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Analysis after the Judiciary Committee impeachment hearing

Live blog with the latest news coverage from the House Judiciary Committee's first impeachment inquiry hearing on Trump and Ukraine.
Image: Noah Feldman, Pamela Karlan, Jonathan Turley, Michael Gerhardt
Harvard Law School professor Noah Feldman, Stanford Law School professor Pamela Karlan, University of North Carolina Law School professor Michael Gerhardt and George Washington University Law School professor Jonathan Turley are sworn in before testifying during a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on Dec. 4, 2019.Alex Brandon / AP

The House Judiciary Committee kicked off its first hearing of the impeachment inquiry on Wednesday with an exploration of the constitutional grounds for impeachment, including what constitutes bribery, high crimes and misdemeanors and whether President Donald Trump's actions meet those definitions.

The witnesses included Harvard law professor Noah Feldman; Stanford law professor Pamela Karlan; University of North Carolina law professor Michael Gerhardt; and George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley. The first three witnesses were asked to testify by the committee's Democrats, and Turley was called by the panel's Republican members.

Highlights from the Judiciary hearing:

Read our 10 takeaways from the impeachment hearing so far — in plain English

  • There has been talk of originalism, the Founding Fathers, King George III and the Secret Treaty of Dover — and someone used the word "necromancy."

GOP lawmakers trash impeachment process

  • Rep. Gaetz and witness Karlan trade barbs, while Rep. Buck questions whether other presidents should have been impeached.

Three of four witnesses say Trump committed impeachable offenses

Download the NBC News mobile app for the latest news on the impeachment inquiry

Trump tweets that the favor was meant to be for the U.S.

President Trump took to Twitter late Wednesday to offer a take on what he meant by asking Ukraine's newly elected leader, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, for a "favor" on their July 25th phone call. 

 

Article II: Impeachment 101 — Wednesday, December 4th

Four constitutional law experts testified in the House Judiciary Committee’s first hearing in the inquiry on Wednesday, treating lawmakers and the public to a lesson on impeachment. 

Guest Josh Lederman, national political reporter for NBC News, walks through how Democrats and Republicans used their witnesses to argue the constitutional case for and against impeaching President Donald Trump.

Click here to listen

Legal scholars: Conduct like Trump's is the reason Congress has impeachment power

There's no question that President Donald Trump violated the Constitution's limits on his power or that the House should respond by impeaching him, three legal scholars told the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

That's exactly what majority Democrats were hoping to hear, and it's the testimony they will cite as the House moves toward drafting articles of impeachment against Trump based on his solicitation of Ukraine to launch investigations with political implications in the U.S. and possibly other matters.

"How we respond will determine the character of our democracy for generations," Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., a member of the Judiciary Committee, said.

Ultimately, three of the witnesses portrayed Trump as abusing the powers of his office for personal gain — and in contravention of U.S. interests — in ways envisioned by the founding fathers when they gave Congress the authority to remove the chief executive. The reason to impeach Trump isn't to punish him, law professors Pamela Karlan of Stanford, Noah Feldman of Harvard and Michael Gerhardt of the University of North Carolina said, but to prevent further damage.

Karlan and Gerhardt leaned hard into the idea that Trump sought to deprive Americans of their basic democratic rights by pursuing the establishment of political investigations in Ukraine that would benefit his re-election campaign. At the same time, Feldman emphasized Trump's decision to freeze aid to Ukraine, a U.S. partner at war with Russia, as a dangerous and impeachable subversion of national interests.

"If you don’t impeach a president who has done what this president has done ... then what you’re saying is that it’s fine to go ahead and do this again,” Karlan said. “It’s your responsibility to make sure that all Americans get to vote in a free and fair election next November.”

They all said Trump's actions met the threshold for "high crimes and misdemeanors" and for "bribery" under the Constitution's impeachment clause.

A fourth witness, George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley, argued that Democrats' impeachment push was being rushed at the expense of fact-gathering and that the House Intelligence Committee's end of the investigation had not produced clear and convincing evidence of impeachable offenses by Trump.

Read the full analysis here

Watch Pamela Karlan’s impeachment hearing testimony in 3 minutes

 

'Compelling' or 'sham?': Differing viewpoints of the day's hearing from both sides of Congress

Following the first day of hearings in the House Judiciary Committee, members of Congress offered varying takeaways from the testimony. 

"The facts presented at the hearing today were overwhelming and compelling,” Nadler said to reporters. 

But Collins and other Republican lawmakers saw it a different way. 

“The majority right now, frankly, is lost," he said. "They don't know which way to go because the facts are not in their favor. And the American people are not on their side.”

Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Arizona, derided the process as "a total sham" and accused Nadler and the Democrats of "tearing the country apart."

