Fiery Disagreements As Trump Impeachment Hearing Opens

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House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., left, talks with ranking member Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., during a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on the constitutional grounds for the impeachment of President Donald Trump, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019. (Drew Angerer/Pool photo via Getty Images North America)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House Judiciary Committee’s first impeachment hearing quickly burst into partisan infighting Wednesday as Democrats charged that President Donald Trump must be removed from office for enlisting foreign interference in U.S. elections and Republicans angrily retorted there were no grounds for such drastic action.

The panel responsible for drafting articles of impeachment convened as Trump’s team was fanning out across Capitol Hill. Vice President Mike Pence met behind closed doors with House Republicans, and Senate Republicans were to huddle with the White House counsel as GOP lawmakers stand with the president and Democrats charge headlong into what has become a one-party drive to impeach him.

Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., gaveled open the hearing saying, “’The facts before us are undisputed.”

Nadler said Trump’s phone call with Ukraine’s president last July wasn’t the first time Trump sought a foreign power to influence American elections, after Russian interference in 2016, and if left unchecked he could do again in next year’s campaign.

“We cannot wait for the election to address the present crisis,”’Nadler said. “‘The president has shown us his pattern of conduct. If we do not act to hold him in check, now, President Trump will almost certainly try again to solicit interference in the election for his personal political gain.”

Republicans protested the proceedings as unfair to the president, the dredging up of unfounded allegations as part of an effort to undo the 2016 election and remove Trump from office.

“You just don’t like the guy,” said Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, the top Republican on the panel. He called the proceedings a “disgrace” and a “‘sham.”‘

Several Republicans immediately objected to the process, interjecting procedural questions, and they planned to spend much of the session interrupting, delaying and questioning the rules.

“This is not impeachment, this is a simple railroad job,” Collins said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Democrats “haven’t made a decision” yet on whether there will be a vote on impeachment. She was also meeting privately with the Democratic caucus. But a vote by Christmas appears increasingly likely with the release of a 300-page report by Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee that found “serious misconduct” by the president.

“The evidence that we have found is really quite overwhelming that the president used the power of his office to secure political favors and abuse the trust American people put in him and jeopardize our security,” Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., told The Associated Press. “Americans need to understand that this president is putting his personal political interests above theirs. And that it’s endangering the country.”

The Judiciary Committee was hearing Wednesday from legal experts to determine whether Trump’s actions stemming from the July 25 phone call with Ukraine’s president rose to the constitutional level of “high crimes and misdemeanors” warranting impeachment. The report laid out evidence that the Democrats say show Trump’s efforts to seek foreign intervention in the U.S. election.

New telephone call records released with the report deepen Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani’s known involvement in what House investigators called the “scheme” to use the president’s office for personal political gain by enlisting a foreign power, Ukraine, to investigate Democrats including Joe Biden, and intervene in the American election process.

Trump told reporters in London, where he is attending a NATO meeting, he really doesn’t know why Giuliani was calling the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, which was withholding $400 million in military aid to the ally confronting an aggressive Russia at its border.

“’You have to ask him,” Trump said. “Sounds like something that’s not so complicated. … No big deal.”

At the hearing, in an opening statement obtained by the AP, Republican witness Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, said that the Democrats were bringing a “slipshod impeachment” case against the president based on secondhand information. Still, Turley didn’t excuse the president’s behavior.

“It is not wrong because President Trump is right,” according to Turley. He called Trump’s call with Ukraine “anything but ‘perfect,” as the president claims. “A case for impeachment could be made, but it cannot be made on this record,” he said.

The remaining three witnesses, all called by Democrats, argued for impeachment, according to statements obtained by the AP.

Michael Gerhardt of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill argued, “If Congress fails to impeach here, then the impeachment process has lost all meaning.”

The political risks are high for all parties as the House presses only the fourth presidential impeachment inquiry in U.S. history.

In a statement, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said, “Chairman Schiff and the Democrats utterly failed to produce any evidence of wrongdoing by President Trump.” She said the report “reads like the ramblings of a basement blogger straining to prove something when there is evidence of nothing.”

