are back with our Special Coverage of the House Judiciary Committee today who could approve Articles of Impeachment against President Trump. That would be only the fourth time in U.S. history that has happened against a U.S. President.
The Committee will resume debate over the two Articles against President Trump any minute. We'll bring that to you live. But in the meantime, let's continue our conversation.
John King, how quickly do you think we're going to get a vote on impeachment on the whole -- for the whole floor of the House -- on the floor of the House as opposed to just the Committee vote?
KING: Assuming this does not go off the rails with amendment after amendment after amendment and they finish tonight, then we're going to see that early to the middle of next week. The House of Representatives is going to impeach the President of the United States. The math is there.
The only question is how many Democrats defect? Right now, it appears it'll be zero Republicans, so the President of the United States will be impeached by the House of Representatives, most likely by the middle of next week. TAPPER: Dana, it doesn't actually help, like, for instance, if you're
a Democrat in one of these swing districts, say Congresswoman Lucy McBath who was actually on the Judiciary Committee and in a swing district, if you vote against the Articles of Impeachment, does -- might that actually help you get reelected in a swing district assuming it's a Trump district or is it really just a crapshoot?
BASH: It's a crapshoot.
BASH: Because you could also anger -- the biggest political risk is that even if you're in a swing district and you really appeal to Independents and some Republicans, you still need your base to come out for you because they're the core of your voters.
And if they're mad at you, because you vote no on an impeachment on two Articles of Impeachment, or even one against the President who they think should be impeached, then they're going to sit home or they're going to go to the ballot and they're going to vote for the top of the ticket and just as a protest, not vote for you. So it's a very big risk.
TOOBIN: And Michael Bloomberg just said he is putting up $10 million to support members of the Democratic majority who will vote for impeachment and embattle Democrats.
And putting aside Bloomberg, fundraising is an issue. I mean, you raise your money from your base, you don't raise money from people who are on the fence and if you are a Democrat who votes against impeachment, you could have serious fundraising problems.
TAPPER: And the other thing, of course, is that you might have a primary.
TAPPER: Congressman Van Drew from Southern Jersey.
TOOBIN: Good point.
TAPPER: The part of New Jersey that's very agricultural, very red, I think it's a plus five Republican plus five win for Trump. Congressman Van Drew might face a primary opponent for the Democratic nomination for the seat he holds.
BASH: Which is, I mean, this is what we have seen for 10 years play out on the Republican side, if you don't -- for Members of Congress who didn't, you know, didn't pledge fealty to the party and voted their conscience or voted in a way that angered the Republicans, they got a primary. We're seeing that more and more with Democrats, and that's a great point. It could happen.
KING: And we'll watch these Democrats and they are the story right now. There are 31 House Democrats that the President carry their districts. There were 90 -- when Bill Clinton was President, there were 90 Republicans. The number of House members who are from the President and the other party has just shrunk and so it becomes about your base. Just to the point is, there are just so few of these districts now, you have to keep your base.
URBAN: I was just going to say, as John pointed out, you know, of those 31, I don't know how many are like Conor Lamb who ran on, I'm not voting for Pelosi for Speaker. I'm going to be Independent. I'm going to work with the President. Right? If he goes out and votes for impeachment, hard to run.
TAPPER: Yes, still, as they say, the votes are to impeach and that's what we're suspecting, you know, that's in all likelihood what's going to happen next week that the Democratic controlled Congress will vote to impeach President Trump.
I want to bring in CNN's Kaitlan Collins at the White House for us right now. Kaitlan, tell us what you're learning about what's going on when it comes to the White House and Capitol Hill.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, a notable development that just happened, the White House counsel, Pat Cipollone was just seen in the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's office over on Capitol Hill, of course, while they're taking this break from this hearing over there in the House going back and forth on these amendments.
And the reason that's interesting that we do not know the official reason for this visit that the White House counsel is paying to the Senate Majority Leader, someone he has spoken with often throughout this impeachment process, but, Jake, it's notable because it comes after that CNN reporting about that divide between what the White House and the President specifically was looking for in a Senate trial and what people like the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell were saying privately was going to happen.
That divide mainly came down to live witnesses, witnesses in-person testifying or not, that is something that we have reported on, a difference between the two of them over how they were going to essentially come to an agreement on that.