 

Nadler urges Republicans to 'stand behind' oath in closing statement

 

Biden won't appear voluntarily at potential Senate trial

Former Vice President Joe Biden said Wednesday he wouldn't appear voluntarily as a witness during a potential  Senate impeachment trial because he doesn’t want lawmakers to “take their eye off the ball.”

"The president is the one who has committed impeachable crimes and I'm not gonna let him diverse from that," Biden said from the campaign trail in Iowa. 

Collins defends Trump in closing statement of impeachment hearing

 

Nadler urges GOP to uphold constitutional oath; Collins blasts process

After more than eight hours of member questions and witness testimony, Nadler closed the hearing by detailing the alleged abuse of power by the president and urging Republican members to "stand behind" their oath of office. 

Nadler, D-N.Y., said the three scholars Democrats invited to testify clearly established that soliciting foreign interference in American elections and obstructing a formal congressional probe are both impeachable offenses. 

He argued that Republicans, however, have not mounted a vigorous defense of the president's actions, but instead have focused on the process. He called them out, however, for what he suggested was their hypocrisy, noting that they complained over time about not having a floor vote, not being able to call witness and not extending an invitation to the president for this hearing — all of which he said the Democrats have since done. 

Nadler also conceded that Democrats need to bring a number of Trump supporters over to their side of the aisle as the process continues, but noted that polling shows a majority of Americans support the process. 

Collins, the ranking member, continued to excoriate Democrats for the way in which he said the hearings have been conducted, saying Wednesday's hearing only included expert witnesses, not fact witnesses. 

Collins, R-Ga., also said Democrats have not revealed sufficient evidence to support the impeachment inquiry. 

"This is not a time to play hide the ball," he said. "The facts talked about have not been delivered."

Collins called on Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, to testify about his panel's report on its findings in the impeachment inquiry, which it voted to send to the Judiciary Committee on Tuesday night. 

Pence: Impeachment reaches 'new low' after joking about Barron Trump

Dems 'scraping the bottom of the barrel,' Trump campaign says; White House declares win

“Democrats are scraping the bottom of the barrel by rolling out a bunch of liberal professors who worked for or donated to Obama or Clinton and who supported impeachment since the moment Donald Trump was elected," Brad Parscale, Trump's campaign manager, said Wednesday night about the Judiciary Committee's first impeachment hearing. "They have nothing to offer but opinions on a transcript of a phone call that the whole world can read for itself. Not one of them has any personal knowledge of any events regarding Ukraine and not one can add anything substantive to the already-ridiculous impeachment farce. The sham continues.”

White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham declared the hearing a win for the president.

“Today was a good day for President Trump, and a bad day for the Democrats," Grisham said. "The only thing the three liberal professors established at Chairman Nadler’s hearing was their political bias against the President. It did nothing to change the fact that, despite weeks of hearings in this sham process, the President did nothing wrong. Congress should get back to working for the American people. The United States–Mexico–Canada trade agreement,  infrastructure, and drug pricing all await action from Speaker Pelosi. Instead, House Democrats continue to ignore their constituents by focusing on this pathetic and desperate charade.” 

Melania Trump says Democratic impeachment witness should be 'ashamed' for mentioning son, Barron

First lady Melania Trump slammed a witness in the House Judiciary Committee impeachment hearing on Wednesday, saying she should be "ashamed" about a quip involving her son, Barron.

"A minor child deserves privacy and should be kept out of politics. Pamela Karlan, you should be ashamed of your very angry and obviously biased public pandering, and using a child to do it," the first lady tweeted of her 13-year-old son.

The tweet was later added into the official record by Republicans at the impeachment hearing.

Pamela Karlan, one of four law professors to testify before the panel, had referred to the Trump's youngest son while noting that presidents aren't kings. She said the Founding Fathers included impeachment in the Constitution to ensure leaders can be held accountable.

"The Constitution doesn’t allow titles of nobility," Karlan testified. "The president can name his son Barron, but he can’t make him a baron."

Karlan later apologized.

Read more about the blowback.

Rand Paul flip-flops stance on 'political' subpoenas

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., took to Twitter during Wednesday's hearings to decry Schiff's "political" usage of subpoenas to obtain phone records of Rudy Giuliani and Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., among other figures involved in the impeachment inquiry. 

This seems to be a change in tune from last month when Paul publicly called for Congress to subpoena Hunter Biden and the Ukraine whistleblower. 

Witness Karlan apologizes for mentioning Barron Trump amid conservative backlash

Karlan apologized for mentioning Barron Trump, the president's teenage son, earlier in the hearing after receiving backlash from Republicans on the committee, the president's allies and the first lady. 

"I want to apologize for what I said earlier about the president's son. It was wrong of me to do that," Karlan said. "I wish the president would apologize, obviously, for the things that he's done that's wrong, but I do regret having said that." 

