Impeachment news roundup: Dec. 9

Judiciary hears findings of impeachment investigation in contentious hearing

Daniel Goldman, left, majority counsel for the House Intelligence Committee, and Steve Castor, minority counsel, are sworn in to the House Judiciary Committee’s hearing Monday on the Intelligence Committee’s report on the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Daniel Goldman, left, majority counsel for the House Intelligence Committee, and Steve Castor, minority counsel, are sworn in to the House Judiciary Committee’s hearing Monday on the Intelligence Committee’s report on the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Posted December 9, 2019 at 8:52am

House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler’s gavel got a workout when Republicans raised a number of objections, unanimous consent requests and parliamentary inquiries in the committee’s impeachment hearing on Monday.

“The steamroll continues!” ranking member Doug Collins said as Nadler called upon Barry Berke, counsel for House Democrats. Republicans were shouting over each other and Nadler’s gavel as they attempted to submit their dissatisfaction with the proceedings.

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Collins called Democrats’ investigation inquiry into President Donald Trump a “focus group impeachment” in its opening statement as the committee began its hearing on investigators’ report.

“Presumption has now become the standard instead of proof,” Collins said in his opening statement.

Republicans also reasserted their allegations that the impeachment process is an effort by Democrats to negate Trump’s election.

“Is this when we just hear staff ask questions of other staff and the
members get dealt out of this hearing for the next four hours?” asked
Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz. “Are you are going to overturn the
results of an election of the elected people?”

Here is the latest on the impeachment inquiry:

Meeting tonight: Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., said Judiciary Democrats would meet Monday night after their hearing concluded to discuss what they plan to do next.  

Twitter talk: Judiciary Democrats started a Twitter thread complaining about tactics their Republican colleagues have used in the impeachment hearing, like pounding on the table, yelling loudly into the microphone and speaking at the speed of an auctioneer.

Trump watched: The president is no longer contending he is “too busy” to watch public impeachment hearings, telling reporters he “watched a little.” Then he added his usual line: “it’s a disgrace, it’s a hoax.”

Dual role: Texas Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert interrupted Democrat counsel for the Judiciary Committee Barry Berke’s questioning of Republican counsel Stephen Castor, complaining that Berke, who appeared earlier in the hearing as a witness, should not be allowed to question Castor, arguing that he should not have the dual rule of witness and interrogator.

“How much money do you have to give to do that?” Gohmert asserted, prompting House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler to slam his gavel, and request that GOP members not “cast aspersions.”

A cacophony of Republican objections to Berke’s dual role rose along with Gohmert’s.

“It is unprecedented for a person to come and sit who you’ve described as a witness to then return to the bench, then question,” House Freedom Caucus Chairman Andy Biggs said.

Rejection: Nadler sent a letter to ranking Collins on Monday rejecting the eight witnesses Republicans wanted to call before the committee, noting for some that their testimony is unnecessary and for others that information they could provide falls outside of the scope of the inquiry.

Nadler said he would provide Collins an opportunity to refer the requests to the full committee for a vote at the end of Monday’s hearing if he disagreed with Nadler’s decision.

Continued protests: Republicans continue to protest the legality and the validity of the Democrats’ investigation into Trump’s behavior around his July telephone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in which Trump appears to pressure the Ukrainian leader into launching an investigation into political rivals, holding a military aid package over his counterpart’s head.

“That call was part of a concerted effort by President Trump to compel the government of Ukraine to announce an investigation, not an investigation of corruption at large, but an investigation of President Trump’s political rivals and only his political rivals,” Nadler said in his opening statement. “President Trump put himself before country.”

The committee is hearing findings from the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation, which played out first behind closed doors then in public testimony last month. The Judiciary Committee heard from constitutional experts last week on whether Trump’s actions warranted impeachment.

Committee sources have said they could have articles of impeachment prepared for markup in the committee this week and send them to the House floor by next week.

Louisiana Republican Rep. Mike Johnson objects to Democratic counsel Barry Berke “impugning” the President Donald Trump in his statement. (Jinitzail Hernández/ CQ Roll Call)
Louisiana Republican Rep. Mike Johnson objects to Democratic counsel Barry Berke “impugning” the President Donald Trump in his statement. (Jinitzail Hernández/ CQ Roll Call)

Problems with the process: Republican members of the Judiciary Committee continued their common refrain of bemoaning the process by which House Democrats have conducted the impeachment inquiry.