And someone who has been playing a key role in all of this is, of course, Pat Cipollone who has been really the person between the President and McConnell, though they also speak often. He has really been the person speaking with a lot of these senators and House members over on Capitol Hill about this negotiating, talking about the White House's messages, making sure they're all essentially on the same page.
And right now he is over in the Senate Majority Leader's office, again -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Kaitlan Collins, thanks so much. And let's talk about that. Jen Psaki, so you have this divide right now, between the White House which wants a spectacle. They want a Senate trial in witnesses are called, in which they can
bring up, Joe Biden et cetera versus Mitch McConnell, who it looks as though reporting indicates that he wants a small process that he considers this idea of Democrats and Republicans calling witnesses mutually assured destruction that they're just going to blow up the Senate.
The Senate has a lot of pride. They do not think of themselves as the House of Representatives. They think of themselves as more serious, sober individuals. Who wins that fight, do you think?
PSAKI: Look, I think if it's the Republicans interest for Mitch McConnell to win that fight because he is ultimately thinking about how to get through this quickly and survive. They're not going to lose 20 Republicans from the Republican side.
So yes, President Trump will be impeached in the House. He is not going to be convicted in the Senate, unless something changes dramatically. In Mitch McConnell's mind, his job is to get through that and not allow many Republicans to vote in favor of conviction.
He is also thinking about vulnerable members like Cory Gardner and beyond that -- Thom Tillis, other seats that he doesn't want to put in a vulnerable place. He doesn't want to have to spend money on them. He doesn't want them to become vulnerable through this process and it becomes harder for senators because their districts or their states -- and they're much more diverse than these House districts, so it's more likely they could be hurt by a long circus trial.
TAPPER: And just to explain the math that you're doing there in terms of they're not going to lose 20. Republicans -- Republicans control the Senate, 53 votes to 47 votes. You need a two-thirds majority to remove a President from office. Meaning you need 67 votes.
So it's not just a matter of picking off Susan Collins and Cory Gardner. You need a big a big swath there.
URBAN: I would say that the gulf between the White House and the Senate in terms of what they want to try to look like isn't as -- I don't think it is as wide as people think. I think they're pretty simpatico and you're going to see a pretty quick up and down. I would be surprised if it goes more than two weeks.
TOOBIN: And I don't think the Democrats have that much of an interest in a long trial either. So weirdly, those seem to be sort of coming together.
You know, they know Donald Trump is not going to get convicted in this trial. What good does it do Chuck Schumer to have a long trial that's going to end in failure for his side? I just -- I think there is a weird convergence of interests of all three parties.
TAPPER: Everyone stick around. Any minute, the House Judiciary Committee could start up the debate on the two Articles of Impeachment against President Donald J. Trump. Stick around. We'll bring that right to you. Stay with us.
TAPPER: Members of the House Judiciary Committee having just voted are starting to return to the hearing room. They'll continue debating the two articles of impeachment against President Trump, abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
John King, let me start with you.
How good a case do you think Democrats have made for these two articles of impeachment? Have they made the case? Not saying you have to agree or not, to a skeptical independent, that the president abused his power and has obstructed Congress by not cooperating with the investigators?
KING: If you have tracked along through the Intelligence Committee hearings and public testimony and articles of impeachment here, I would answer, yes. That does not mean it's impeachable. That's a separate argument. And you have to be a member of the House and get to vote that.
Have Democrats made the case the president used official powers, withheld military aide and a meeting at the White House to benefit him personally that had zip to do with national security? Yes, they have.
Have they made a case that they have issue, if you accept Congress as a coequal branch of government, that they issued subpoenas in a constitutional obligation, a responsibility of the House, impeachment, and the president said, no, absolutely no, didn't give the witnesses. Yes, that's well documented. Those facts are not in dispute.
The question is, can they make the argument, especially with an election 11 months from now, the president should be removed for this? The factual argument of Democrats is a pretty solid case.
The political argument, should a president be removed? That is why we've seen a stagnation of public opinion making it hard for Democrats. The Democrats who say we have to do this, we must do this, we don't care about the politics, that's one thing.
BASH: It's a solid case for people who are really interested in learning the actual facts. And --
TAPPER: And have the time to do so.