Earlier, the Stanford law professor tried to detail the difference between American democracy and the bygone powerful British monarchy, saying that the founders did not want a king when forming the constitution. 

"The Constitution doesn’t allow titles of nobility," she said earlier. "The president can name his son Barron, but he can’t make him a baron."

Scalise: 'Why are we wasting time' on these witnesses?

Hearing update: About seven lawmakers left to ask questions

All Republican members have asked their five-minutes of questions. There are just seven Democrats left to question the witnesses, and then Collins and Nadler can give closing remarks. So the hearing should wrap up in about 45 minutes or so. 

Intelligence ranking member Nunes enters the hearing room

Rep. Devin Nunes, the ranking member of the Intelligence Committee, came into the hearing room and gathered on the side of the dais with a couple of other Republican lawmakers.

Nunes, R-Calif, then sat next to fellow Trump ally Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., a member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, in the audience seats reserved for lawmakers. The two chatted quietly, and after a short time Nunes left. Meadows also sat in on the Intelligence panel's hearings despite not sitting on that committee either.

McClintock causes fireworks after asking scholars who they voted for

A fiery exchange erupted during the hearing when Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., asked the scholars who they voted for in the 2016 election.

Turley voluntarily testified earlier that he did not vote for Trump, but when asked during the tail end of the hearing the other witnesses vehemently pushed back at the question. 

Karlan shot back that she would not disclose that information because she has the right to cast a private ballot.

Chairman Nadler also chimed in, telling the witnesses that they did not have to answer the question. McClintock then asked again, telling them to raise their hands if they voted for Trump. Feldman then interjected telling McClintock that refusing to raise their hands was not an answer because secret ballots are the cornerstone of voting in America.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Capitol, senators talk impeachment trial

Senators spent part of Wednesday preparing for a likely Trump impeachment trial, with Republican lawmakers talking strategy with White House counsel Pat Cipollone in a closed-door lunch in the afternoon.  

Former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, former Treasury spokesman Tony Sayegh, who are helping the White House with messaging on impeachment, and White House legislative affairs director Eric Ueland joined Cipollone at the lunch, where they stressed the White House’s position on the House process. 

"Cipollone was just talking about their view of what’s happened in the House, and the president’s eagerness to present a case in the Senate, if it came to the Senate,” Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., told reporters, adding, “The president’s view is he feels like he has had no opportunity  to tell his side of the story or defend himself against these allegations."

Ueland also told reporters, “The president wants his case made fully in the Senate.” But several senators said Cipollone made it clear that the White House doesn’t believe the process should even get that far. 

Meanwhile, at the Senate Democratic Caucus lunch, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., gave a presentation about the “mechanics of a potential Senate trial,” a senior Senate Democratic aide told NBC News. As a part of the presentation, members were shown video clips from the 1999 Clinton impeachment trial to get familiar with the process.

Earlier Wednesday, the Senate released its calendar for 2020 with no set schedule for January, an indication Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and others aren't sure of the timeline for a Senate trial.

Asked if a trial would take up the entire month, Blunt replied, “It’s Leader McConnell’s view that we really don’t know what we’ll be doing in January. You know, often there’s a break around Martin Luther King Day and other things that may very well not happen if we’re involved in the impeachment process.”

 

Hearing resumes after a brief break

At about 4:33 p.m., the House Judiciary Committee gaveled back in to continue the five-minute member questions round. About 20 members have yet to ask questions. 

Members take a break

House Judiciary is taking an approximately 5-minute break. When they return, there are around 20 members left to question the witnesses.

Gaetz shouts over Karlan: 'You don’t get to interrupt me'

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., used his time to yell at Karlan, at one point shouting over her after she attempted to respond to one of his questions.

During an unwieldy exchange during which Gaetz was spraying Karlan with questions about statements she’d made previously about compactness requirements — an esoteric term regarding congressional redistricting — Gaetz attacked the professor.

"When you talk about how liberals want to be around each other and cluster, and conservatives don’t want to be around each other … you may not see this from like the ivory tower of your law school," he said, before Karlan attempted to respond.

Gaetz, with his voice raised, shot back, "Excuse me, you don’t get to interrupt me on this time."

He also criticized Karlan, who earlier invoked Trump’s son Barron during a point she was making about how the Constitution forbids nobility titles, for making "a little joke about Baron Trump."

"It makes you looks mean," he said.

Gaetz ended his rant by suggesting that the House should have impeached Obama — and not Trump.

"If wiretapping a political opponent is an impeachable offense," he said, "maybe it’s a different president we should be impeaching."

NBC News reported earlier this week that a draft copy of a report compiled by the Department of Justice inspector general concluded that the FBI didn’t spy on Trump’s 2016 campaign.