Colorado Rep. Ken Buck asked Nadler why he didn’t swear in witnesses before Republican Intelligence Committee counsel Stephen Castor and his Democratic counterpart Barry Berke were sworn in to present respective evidence against and for impeachment.

Nadler explained that he did swear in the committee staff that appeared before the committee because the did not appear as witnesses but as staffers administering opening statements. Additionally, Buck admitted that committee chairman do not have to administer an oath.

Later, freshman GOP Congressman Guy Reschenthaler complained that the Democrats’ handling of impeachment related documents isn’t fair for the minority.

“We received less than 48 hours ago over 8,000 pages of documentation,”
Reschenthaler said, explaining that he felt it impossible to digest the
impeachment-related tomes in less than two days. “Mr. Chairman if this
were a court of law, you’d be facing sanctions right now by the bar
association.”

Republican Rep. Mike Johnson argued in a procedural move that Democratic counsel Berke’s words impugned the president’s character, violating the rules of the House, and should be stricken.

“The witness has used language which impugns the motives of the president and suggests he’s disloyal to his country and those words should be stricken from the record and taken down.” Johnson argued.

Nadler was prepared for the allegation and said witnesses are not held to the same rules of decorum as members. The chairman noted that an impeachment hearing is inherently about presidential misconduct, making allegations against the president are expected.

“The topic of the hearing is the president’s misconduct, so none of us
should find it surprising that we are hearing testimony that is critical
of the president,” Nadler said.

The panel eventually voted 24-15 to table Johnson’s motion. But
Nadler’s assertion that Berke was a witness and not subject to House
rules was upended later in the hearing, when he responded to a question
about why Berke and Castor were not sworn in, by saying he was
representing the committee and was not a witness.

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Interruption: A protestor disrupted the Judiciary hearing, shouting that Nadler was “committing treason” before being escorted out of the room by U.S. Capitol Police.

The protestor was J. Owen Shroyer, host of the talk show “Infowars War Room.” 

“Americans are sick of your impeachment scam! They’re sick of the Democrat treason!” he shouted. “We know who committed the crimes, and it wasn’t Trump! Trump is innocent!”

Guidebook: The Judiciary Committee will use the 55-page report it released on Saturday as a guidebook for whether it recommends articles of impeachment against Trump to the full House.

The panel’s Democrats are expected to draft impeachment articles — or charges — against the president after hearing testimony this week from House Intelligence lawmakers about Trump’s pressure campaign against Ukraine to investigate his domestic political rivals.

The Judiciary panel’s report outlines the history and purpose of the Constitution’s impeachment clause and attempts to define the “high crimes and misdemeanors” that the Founding Fathers believed should lead to a president’s removal.

The report, compiled by House Judiciary staff to build on a similar 1974 report during impeachment deliberations against then-President Richard Nixon, specifically highlights “bribery,” “corruption,” and “abuse of presidential powers” as impeachable offenses, all of which Democrats have charged at Trump since the Intelligence Committee began its probe.

The Democrats’ report also seeks to dispel “fallacies” about impeachment. It argued, for instance, that the president “can commit ‘high Crimes and Misdemeanors’ without violating federal criminal law,” and that a president can be impeached for “attempted wrongdoing” even if he is stopped from perpetrating it.

Republicans have argued that Trump did not execute a quid pro quo with Ukraine because he never actually received what he sought: an announcement from Zelenskiy of anti-corruption investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden, his son Hunter Biden, and Democratic-Ukrainian collusion in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The committee’s report draws heavily from the political theory of the Constitution’s chief author, James Madison, the fourth U.S. president, as well as Alexander Hamilton and Benjamin Franklin.

Nadler was blunt about how he expects this week’s hearings to conclude.

“The Framers worst nightmare is what we are facing in this very moment. President Trump abused his power, betrayed our national security, and corrupted our elections, all for personal gain,” the New York Democrat said in a statement over the weekend. “The Constitution details only one remedy for this misconduct: impeachment.”

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