BASH: And have the time. But are not interested in hearing what they want to hear, which is the problem, increasing problem, with our country and with society and with, you know, the media and we can talk about this for -- for 50 years, about the -- how things have changed. But it is played out in such a stark way during this whole process. That, what John described about what the Democrats are presenting, in
a world of, you know, where people are open to hearing arguments that don't comport with how they want things to go, meaning Republicans don't want this president to be impeached, or don't want to hear that the president did anything wrong, and that is the core issue.
They are talking past each other. And the people out there who could be persuaded are not persuadable because they don't want to listen or are listening to people and media outlets telling them the things they want to hear.
TAPPER: Jerry Nadler, the chairman of the committee, Democrat from New York, just walked back into the hearing room. We're expecting him to gavel back into proceedings any minute.
Laura Coates, same question. How solid a case do you think Democrats have made, not just to people who were paying attention to every word, not just political junkies or invested one way or another in the outcome, but the average American? How much are they hearing and are upset by it?
COATES: With respect to the second article of impeachment, they received nothing in return for congressional subpoenas. Clear. Check in for one-half a second and that's clear to the American people. Whether you think that's enough to impeach is a different story.
On the first part, it takes a little more intellectual exercise and requires abuse of power to look at context. I think you have a losing argument trying to persuade the American public, if this is a -- the straw that broke the camel's back argument, because the American people want to know, in an election year, why this instance, why now.
Relying on context requires you to do what? Go back to the Mueller probe. Which did not have the benefit of witnesses like Ambassador Yovanovitch or Dr. Fiona Hill or Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Vindman, who were able to give a face to the actual allegations there.
All they had was Robert Mueller, who, without a doubt, did not present the most exciting, energetic, charismatic of cases. You have that.
I think you have to worry about the American public about, what would be the motivation for members of Congress to say it's OK for the president of the United States to ignore subpoenas? If the president of the United States is head of the very branch of government whose job it is to exercise and enforce the laws? That's the real issue.
To me, it's never been whether the case is made. It's whether or not Congress is allowing people to believe this is the time now.
PSAKI: I'm not a believer that the Mueller -- incorporating Mueller in articles or arguing it more would have changed the public view. It you look at the change in polling, it all shifted around the time when we saw the whistleblower report, when we saw the transcript and that was talked about. Very simple. Actually, 70 percent of the public in many polls think the president
did something wrong. It doesn't mean they think he should be removed and impeached necessarily but they don't like what they say.
And Democrats are looking at --
REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): -- we recess --
TAPPER: Jerry Nadler is reconvening. Let's listen in.
NADLER: -- continue that consideration now. And I now -- for what purpose does Mr. Buck seek recognition?
REP. KEN BUCK (R-CO): Move to strike the last word.
NADLER: The gentleman is recognized.
BUCK: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
BIGGS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I mentioned before that -- that looking at the evidence I'm stunned that my -- my colleagues in the other side of the aisle perpetually read every inference you can make it in the like most negative to the president and yet this whole proceedings in that way this has been shaped up indicates that there -- there's an incredible inference against their credibility because of the way they've stocked the cards against the president.
So I want to our read -- you know I support -- I support the gentleman's amendment and I want to read this up from a Ukrainian source who was so maimed and cited in a recent publication.
And says quote, "By inviting influential foreigners, Ukrainian business wants to get to a -- get additional protection. P.R. and logging mechanisms to grasp additional spheres of interest. Having Hunter Biden on board, the owner of Burisma wanted to correct the image and to get cover because authorities are scared by the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine.
Hunter Biden using the political capabilities of his family acted as a rescue buffer between Burisma and Ukraine law-enforcement agencies. He's working at the company of a corrupt official smells."
So let's take a look at the -- the actual -- the document, the transcript that they keep -- our colleagues keep referring to. Page four, the other thing President Trump says, there's a lot of talk about Biden's son that Biden stopped the prosecution a lot of people want to find out about that.
So whatever you can do with the Attorney General, it'll be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it, sounds horrible to me. That is the essence of what they want to impeach President Trump for.