GOP Rep. asks Sen. Graham to subpoena phone records of Schiff, Bidens and whistleblower's lawyer Zaid

Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., sent a letter Wednesday to Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, calling for him to subpoena AT&T for the phone records of House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., former Vice President Joe Biden, his son Hunter Biden and the attorney for the whistleblower Mark Zaid. 

Banks writes that “the public has a right to know with whom Rep. Adam Schiff has coordinated his impeachment effort and if America’s national security is at risk in any way as a result of Schiff’s actions.”

Karlan zings Gaetz after he questions her political donations

Karlan zinged Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., after he sharply questioned her about her various Democratic campaign contributions, which included Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Obama and Hilary Clinton.

Gaetz then asked why she gave more to Clinton's campaign than the other two. 

"Because I have been giving a lot more money to charity because there are a lot of poor people in the United States," she shot back. 

Jonathan Turley: Who is the lone GOP impeachment witness (and what's this about his dog)?

The only Republican witness testifying in the impeachment hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday is an expert on constitutional law and a frequent critic of the House impeachment inquiry.

Jonathan Turley also has a dog, and as he told the committee in his opening statement, that dog is angry.

"I get it. You are mad. The president is mad. My Republican friends are mad. My Democratic friends are mad. My wife is mad. My kids are mad. Even my dog seems mad, and 'Luna' is a goldendoodle and they don't get mad," he testified.

"We are all mad. Where has that taken us? Will a slipshod impeachment make us less mad or will it only give an invitation for the madness to follow in every future administration? That is why this is wrong."

Read more about Turley.

Rep. Buck questions whether past presidents should have been impeached

Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., pressed Turley on whether other presidents would have been impeached for actions while in office. 

Buck named Lyndon B. Johnson for allegedly wielding the FBI to look into a political opponent, FDR allegedly conducting audits of political enemies, and Barack Obama appointing people to the National Labor Relations Board while the Senate was in recess. He then claimed without evidence that Obama directed Hillary Clinton to lie to the American public about the Benghazi attacks.

Turley answered in the affirmative in each case that it could be considered an abuse of power. 

"I can't exclude many of these acts," Turley said. 

Democratic Rep. Karen Bass of California quickly noted after Buck's questioning that Trump had previously suggested investigating and jailing a political opponent.

Republicans excoriate Democrats over impeachment process

Republican lawmakers on the committee excoriated the Democrats for rushing through the impeachment inquiry and doing so without bipartisanship. 

Rep. Steve Chabot of Ohio complained about Democrats hating Trump, his tweets and his policies but said that the impeachment inquiry might help Trump's re-election chances because it will be perceived as unfair by the American people. 

"You may be able to twist enough arms in the House  to impeach the president but that effort's going to die in the Senate," he said, warning against a "party-line impeachment." "There's no doubt it will be perceived by at least half of the American people as an unfair and partisan effort."

Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas read off a list of other expert witnesses that the committee should question, including members of Obama's national security council and aides that worked closely with Biden on Ukraine matters. 

Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio blasted Democrats and argued that the "facts are on the president's side" because Ukraine never announced any investigations. 

“Four key facts will not change, have not changed, will never change. We have the transcript. There was no quid pro quo in the transcript," he said. 

10 takeaways from the impeachment hearing: Legal scholars in plain English

At the House Judiciary Committee's first impeachment hearing, four eminent legal scholars debated whether President Donald Trump’s dealings with Ukraine constituted impeachable offenses.

The three scholars called to testify by Democrats — Pamela Karlan, a professor at Stanford Law School and a former Justice Department official in the Obama administration; Noah Feldman, a professor at Harvard Law School; and Michael Gerhardt, a professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law — overwhelmingly concluded that the evidence against Trump showed the president had committed impeachable actions. The one scholar called by Republicans — Jonathan Turley, of the George Washington University School of Law — took issue with the hurried process of the inquiry.

Along the way, there was talk of originalism, the Founding Fathers, King George III and the Secret Treaty of Dover. Oh, and someone used the word "necromancy."

Read our 10 most important lines from Wednesday's hearing — in plain English.

Melania Trump, conservatives slam Karlan's Barron Trump reference

Trump campaign spokesperson Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement, “Only in the minds of crazed liberals is it funny to drag a 13-year-old child into the impeachment nonsense. Pamela Karlan thought she was being clever and going for laughs, but she instead reinforced for all Americans that Democrats have no boundaries when it comes to their hatred of everything related to President Trump. Hunter Biden is supposedly off-limits according to liberals, but a 13-year-old boy is fair game. Disgusting.

“Every Democrat in Congress should immediately repudiate Pamela Karlan and call on her to personally apologize to the president and the first lady for mocking their son on national TV.”

Sensenbrenner presents misleading information on Biden

In his five minutes of questioning, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., presented some misleading information regarding former Vice President Joe Biden's conduct in Ukraine.