Trump has called the impeachment effort by Democrats “unpatriotic” and said he wouldn’t be watching Wednesday’s hearing.

The Intelligence Committee’s Trump-Ukraine Impeachment Inquiry Report provides a detailed, stunning, account of a shadow diplomacy run by Giuliani, resulting in layers of allegations that can be distilled into specific acts, like bribery or obstruction, and the more amorphous allegation that Trump abused his power by putting his interests above the nation.

Based on two months of investigation sparked by a still-anonymous government whistleblower’s complaint, the report relies heavily on testimony from current and former U.S. officials who defied White House orders not to appear.

The inquiry found that Trump “solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, to benefit his reelection,” Schiff wrote in the report’s preface. In doing so, the president “sought to undermine the integrity of the U.S. presidential election process, and endangered U.S. national security,” the report said. When Congress began investigating, it added, Trump obstructed the investigation like no other president in history.

Along with revelations from earlier testimony, the report included previously unreleased cell phone records raising fresh questions about Giuliani’s interactions with the top Republican on the intelligence panel, Rep. Devin Nunes of California, and the White House. Nunes declined to comment. Schiff said his panel would continue its probe.

Republicans defended the president in a 123-page rebuttal claiming Trump never intended to pressure Ukraine when he asked for a “favor” — investigations of Democrats and Biden and his son. They say the military aid the White House was withholding was not being used as leverage, as Democrats claim — and besides, the $400 million was ultimately released, although only after a congressional outcry.

For Republicans falling in line behind Trump, the inquiry is simply a “hoax.” Trump criticized the House for pushing forward with the proceedings while he was overseas, a breach of political decorum that traditionally leaves partisan differences at the water’s edge.

Democrats once hoped to sway Republicans to consider Trump’s removal, but they are now facing a ever-hardening partisan split over the swift-moving proceedings that are dividing Congress and the country.

Possible grounds for impeachment are focused on whether Trump abused his office as he pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to open investigations into Trump’s political rivals. At the time, Trump was withholding $400 million in military aid, jeopardizing key support as Ukraine faces an aggressive Russia at its border.

The report also accuses Trump of obstruction, becoming the “first and only” president in U.S. history to “openly and indiscriminately” defy the House’s constitutional authority to conduct the impeachment proceedings by instructing officials not to comply with subpoenas for documents and testimony.

For Democrats marching into what is now a largely partisan process, the political challenge if they proceed is to craft the impeachment articles in a way that will draw the most support from their ranks and not expose Pelosi’s majority to messy divisions, especially as Republicans stand lockstep with the president.

While liberal Democrats are pushing the party to go further and incorporate the findings from former special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election and other actions by Trump, more centrist and moderate Democrats prefer to stick with the Ukraine matter as a simpler narrative that Americans understand.

Democrats could begin drafting articles of impeachment against the president in a matter of days, with a Judiciary Committee vote next week. The full House could vote by Christmas. Then the matter moves to the Senate for a trial in 2020.

The White House declined an invitation to participate Wednesday, with counsel Pat Cipollone denouncing the proceedings as a “baseless and highly partisan inquiry.” Cipollone, who will brief Senate Republicans on Wednesday, left open the question of whether White House officials would participate in additional House hearings.

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19 COMMENTS

  1. The Dems do not even care what the legal scholars say. They have already decided to impeach, and did so immediately upon the election. They spent three years grasping for straws, and wasted the nations money and time looking for a crime on someone they just didn’t like. Their platforms and positions were determined, not by the needs of the country or their constituents, but by their unbridled hate for Trump. This partisan circus will flop, and we pray for the expected natural consequence, that this backfires on the Dems in a major way, giving Republicans super majorities in both houses plus a 2020 landslide for Trump.

    • I am not a psychiatrist, but I wonder why are so many comments on the Voz Iz Neis website so angry, Aggressive, and often downright insulting. Is this indicative of something in our frum community? Does anyone have a comment on this observation?