So it begs the question, it certainly begs the question really. Do you get immunity, is it an immunity grabbing event to have a relative run for public office? Do you get immunity for that? Let's flip it on the 10, the question is does the president have the authority to request an investigation? Most assuredly. He mentions the Attorney General here, it is clear that he would like an investigation into the corruption surrounding Ukraine because what this President Zelensky going to say, he goes on to talk about trying to restore the honesty in his country.
That's what he's talking about. You got the Attorney General, you got the president of both countries acknowledging that there's corruption and let's get it fixed up. And at least you're back to this whole question of -- of Democrats wanting to impeach President Trump for these amorphous abusive of power issues. These amorphous abuse of Congress or issues, obstruction congress.
It's just bizarre. So Hunter Biden is put in place on the board of Burisma in 2014, Joe Biden calls for the removal of Chief Prosecutor Viktor Shokin in 2016. In the meantime, evidence is clear that Burisma's company paid about $3.4 million to a company called Rosemont Seneca Bohai, the company of Hunter and his partner Archer.
That is really intriguing. The investigation surrounding Burisma stock and the Burisma's reputation in Ukraine is low and it was dubious even before this impeachment inquiry raised to new attention.
Now listen, let's face it, according to Ukrainian sources Burisma is not on everybody's front burner in the Ukraine, but it is here because we were providing hundreds of millions of dollars to the Ukraine in foreign aid.
And this president said, we need to stop corruption. He mentioned specifically the corruption that he had heard about. Is that impeachable? No. He's asking for an investigation to get to the bottom of it because you do not get immunity just because your father is running for public office, just because anyone related to his running for public office.
And I would tell you, this president has done a remarkable job in spite of three years of constant harassment by the Democrats of this body and the media on the left of this country. We have a great economy. He's trying to bring order to the border. We have more people working than ever before. This president has restored the military and actually prestige around the world.
There are no more apology tours on the foreign-policy side that we saw on the previous administration. He has really worked to make America's esteem and greatness reprieves.
NADLER: The gentleman's time is expired. Mr. Cicilline what purpose does --
CICILLINE: Move to strike the last word Mr. Chairman.
NADLER: You are recognized.
CICILLINE: I want to just begin very quickly in respond to the gentleman from Ohio's lamenting about the productivity of this Congress. And remind my friends on the outside of the aisle and the American people that we have passed nearly 400 pieces of legislation since Democrats took the majority, 275 of those bills are bipartisan. They range in legislation to drive down the cost of prescription drugs, to protect coverage for pre-existing conditions, to provide equal pay for equal work, to raise the minimum wage from 33 million Americans, the biggest anticorruption bill since Watergate H.R. 1, legislation to restore net neutrality to respond to the climate crisis.
Universal background checks and we recently completed negotiations on that new trade deals. So the list is exhaustive. Sadly 80 percent of those bills are lying at Mitch McConnell's desk awaiting action. So I heard my colleagues may be trying to mischaracterize what is one of the most productive Congress is a modern history, we ought to assert some energy in persuading Mitch McConnell to do his job and bring those bills to the floor.
Now, let's get back to the facts of this impeachment hearing. First and foremost, there's just been this effort to really confuse what this is about and what this impeachment is about. It is about the president of the United States using the power of his office to smear a political opponent, to drag a foreign power into our elections to corrupt the elections, and leverage hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money to accomplish that objective.
So this amendment would like to wish away the motive of the president to engage in this corrupt scheme. But you can't wish it away, you can't amend it away. The facts are the facts, the allegation that we're talking about here originated in 2015. And that's according to the minority report as well.
And in 2017 in 2018 foreign assistant was provided by Ukraine. What happened in 2019? What changed? The president is losing in a national poll by double digits to Joe Biden. We also say -- those are the facts. Multiple witnesses Trump administration officials testified that Vice President Biden did nothing wrong including Mr. Kent, Ambassador Yovanovitch, Mr. Holmes. Ambassador Volker.
Vice President Biden's firing of the prior prosecutor was done in accordance with official U.S. policy. It's approved by the Justice Department, was the policy of the United States, it was supported by the European Union in many countries throughout Europe, and a bipartisan coalition in Congress. This is a corrupt prosecutor. It was official U.S. policy that the Vice President was executing.
By contrast, what we have in this case, the basis of this impeachment proceeding is exactly the opposite. What President Trump was doing was not official U.S. policy and all the witnesses confirmed that it was not done through the Justice Department, and it was done against the advice of all of his advisers. And so that's what very different about what we're confronting today.