Sensenbrenner said Biden was bragging on tape about saying that he got Ukraine to oust ex-top prosecutor Viktor Shokin by threatening to withhold $1 billion in aid if they did not do so. Of course, Biden's son, Hunter Biden, sat on the board of a Ukrainian gas company that was under scrutiny at the time.

Sensenbrenner went on to say that what Biden did at least sounds significantly worse than Trump having asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy for "a favor" — investigating the Bidens and Democrats — and having withheld military aid while pushing for those probes.

The Wisconsin Republican added that when Biden made those remarks, Republicans continued doing the nation's work and didn't choose to drag the country into an impeachment probe.

So, there are a number of problems with what Sensenbrenner said. On his last point, Biden made those remarks at a 2018 Council on Foreign Relations event. At the time, Biden was a private citizen, so it wasn't as if Congress could impeach him.

Additionally, Sensenbrenner leaves out that in 2016, Biden was leading the Obama administration's Ukraine policy by pushing for the ouster of Shokin in accordance with the wishes of multiple countries and international bodies, including the E.U. and the International Monetary Fund. Shokin was accused of ignoring corruption, not attacking it. And as news outlets have reported, the investigation into Burisma, the company Hunter sat on the board of, had gone dormant by the time Biden had pushed for Shokin's ouster. 

Sensenbrenner ended his bit by asking Turley if he saw a difference between Trump asking Zelenskiy to "do me a favor" and Biden boasting of having the prosecutor ousted.

"Grammatically, yes," Turley said. "Constitutionally, it really depends on the context."

Wiley: Gohmert wants 'fact witnesses' but White House blocking

Breathe. Be present. Meditate.

Image: Rep. Doug Collins, R-GA, squeezes a stress ball during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on the impeachment inquiry on Dec. 4, 2019.
Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., squeezes a stress ball during the House impeachment inquiry on Wednesday.Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Karlan: 'The president can name his son Barron, but he can’t make him a baron'

Karlan forcefully rebutted Trump's argument that Article II of the U.S. Constitution gives him the power to "do whatever I want." 

She said that the Founding Fathers did not want a king who would rule with impunity, and that impeachment is a tool to hold a leader accountable. 

"The Constitution doesn’t allow titles of nobility," she said. "The president can name his son Barron, but he can’t make him a baron."

Judiciary hearing resumes after breaking for floor votes

The Judiciary Committee hearing resumed at about 2:42 p.m. following House votes. There are no additional floor votes Wednesday. Thirty-eight more members are expected to ask questions, which means the hearing is expected to continue for another three to three and a half hours. 

ANALYSIS: Democrats' witnesses did what the lawmakers hoped they would

In what amounted to the first half of the House Judiciary Committee's impeachment hearing Wednesday, three of the legal scholars called by Democrats argued that Congress has a duty to impeach the president.

"If you don't impeach a president who has done what this president has done … then what you're saying is that it's fine to go ahead and do this again," Stanford Law Professor Pamela Karlan testified. "It's your responsibility to make sure that all Americans get to vote in a free and fair election next November.”

They did what Democrats on the committee needed them to do.

Whether Democratic lawmakers can figure out how to amplify their testimony effectively to persuade more of the public that Trump presents a clear and present risk to the republic remains to be seen.

Image: Witnesses Noah Feldman, Pamela Karlan, Jonathan Turley and Michael Gerhardt share a laugh during the House Judiciary Committee hearing on Dec. 4, 2019.
Witnesses Noah Feldman, Pamela Karlan, Jonathan Turley and Michael Gerhardt share a laugh during the House Judiciary Committee hearing on Dec. 4, 2019.Mike Segar / Reuters

Together, the trio contended that Trump was acting like a monarch, engaging in conduct that amounts to a buffet of impeachable offenses. They explained why each of Trump's separate acts amounts to an impeachable offense — freezing aid to Ukraine, pursuing investigations into a political rival and blocking Congress' investigation among them — and why they have concluded that the president met the Constitution’s standard for bribery by conditioning the money for Ukraine on the announcement of the probes.

They based their conclusions on the idea that he abused his powers as president in exactly the ways the framers of the Constitution envisioned when they gave Congress the power to impeach a president and remove him from office.

Republicans countered with Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, who testified that he had not seen "clear and convincing" evidence that the president had committed a crime, that the inquiry has been rushed, and that a crime should be at the heart of any impeachment of a president — both arguments that dovetail with Trump's defense and that of House Republicans but are not standards contained in the Constitution.

Trump press secretary Grisham weighs in...

Rage....

Hearing is on break, but the news won't stop...

The Judiciary Committee has taken a break at roughly 1:31 pm. ET until after the House finishes voting. Expect this break to last until approximately 2:15-2:30 p.m. 