    • I am not a psychiatrist, but I wonder why are so many comments on the Voz Iz Neis website so angry, Aggressive, and often downright insulting. Is this indicative of something in our frum community? Does anyone have a comment on this observation?

  2. Why are GOP lawyers even contesting the IMPEACHMENT CHARGES? They insist he did nothing wrong, that holding up Congressionally Approved $$ to Ukraine in return for dirt on Biden is not a crime, and that ordering non-compliance w Congressional subpoenas is normal. Oh. Maybe they are worried! As the Federal Judge said last week- ‘The President is NOT a king.’ IMPEACH NOW-REMOVE SHORTLY…

    • You are not more than a DemocRAT mouthpiece, Trump didn’t hold back money because he wanted dirt on Biden, You’re just regurgitating what the DemoRAT media spews 24/7.

    • Because that is what they are supposed to do, contest the charges. For example, Trump did not in fact hold up the aid, despite your lies to the contrary. Or do you mean that anytime someone is charged, they immediately need to plead guilty? I know that in your Stalinist paradise that’s how things are, but normal human beings understand that charges require evidence. Not that you would care about evidence, since you deny the Holocaust.

    • Your version of the “facts” was not supported by a single witness in the public hearings circus in Schiff’s committee. All they could say is that they chose to connect the dots, and that no one involved ever indicated there was any relationship. Furthermore, there was aid on hold for numerous other countries as well as Ukraine, and for other reasons. The true facts do not support the fantasy of quid pro quo. But the Dems made their decision long ago, and nothing that will be said or proven here will adjust their decision. Your personal opinion here has zero value since you are not voting here, and your mind won’t be swayed by truth either. That’s what’s so sad about the Dems, and why they need to voted out of office to allow for some honesty, truth, and morality to be restored to our government. Partisan politics has its place, but not here. And judging on merits of the case will not be found here, law professors notwithstanding.

  3. I’m surprised the president isn’t demanding to testify and set the record straight like he does on twitter. Terrible the way they won’t let him testify or have his lawyer there to defend him.
    Just terrible.

  4. One of the witnesses Noah Feldman is anti religious Jews, he worked pro bono to ban the Tenafly eruv. All 3 Democrat witnesses are rabid anti Trump leftists.

  5. The core trumpoid tactic is to OBSTRUCT JUSTICE. No witnesses. No docs. No defense. So how can they bellyache that they are not getting JUSTICE?

    Just as all the US Intel Agencies all unanimously found POOTIN interference in the election, trumpniks still deny it. No amt of evidence matters. He beat Hillary, he is a racist, he’s a celebrity, he cut taxes for the rich. Face it, that’s all that matters to his alt-lemmings.

    • Take your meds. You managed to fit a huge number of lies into just a few sentences, and might qualify for the Guiness Book of World Records.

      No witnesses – there was no crime for them to have witnessed. Whoever the Republicans wanted to call to testify, the masters of dishonesty – Schiff and Nadler rejected.

      Justice does not co-exist with today’s Dems. You know that. Stop deluding yourself that the Dems were in any way fair.

      No one denied Russian efforts to meddle in the election. But nothing has ever been connected to Trump or his campaign, except the fabrications the Dems swear is biblical.

      Racist – a Dem narrative. Zero basis in fact. It is a lie that was repeated so often that those who are intellectually challenged believe.

      Cut taxes for the rich – yes, and for many others, too. I am far from rich, in fact very far. I benefited nicely from the tax cuts. The monies saved by many went into the economy, and brought this country to a place that no Democrat could even fathom.

      Meanwhile, the Dems ride interference to everything he tries to do, being ridiculous about immigration, and pushing socialist agendas that are dangerous for everybody.

      I am not a lemming, and I do not follow anyone blindly. Not even rabbonim. I have some disagreements with Trump. But nothing compares to the feelings of utter revulsion for Hillary, Schumer, Nadler, Schiff, the Squad, and bunch of other Dems.

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