And this was work which was not done by the apparatus of the State Department, this is an effort that was led by the president's personal attorney Rudolph Giuliani. The scheme was led by this whole apparatus outside the State Department. So, let's not confuse these two things. Facts matter, the truth matters, you cannot continue just to make assertions when the record is completely the opposite. And I like to yield to the gentleman from California, Mr. Swalwell.
SWALWELL: I thank the gentleman. If President Trump and my Republican colleagues were so interested in rooting out corruption in Ukraine, there was so much they could do that they never did. My Republican colleagues, for many years we're in the majority. For many years, the vice president's son was on this board, they never investigated this.
Their concern only came about once Vice President Biden became President Trump's chief political opponent. On April 21 of this year, President Trump called President Zelensky to graduate him. In his talking points, President Trump was told to bring up, rooting out corruption in Ukraine.
President Trump never did it, but the White House in their talking points lied to the American people and said the president had. July 25, again National Security Council members worked really hard to tell the president, impress upon the Ukrainian president, he needs to root out corruption in this country. The president never brings up corruption.
The president wanted to investigate any individual U.S. citizen, there's a formal process we go through. The president never asked the Attorney General to do this. The president was never interested in fighting corruption in Ukraine. He was only interested in weaponizing corruption in Ukraine for his own personal benefit and that's why we must hold him accountable for an abuse of power and I yield back.
CICILLINE: Mr. Chairman, I have a unanimous request?
NADLER: The gentleman yields back. I recognize the gentleman for unanimous request.
CICILLINE: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I'd ask that this article dated February 12, 2019 just two weeks before the call to Mr. President Zelensky entitled Trump as top political adviser is whether he should worry about running against Joe Biden be part of the record.
NADLER: Without objection? There are votes on the floor. A number of votes on the floor. Committee will stand in recess until after the votes. Please reconvene immediately after the votes.
The committee stands in recess.
NADLER: Committee will come to order. When we recessed we were considering the amendment offered by Mr. Gates, we will continue that consideration now. And for purposes Mr. Buck's recognition?
BUCK: Move to strike the last word.
NADLER: Gentleman is recognized. BUCK: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman, I've heard continually from the other side this argument about obstruction of justice -- obstruction of Congress rather, I apologized. And I am baffled and the more I think about it, the more I'm baffled.
In Colorado, we have a different term for that. We call it a campaign promise. You see when Congress has a 14 percent approval rating, it's somewhere between being as popular as shingles and an all-expense paid trip to North Korea. We have a national deficit and national debt of over $22 trillion. We have a deficit of over $1 trillion this year. We were sent here to obstruct this Congress. We were sent here to make sure that this power of the purse is actually exercised around this place.
We were sent here to make sure that we didn't nationalize and ruin health care. We were sent here to secure the border and to do our very best to prohibit sanctuary cities in this country. We were sent here to stop this body from ignoring states' rights.
Yesterday, we passed the NDAA bill somehow, someone slipped in a provision that every federal employee, every federal not just Defense Department employees but every federal employee will be given three months of paid family leave. Every federal employee, all those American sitting out there don't get that. It's exactly why we're here, to make sure that we hold Congress to a higher standard.
And if you issue an article of impeachment for obstructing Congress, you make this president more popular not less popular. Congress is an embarrassment and this president is holding his campaign promises, moving the embassy to Jerusalem, cutting taxes, cutting regulations, sustaining an amazing economy with low unemployment, job creation, bringing manufacturing jobs back, negotiating trade deals.
I think that we should be talking about how we support this president, how we support this agenda, and not how we undermine the positive direction that we are going in this country, and with that I yield back.
GAETZ: The gentleman yield for question? No?
NADLER: Gentleman yields back. For what purpose does Ms. Lesko seek recognition?
LESKO: Thank you, Mr. Chair. To strike the last word.
NADLER: Gentlelady is recognized.
LESKO: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Democrat's articles of impeachment claim that the president had corrupt purposes in pursuit of personal, political benefit, use to influence the 2020 United States presidential election. Well, they have absolutely no proof of that.