We got through three member questions, so still 38 members to go. 

Image: A congressional staffer puts up signs before a House Judiciary Committee hearing on impeachment on Dec. 4, 2019.
A congressional staffer puts up signs before a House Judiciary Committee hearing on impeachment on Dec. 4, 2019.Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Keeping a close eye on the hearings

Image: Members of the public use binoculars as they watch the House Judiciary Committee hearing on the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump on Dec. 4, 2019.
Members of the public use binoculars to watch the House Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday.Saul Loeb / AFP - Getty Images

5-minute member round of questioning begins

The staff questioning round has concluded, and the five-minute member round is beginning. The committee is still expected to break for votes at around 1:30 p.m. 

Nadler notes that White House declined to participate in hearing

Turley says rushing impeachment could 'leave half the country behind'

Turley gave a measured dissent from the other witnesses, focusing on the Democrats' impeachment inquiry schedule. He argued that Democrats have not gathered enough evidence and said impeachments should inherently be protracted to give the public time to understand the process. 

"Impeachments require a certain period of saturation and maturation," Turley said. "If you rush this impeachment, you’re going to leave half of the country behind."

Turley argued that the impeachment inquiry into Nixon, who resigned before a removal vote, is the "gold standard" because it lasted long enough for the public to catch up. 

He said that Democrats have to build a stronger record of evidence, adding that theirs is "one of the thinnest records ever to go forward."

Trump closes NATO by yawning at impeachment hearing: 'It'll be boring'

President Donald Trump closed out his trip to London for the annual North Atlantic Treaty Organization meeting Wednesday with a focus on his political problems back home: the House impeachment inquiry.

"It's a joke," Trump told reporters during a meeting with Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte.

"I watched Hannity, Sean Hannity. I watched Laura Ingraham. I watched Tucker Carlson. I watched a lot of other legal scholars, frankly, I watched some people with great legal talent and highly respected. Alan Dershowitz and many more, many more. I watched a very terrific former special prosecutor you know Ken. And Ken is a talented man and a smart man," Trump said, rattling off Fox News hosts and guests like Ken Starr who frequently appear on the cable network. "And I will tell you it is a uniform statement that I think pretty much right down the road, that what they are doing is a very bad thing for our country. It is of no merit."

Read the full story.

"Hamilton" creator responds to Karlan's shout-out

Turley takes issue with bribery, obstruction allegations against Trump

Turley takes issue with his colleagues’ view that Trump committed bribery in his dealings with Ukraine.

Responding to questions from Collins, Turley referred to the writings of Founding Fathers James Madison and George Mason as well as several Supreme Court rulings. 

"You shouldn’t just take my word for it," he said. "Look to see how it’s defined by the United States Supreme Court."

Turley also said that "the record does not establish obstruction in this case" and, reiterating points made in his opening statement, criticized the hurried pace of the inquiry against Trump.

"Fast is not good for impeachment," he said.

On Rep. Raskin's desk: 'The Federalist Papers' and 'Rights of Man' by Thomas Paine

191204-jamie-raskin-desk.jpg
Copies of "The Federalist Papers" and "Rights of Man" by Thomas Paine on the desk of Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., during a break in the House Judiciary Committee's impeachment hearing on Wednesday. Jacquelyn Martin / AP

Hearing gavels back in

The House Judiciary Committee concluded the short break at about 12:29 p.m. and now begin the 45-minute question period for the Republicans. The House heads to vote at around 1:30 p.m., so another break is expected around then.

Who is Norm Eisen, the lawyer doing the questioning for the Judiciary Committee?

The lawyer leading the questioning of the witnesses in the House Judiciary Committee's impeachment inquiry is Norman Eisen, a former ethics official in the Obama administration and a longtime Trump critic.

The panel's Democratic leadership announced it was hiring Eisen as one of two "oversight counsels" in February. The pair was retained to consult on "oversight and policy issues within the committee's jurisdiction." A Harvard Law School graduate and former classmate of Barack Obama, Eisen spent over a decade in private practice in Washington, D.C., before co-founding Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group, in 2003.

In 2009, Eisen was named special counsel for ethics and government reform in the Obama White House, and is credited with the decision to put the White House visitor logs online. He was later named ambassador to the Czech Republic by Obama. 

Eisen has been a frequent critic of the Trump administration's ethical standards, and represented CREW in a court battle charging that the president was violating the Constitution's emoluments clause. In 2018, he and two other lawyers wrote an article arguing that Trump had obstructed justice in the Mueller investigation — a charge Mueller addressed in his report by saying it was not clear that Trump did not obstruct justice. 

 

Grisham rips 'sham hearing'

Bribery and the president's intent

Karlan testified that Trump’s Ukraine actions rise to the level of “bribery” — not just high crimes and misdemeanors — under the Constitution.

