The marathon House Judiciary Committee hearing underway Monday has focused exclusively on the presentation of evidence.
Lawyers for the Democrats and the Republicans are taking turns summarizing the cases they’ve built: Democrats are attempting to lay out in detail the evidence supporting their position that Trump committed impeachable offenses (and should, therefore, be impeached). Republicans are attempting to explain why Trump did not commit impeachable offenses (and should, therefore, not be impeached).
Here is a summary of the evidence presented by both sides:
THE CASE FOR IMPEACHMENT
Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate the Bidens
In a lengthy opening statement, Barry Berke, counsel for Judiciary Committee Democrats, said the evidence established by the House Intelligence Committee "is overwhelming that the president abused his power by pressuring Ukraine and its new president to investigate a political opponent" when he requested in a July phone call that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy launch investigations into Burisma —the Ukrainian gas company that Hunter Biden joined as a board member in 2014 — and debunked conspiracies that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election.
"The evidence is overwhelming that the president abused his power by ramping up that pressure, by conditioning a wanted White House meeting and a needed military aid that had been approved in order to get that president to investigate a political rival," he said, adding that it was also "clear and overwhelming that in abusing that power, the president betrayed the national interest by putting his own political prospects over the security of our country."
That pressure risked corrupting U.S. elections
Berke added that by demanding Ukraine announce investigations into matters concerning Joe Biden — one of the front-runners for the 2020 Democratic nomination — "the president risked corrupting our elections by inviting foreign interference to knock out an adversary to help his prospects for re-election."
"The scheme by President Trump was so brazen, so clear — supported by documents, actions, sworn testimony, uncontradicted, contemporaneous records — that it's hard to imagine that anybody could dispute those acts, let alone argue that that conduct does not constitute an impeachable offense or offenses," Berke said, citing the hundreds of hours of testimony — both public and private — by former and current government officials and impeachment experts.
Those actions constitute a "quid pro quo"
Earlier, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., citing the testimony of multiple officials, said that Trump’s “demand for an investigation into his rivals was a part of his personal, political agenda, and not related to the foreign policy objectives of the United States.”
"Multiple officials testified that the president intended to withhold the aid until Ukraine announced the investigations,” he added. “And, yes, multiple officials testified that they understood this arrangement to be a quid pro quo for the president’s personal, political benefit.”
Those actions fit "abuses" cited by the framers as impeachable
Berke went on to explain that those very actions constituted, according to the Founding Fathers of the U.S., “the greatest abuses that would raise the most concerns for our nation.”
“They spelled them out as warning signals that if a president violated or committed one of these, that would be a reason to potentially impeach that president. They were abuse of power, betrayal of the national interest, corruption of elections. But what is so extraordinary is that the conduct we’re going to be talking about today of President Trump didn’t violate one of these, but all three,” Berke said. "President Trump’s offenses are impeachable offenses."
Trump obstructed the investigation
Later, Daniel Goldman, a lawyer for House Democrats, testified that Trump obstructed the congressional investigations into his Ukraine dealings.
"When faced with the opening of an official impeachment inquiry into his conduct, President Trump launched an unprecedented campaign of obstruction against Congress, ordering executive branch agencies and government officials to defy subpoenas for documents and testimony," Goldman said. "To date, the investigating Committees have received no documents from the Trump Administration pursuant to our subpoenas. Were it not for courageous public servants doing their duty and testifying, the president’s scheme might still be concealed today."
Trump's counterarguments fall flat
Berke, and others, also pointed to the counterarguments — Berke called them “excuses” — made by Trump and House Republicans that a quid pro quo could not have occurred because the White House eventually released the military aidwithout Ukraine having ever announced the desired investigations.
Berke, however, pointed out that the aid was only released after Trump had been “caught.”
“The first excuse offered by President Trump is that the aid was ultimately released, and President Trump met with Mr. Zelenskiy. We heard it today. The challenge with that, though, as an excuse is the aid was only released after President Trump got caught doing the scheme,” Berke said. “On Sept. 9, the committees of this House started their investigation and announced they were investigating his conduct in regards to Ukraine. Two days later was when he released the aid.”
“There also was a news article that we’ll talk about in a moment by The Washington Post on Sept. 5 exposing his scheme, and it was only after that that he met with President Zelenskiy — not in the White House, but in New York,” Berke added.
THE CASE AGAINST IMPEACHMENT
Trump’s behavior "does not fit" definition for high crimes and misdemeanors
In his own opening statement, responding to Berke, Steve Castor, counsel for House Republicans, said bluntly that Trump’s actions did not constitute the definition of impeachable conduct as put forth by the Constitution.
“The purpose of this hearing as we understand it is to discuss whether President Donald J. Trump’s conduct fits the definition of a high crime and misdemeanor. It does not,” Castor said. “Such that the committee should consider articles of impeachment to remove the president from office and it should not.”
Record of Trump-Zelenskiy call doesn't show abuse of power, obstruction
“This case in many respects comes down to eight lines in a call transcript,” Castor continued, referring to the transcript of the July call between Trump and Zelenskiy.“Let me say clearly and unequivocally that the answer to that question is ‘No,'" Castor added, referring back to whether Trump's actions constituted high crimes and misdemeanors.
"The record in the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry does not show that President Trump abused the power of his office or obstructed Congress," he said. “To impeach a president who 63 million people voted for over eight lines in a call transcript is baloney.”
Democrats' impeachment effort is strictly political
Castor went on to say that Democrats “seek to impeach President Trump not because they have evidence of high crimes or misdemeanors but because they disagree with his policies.”
“This impeachment inquiry is not the organic outgrowth of serious misconduct. Democrats have been searching for a set of facts on which to impeach President Trump since his inauguration,” he added.
He cited numerous efforts by some House Democrats, in the first two years of the Trump administration, to introduce “articles of impeachment to remove President Trump from office on several very different factual bases."
Impeachment is designed to weaken Trump in 2020
Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., the ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, took that argument further in his opening statement, saying that, "we don’t have a crime," "we don’t have anything we can actually pin [on the president],"and "we don't have the facts to match” the accusations.
He said Democrats were merely trying to "interfere and basically make sure that they believe the president can’t win next year if he’s impeached."