ANALYSIS: Trump public impeachment hearings: More like Watergate or Clinton?
Starting Wednesday, Americans will have the opportunity to see for themselves what's been happening behind closed doors on Capitol Hill. The question is whether the House Intelligence Committee's public hearings will change public opinion on impeachment — or lock it into place.
Support for impeaching and removing President Donald Trump now stands at about 49 percent in a running average of polls. Opposition is at 46 percent. Notably, these numbers are almost exactly in line with the 2016 election result, when Trump received 46 percent of the national popular vote to Hillary Clinton's 48 percent. In other words, public opinion on impeachment now resembles the basic political divide that has defined the Trump era.
This is why, as of now, it is likely that Trump will be impeached in the House and acquitted by the Senate. It would take significant defections from either party to produce any other outcome. The hope among Democrats is that the hearings will feature televised testimony so compelling that public opinion breaks decisively toward impeachment, thereby scrambling the politics on Capitol Hill. For encouragement, they often invoke a past impeachment inquiry in which public hearings did play a crucial role.
Read the full analysis here.
On eve of first impeachment hearing, Schiff releases memo outlining procedures
WASHINGTON — House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., on Tuesday released a six-page memorandum outlining the procedures for the public phase of the impeachment inquiry.
“The hearings will be conducted in a manner that ensures that all participants are treated fairly and with respect, mindful of the solemn and historic task before us,” Schiff said in the memo, released on the eve of the first House impeachment hearing.
“These procedures are consistent with those governing prior impeachment proceedings and mirror those used under Republican and Democratic House leadership for decades,” he added.
The release came with career diplomat William Taylor and State Department official George Kent scheduled to testify publicly Wednesday before the Intelligence Committee. On Friday, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch is expected to testify.
Schiff said in the memo that he would not allow Republicans to use the hearings to further “sham investigations” into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, or to promote “debunked conspiracies.”
“Nor will the Committee facilitate any efforts by President Trump or his allies to threaten, intimidate, or retaliate against the whistleblower who courageously and lawfully raised concerns about the President’s conduct,” he wrote.
During the impeachment hearings, only Schiff and the committee's ranking member, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., are allowed to deliver opening statements, with each of them having equal time. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, has been added to the committee to ask questions for the minority.
The memo also reiterated that the format will entail Democratic and Republican staff counsels questioning witnesses for periods of up to 45 minutes per side, a rule that was included in a House-passed resolution that outlined the rules for the impeachment inquiry.
It also said that only members of the Intelligence Committee may participate in the hearings — those not on the panel are not permitted to sit on the dais and question witnesses, but are allowed to sit in the audience. And it included a call for decorum: “The Code of Official Conduct for Members of Congress requires that every Member ‘shall behave at all times in a manner that shall reflect creditably on the House.’”
Nikki Haley grilled over Trump's Ukraine conduct, truthfulness
Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley on Tuesday defended President Donald Trump’s July call with the leader of Ukraine, but said that “it’s never a good practice for us to ask a foreign country to investigate an American. It's just not a good practice."
“Having said that, there’s no insistence on that call, there are no demands on that call, it is a conversation between two presidents that’s casual in nature,” Haley said in an interview on "Today" with NBC News' Savannah Guthrie.
In the interview, Guthrie also pressed Haley on Trump's fitness for office and her claims that top officials sought to undermine the president.
The impeachment inquiry has been all about Ukraine, but what about Russia?
WASHINGTON — The central charge in the House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry is that President Trump used his office and powers to compel a foreign nation (Ukraine) to dig up dirt on Joe Biden.
One: Why was Trump and his administration pursuing a strategy on Ukraine that aligned with Russia’s interests — and against the United States’ expressed national interests?
And two: Why aren’t House Democrats trying to connect the Russian dots? (Is it a hangover after Mueller?)
GOP memo outlines 'key pieces of evidence' against impeachment case
A staff memo circulated Monday night among Republican members of the three House investigative committees conducting the Ukraine investigation outlines several points that the lawmakers claim will undermine Democrats' case for impeachment, a Republican source with direct knowledge confirmed to NBC News.
The memo, first published by Axios, lays out "four key pieces of evidence":
- The July 25 call summary — the best evidence of the conversation — shows no conditionality or evidence of pressure, the memo claims.
- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and President Trump have both said there was no pressure on the call, it says.
- The Ukrainian government was not aware of a hold on U.S. security assistance at the time of the July 25 call.
- Trump met with Zelenskiy and U.S. security assistance flowed to Ukraine in September 2019 — both of which occurred without Ukraine investigating Trump's political rivals, the memo says.
Democrats, however, allege that the call in question did not exist in isolation and was part of a coordinated Ukrainian pressure campaign and bribery plot.
Trump says he will release transcript of earlier Ukraine call
Trump on Monday said he is planning to release a transcript of an April phone call during which he congratulated Zelenskiy on his election victory. The phone call took place before Zelenskiy was in office.
The whistleblower’s complaint that triggered the impeachment inquiry centers around the July call, not the first congratulatory call in April. It's not the first time he has suggested that the call be released. In September, he told reporters that he thinks they "should ask for the first conversation also" since it was "beautiful."