"Yes, they do,” she said under questioning from Democratic staff lawyer Norm Eisen.

Bribery is only one of a larger set of potentially impeachable offenses the House is considering, but her exchange with Eisen points to a key battle between House Democrats and the White House.

Karlan added later that the president met the threshold for bribery if his intention in withholding aid from Ukraine was to benefit himself politically through the investigations he wanted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to announce into former Vice President Joe Biden as well as a conspiracy theory alleging Ukrainian meddling in the 2016 election.

“Then, yes, you have bribery there,” she said.

Establishing the intent of the president has been trickier for Democrats than other elements of the case because, while they have plenty of evidence that he and his lieutenants connected the aid to the investigations and have produced witnesses who concluded that his motivation was political, they have not demonstrated that Trump ever said he was going after Biden to help his own re-election.

Indeed, after it was clear to the White House that an intelligence community whistleblower was going to allege the president engaged in a bribery scheme, the president publicly declared there was “no quid pro quo” and senior political officials in the administration began explaining the aid freeze as a matter of  national security.

And, as Karlan noted, there is little to suggest that anyone in the president’s orbit who dealt with Ukraine pushed back on the idea that his motivation in freezing aid was for anything other than benefiting himself politically. It’s a fight in which Republicans will insist there’s no smoking gun and Democrats will point to all of the evidence that suggests personal political benefit is exactly what the president sought.

Karlan: I was so busy reading transcripts I didn’t make a turkey

As Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee argue the impeachment inquiry is fact-free, Karlan said repeatedly that she’s rooting her testimony in the countless sworn testimonies that were released publicly by the House Intelligence. And she has read them all, she said.  

"You know, I spent all of Thanksgiving vacation sitting there reading these transcripts," she said, adding that she "ate a turkey that came to us in the mail that was already cooked because I was spending my time doing this."

And that testimony, she said, was telling.

"Ambassador Sondland said he had to announce the investigations — he’s talking about President Zelenskiy — he had to announce the investigations, he didn’t have to do them as I understood it," Karlan said, apparently reading from a transcript of testimony. "What I took that to mean was that this was not about whether Vice President Biden committed corruption nor not. This was about injuring someone the president thought of as a particularly hard opponent."

Committee takes a break

The House Judiciary Committee has taken a break in the impeachment inquiry hearing for approximately 10 minutes. 

OPINION: Democrats' impeachment report is too muddled to change any minds

Impeachment is a political act that relies on making a legal case. And the lawyering in this report is atrocious.

Other readers may have different takeaways from this report, but my sense is that people who weren’t already predisposed to want President Donald Trump removed from office prematurely still won’t want him tossed after skimming this.

Read more here.

Law profs: Trump's actions are impeachable whether he got what he wanted or not

All of the law professors called as Democratic witnesses agreed that Trump's push for Ukraine to probe the Bidens and Democrats is impeachable regardless of whether Ukraine carried out or announced those investigations.

Whether or not Ukraine followed through on Trump's ask is irrelevant when considering whether Trump's conduct is impeachable, they said.

Feldman compared it to Watergate, where Nixon's team botched the operation. Karlan said "soliciting itself is the impeachable offense, regardless of whether the other person comes up with it," and compared it to a police officer asking for a bribe in order to let someone off the hook, only to let that person go when they could not come up with the money.

She said Trump's action "would have been an impeachable act even if" Zelenskiy "refused right there on the phone."

Gerhardt said he agreed with his counterparts' assessments, saying impeachments are "always focusing on someone who didn't quite get as far as they wanted to."

Hoyer: 'Serious questions' about Devin Nunes' actions

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said Wednesday that actions by Rep. Devin Nunes of California, the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, had raised "serious questions" that needed to be looked into.

A report released Tuesday by the House Intelligence Committee contained phone records between Nunes and Rudy Giuliani in April, when Giuliani was publicly calling for an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden. 

When asked about Nunes, Hoyer, at his weekly off-camera briefing with reporters, said: "I think there are serious questions that have been raised by Mr. Nunes' actions, and we need to look at them and see what action ought to be taken if any. And I want to have input from other people before I opine on what ought to be done."

Hoyer did not specify what actions he was referring to, but he also addressed today's impeachment hearing and the timeline of drawing up and voting on any articles of impeachment.

"I think there is time to do it before the end of the year, but I am not saying that we are going to do it by the end of the year," Hoyer said. "But I am saying if the Judiciary Committee comes forward with recommendations and they come forward with recommendations in a timeframe in which we can get it done, then we will have the time to do it."

Karlan: Trump's push for investigations amounts to the impeachable offense of bribery

Karlan said that Trump's push for Ukraine to investigate Biden and Democrats amounted to bribery, which is specifically laid out as an impeachable offense.