Let's read the actual transcript of the phone calling question and I want to remind you for the people that read it, there's only one section in this entire transcript and it's not until page four out of five that President Trump brings up Biden, which was well into the July 25th call.
President Trump said to the Ukrainian president and I quote, "The other thing, there's a lot of talk about Biden's son that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it, it sounds horrible to me."
To anyone who hasn't seen the video of Joe Biden bragging that he got a prosecutor fired, I recommend you watch it. It's very telling. Biden brags about how he got the Ukrainian prosecutor fired who had been investigating Burisma. Burisma to remind you is the corrupt Ukrainian company that hired Hunter Biden, Joe Biden's son to serve on their board at the very same time that the Vice President Biden was the point man to Ukraine.
Joe Biden says he told Ukraine he wouldn't give them $1 billion if they didn't fire the prosecutor. He said and I quote, "If the prosecutor is not fired, you're not getting the money." Put yourself in President Trump's shoes, he has seen or heard about the video of Joe Biden bragging about how he got the prosecutor fired, the same prosecutor that had been investigating the same corrupt company where Biden's son got a cushy spot on the board getting paid at least $50,000 a month at the same time that Joe Biden while serving as vice president was the point man to Ukraine.
My Democratic colleagues seemed convinced that the president was targeting Biden to influence the 2020 election. That is their main premise of these articles of impeachment, but it is just as likely and I would say more likely that President Trump wanted to get to the bottom of possible corruption with the Biden's, Burisma, and Ukraine and with that I yield back.
NADLER: The gentlelady yields back. I now recognize myself for five minutes to strike the last word. I just want to say the central issue of this impeachment is the corruption of our institutions that safeguard democracy by this president.
Those are two basic protections we have for our democracy, free and fair elections and the president and Article 1 is charged with trying to subvert the free and fair elections by extorting a foreign power into interfering in that elections to give him help in his campaign.
We cannot tolerate a president subverting fairness and integrity of our elections. The second major safeguard of our liberties designed by the framers of the Constitution is the separation of powers. The power is not united in one dictator but is spread out through the executive represented by the president, the Congress, and the judiciary.
The second article of impeachment charges that the president sought and seeks to destroy the power of Congress. Congress may be unpopular and maybe we should be reelected or maybe we shouldn't be reelected, that's a question for the voters. But the institutional power of Congress to safeguard our liberties by providing a check and balance on the executive is absolutely crucial to the constitutional scheme to protect our liberties.
Central to that is the ability to investigate the actions of the executive branch to see what's going on and to hold the executive the president or people working for him accountable. The second article impeachment says that the president sought to destroy that by categorically withholding all information from impeachment inquiry.
Now that is different from contesting some subpoenas on the basis of privilege, some may be contestable, some may not be. But a categorical withholding of information, we will -- we will prohibit anybody in the executive branch from complying with any congressional subpoena no matter how justified.
We will make sure that nobody in the executive branch gives any document to Congress with respect to this inquiry is a subversion of the Congressional power to keep the executive in check.
So whether you think Congress is behaving well or badly, whether it's popular or unpopular, if you want a dictator and you subvert the ability of Congress to hold the executive in check.
What is central here is do we want a dictator? No matter how popular be may be, no matter how good or bad the results of his policies may be, no president is supposed to be a dictator in the United States.
When I hear colleagues of mine arguing, the Congress is unpopular, and therefore obstruction of Congress is a good thing. It shows terrible ignorance or lack of care for our institutions, for our democracy, for our form of government, for our liberties. I for one will protect our liberties, will do everything I can to protect our liberties, our democracy, our free and fair elections, and the separation of powers that as Congress, the president, and the judiciary check each other and nobody can be a dictator. I yield back --
M. JOHNSON: Mr. Chairman --
NADLER: I now recognize, Mr. Johnson. For what purpose does Mr. Johnson is recognized?
M. JOHNSON: Strike last word.
NADLER: The gentleman is recognized.
M. JOHNSON: Mr. Chairman, I will speak to the Gaetz's amendment which is why we're here right now but I wanted to address what you just said. I think it's a -- that's a really beautiful argument. I think you should make it in court because that's what you're supposed to do under our system. If you want to make that argument, you're supposed to go to a federal court, the third branch of government to resolve the dispute between the executive and the legislative.
That's what's always happen before but you guys won't do it. You could go make that argument butt you're not going to do it. You know why? Because you guaranteed your base, you're getting an impeachment by December, by Christmas.
This is ridiculous. It's a travesty of justice and all due process, and that's why we're so concerned. Now, I do love the Gaetz's amendment and to reset the table because we just had a break. It's really good one. I think the people back home unable to follow it because they don't have all the handouts but this is all he wants to do.
So on page three, lines of 10 through 11, it currently reads that President Trump suggested an investigation of quote, "A political opponent, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Junior," unquote.
So Mr. Gaetz's amendment is real simple, it's just three lines. He wants to replace that with quote, "A well-known corrupt company Burisma and its corrupt hiring Hunter Biden," unquote.
Now, that's such a logical amendment because it comports with the fact that everything we've been saying here that a lot of people back home are probably scratching their heads right now and saying, I wonder why the Democrats would oppose that.
Well here's why, constituents sent me a note during -- during our -- our break for the vote series and he said this quote, "Let me get this straight, President Trump's phone call amounts to an abuse of power but Vice President Biden's actions do not?"
Let's review what we know. I pulled those facts, let me go through them here real quick. First, in Biden's case, he personally withheld U.S. aide until the prosecutor he wanted fired was actually fired. Biden received a personal benefit for his official act namely the ability of his son to continue to collect money from a corrupt Ukrainian company.
Hunter and Joe Biden had a direct financial stake and avoid in an investigation of charisma that might lead to the company's demise and his gravy train would stop. Of course, this is just obvious, everybody can see it.
There was an article in the New York Times published in May -- May 1st 2019 stated the following about the Ukrainian prosecutor's ouster quote, "Among those who had a stake in the outcome was Hunter Biden. Mr. Biden's younger son who at the time was on the board of an energy company owned by Ukrainian oligarch who had been in the sites of the fired prosecutor general," unquote.
And of course, Joe Biden had a personal interest in avoiding a political scandal involving his son. Clearly a requested informational investigation into Biden's dealings was justified as an informational investigation into an abuse of power by the previous administration.
But of course if President Trump requested informational investigation was justified then no impeachment charge against him is justified. It can't be an abuse of power by President Trump to inquire about an abuse of power that's so painfully obvious by Vice President Biden. In other words, any theory of impeachment on these facts has the collapse on itself and it ends up exonerating President Donald J. Trump. That's the reason they won't accept the amendment but it's why every single one of us was looking at these facts objectively really has an obligation to do it.
Now I have a minute and a half left, let me correct something else, it was in a record. We have a lot of facts to correct and we may be here a while doing that. My good friend and trusted friend Ms. Lofgren said before the break at some point that the Ukrainians knew about the hold on the aide but the fact is the senior Ukrainian government officials did not know about the delay in funding until August 28th.
Ukrainian Embassy officials who contact the State Department and DOD officials reportedly acting rogue with the then Ukraine Ambassador to the U.S. and working to withhold information come from Kyiv to undermine the new Zelensky administration, the swap drainer, the guy who was going to clean up the corruption that President Trump affirm later.
Andriy Yermak has publicly confirmed that the president's close advisers President Zelensky's close advisers had no knowledge of the whole until it was made public by the political article on August 28th.
Look that is the fact. Like everything else is -- they're trying to obscure here. You can't take your eye off the ball. I know this is hard to follow back home from -- from conscientious constituents of ours and citizens who are trying to do their duty, trying to be informed, and engaged as an electorate.
It's hard to follow but what would you have to know is that both the process and the substance of these arguments is -- is -- is completely empty. It's rapid. That's why we're wasting our time here. I'm -- I'm out of time and I yield back.
NADLER: Gentleman yields back. For what purpose does Mr. Stanton seek recognition?
STANTON: Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.
NADLER: Gentleman is recognized.
STANTON: There's been some discussion today as to what is the reason why we are here. It's been suggested by some that we are here because we disagree with the president and his policies. A few minutes ago we heard a list of some policies whether action might be some disagreement with the president of the United States.
You know, we do have some policy disagreements with the president of the United States. We do disagree strongly about separating children from the parents at the southern border. We do disagree strongly with this president and his attempt to eliminate pre-existing condition protections under the affordable care act.
We disagree strongly with this president about his decision to remove us from the international climate change accord. But none of those are the reasons we are here today, voting today on articles of impeachment.
We are only here today voting on these two articles of impeachment because this president has chosen to put his personal interest ahead of the national interest. We are only here today because this president chose to attempt to withhold public resources in order to gain an unfair advantage in an election.
That is the reason why we're here. That's the only reason why we are here. We are here voting on these two articles but we're also here for the very important principle, is any person above the law. That's what each member has to think about as they make this important decision, not trying to divert attention from the core facts, or try to make this important vote today about something other than it is.
That's what we need to focus on and I hope we will for the rest of this hearing. And at this point, I will yield to the gentlelady from Texas, Congresswoman Escobar.
ESCOBAR: Thank you, Mr. Stanton. There is much reference, there has been much reference made to that transcripts and I use air quotes because it's not an official transcript. I want to remind everyone that this was a document provided to us by the White House with ellipses in the document and we don't know exactly what was stated because it is not an official document.
Much has been made also about this idea, the use of do us a favor as though the United States of America and foreign policy experts and State Department experts were clamoring to get in for information on Burisma or information on Hunter Biden or Joe Biden.
We heard from Mr. Goldman last week and I asked him specifically if his committees had investigated that claim, that there was some legitimate concern by the government about corruption regarding Burisma and he said they thoroughly investigated it and found absolutely no evidence.
Mr. Trump is welcome to be here. He was welcome to be here. He was welcome to participate, his lawyers so that if he has any information that would exonerate him about this, he could present it at any time, he's not.
Now, let's compare that to the fact that he had prohibited witnesses from coming before our committee and other committee. He has prevented documents from seeing the light of day. He has intimidated witnesses, so let's remember that he is doing absolutely everything possible to hide his wrongdoing. If he could prove otherwise, he would.
Now compare that with the information that was created through the investigations, over 300 pages in a report, over 70 or 17 witnesses over 200 text messages, that's just what was able to make light of day. That's just what we were able to discover because the Patriots willing to come forward. So again, I would say if there is any evidence that the American government or our foreign policy advisers, or experts, or -- or -- or the diplomats that dealt with Ukraine believed that this was about us, then the president show the evidence. Thank you Mr. Stanton, I yield back.
STANTON: Thank you very much and Mr. Chair, I yield back to you.
NADLER: Gentleman yields back. For what purpose does Mr. Deutch's recognition?
DEUTCH: Move to strike last word.
NADLER: Gentleman is recognized.
DEUTCH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Chairman, the colleague from Louisiana is exactly right. It gets confusing. It does. There's a lot that we've been talking about which is why it's so important to always return to the facts.
And I just wanted to set a couple of facts straight. We -- we heard that we were somehow sent to here members of Congress or somehow sent here to defend the president, or to defend the president's policies, or -- or to defend the overturning of the status quo, I didn't really understand the suggestion because the fact is and I think everyone on the day a similar on committee, everyone in America knows and needs to be reminded, we're sent here to defend the Constitution.
And the Constitution provides three coequal branches of government. And when the president of the United States chooses to refuse to engage with the coequal branch of government that is this body. When the president through his lawyer makes clear that he will not respect the Constitution, will silence anyone who might have information to provide to Congress will -- will instruct them to not turn over a single document that is the obstruction of Congress we're talking about.
And -- and the suggestion that it somehow standard operating procedure of the United States of America for president to defy Congress completely. And then for our friends on the other side of throw up their hands and say, every president does it the way that we resolve these issues is to go to court.
We have three co-equal branches of government. If one branch says they're going to completely obstruct the business of the second then we just go to court. That's the way it works in our country. Again, it's important to remind people of the facts, the Constitution. That's not how it works. It doesn't work that way. It's never worked that way. Never in the entire history of our country have we had a president of the United States simply defy a co-equal branch all together.
There's no example. My friends on the other side of the aisle cannot point to a single example where a president has said I will not cooperate with you in any part of your work, period. This is not a legitimate effort. You are not a co-equal branch of government. And then simply says but you can go to court because that's how things always work. Again, it's just important to remember the facts are clear, no president has ever, ever, ever obstructed Congress in the manner that we've seen from President Trump.