In recent weeks, Democrats have started to accuse Trump of committing bribery in the impeachment inquiry.

Feldman then echoed Karlan's assessment.

Karlan to lawmakers: 'It's your responsibility' to ensure a fair 2020 election

Karlan made the most succinct argument for why Congress has to remove the president if he’s found to be trying to cheat to win a second term.

“It’s your responsibility to make sure that all Americans get to vote in a free and fair election next November,” she said.

Eisen hints at possible articles of impeachment in his opening questioning

Norman Eisen, the lead counsel for the House Judiciary Committee Democrats, hinted at what the committee may recommend as articles of impeachment at the onset of his 45 minutes of questioning Wednesday.

Eisen began by asking about several charges that might be included: abuse of power and bribery, obstruction of Congress and obstruction of justice.

As NBC News reported yesterday, Democrats are considering one to two articles on abuse of power, one article on contempt and obstruction of Congress, and one related to obstruction of justice.

Haake: Roll call votes can 'prevent this hearing from gaining any coherence'

Hillary Clinton says every American should read House impeachment report

Turley: Impeachment is wrong because it's being rushed, not because Trump is right

George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley, the Republicans' witness, said the impeachment of Trump is about the "opacity of evidence" and the "abundance of anger," comparing it to the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson in the 1860s.

He said then, like now, Congress created a "trap-door crime" to impeach the president.

"I get it. You're mad. The president's mad," Turley said. "My Republican friends are mad. My Democratic friends are mad. My wife is mad. My kids are mad."

He said he thought perhaps even his goldendoodle was "mad," though he said that it is supposed to be a happy dog.

Turley said this impeachment process would harm every future president. He said impeachment was not wrong because Trump acted properly or because Congress had no legitimate reason to investigate, but rather because it was being rushed.

Of note, Turley, who made clear at the outset that he did not support Trump in 2016, testified before the House Judiciary Committee in 1998 in support of impeaching President Bill Clinton.

Staff questions begin after another GOP motion tabled

The Judiciary Committee voted along party lines to kill a motion from GOP Rep. Guy Reschenthaler of Pennsylvania to subpoena the whistleblower. 

Two witnesses got up during this vote. 

Now, the staff question round is starting. Nadler and the Democratic counsel have 45 minutes to ask questions of the witnesses followed by Collins and the GOP counsel who will also have 45 minutes to ask questions. 

House Democrats united, discusses articles in closed door meeting

House Democrats are unified on moving forward with impeachment, according to multiple Democrats who attended a closed-door meeting Wednesday morning. Schiff received a raucous standing ovation as he stepped up to the microphone, before he uttered a single word, according to two lawmakers in the room. It was “a powerful moment,” one lawmaker said, noting that their phones were confiscated to prevent leaks and allow members to speak openly. 

After Schiff summarized the report that was released on Tuesday, he said articles of impeachment would likely center on abuse of power as it relates to Ukraine and cover-up, according to three lawmakers at the meeting. But all three members note that they were told no final decisions have been made. As for including articles that involve the Mueller report, two lawmakers said there was no discussion on it and again noted that no decisions have been made. 

The implication was that the House would vote on articles before the Dec. 20 recess, according to two members. But one member notes that they were told to "not make plans" on Dec. 21 and Dec. 22.

Democrats were also told that they will not wait for other witnesses to come forward, such as John Bolton, according to two lawmakers in the room.

And Speaker Pelosi reminded the members of the seriousness of the endeavor and she noted that she has never whipped or asked members where they stand on the issue, according to a lawmaker and confirmed by a senior Democratic aid.

ANALYSIS: A master class in the Framers’ thinking on impeachment

The opening statements made for a master class in the Framers’ thinking in creating a democratic republic that limited the power of its president.

The witnesses smoothly synthesized American history, Western political thought and the Constitution, and in applying Trump’s conduct to the latter, three of the four of them concluded that he not only has met the bar for impeachment, but far exceeded it (Jonathan Turley, of George Washington University, disagreed).

The president has “attacked each of the Constitution’s safeguards against establishing a monarchy in this country,” Michael Gerhardt, a law professor from the University of North Carolina, testified, adding that if the House fails to impeach Trump, impeachment has “lost all meaning.”

And Democrats are hopeful that part of the challenge for them in convincing more of the public to support Trump’s impeachment is simply one of a shared understanding of how his actions fit into the Framers’ intentions when only about one-quarter of the citizenry can identify the three branches of government.

Gerhardt: If you don't impeach Trump, impeachment has no meaning whatsoever

Michael Gerhardt, a University of North Carolina law professor and Democratic witness, said that if Congress doesn't impeach Trump, impeachment has no meaning at all.

"No misconduct is more antithetical to our democracy, and nothing injures the American people more than a president who uses his power to weaken their authority under the Constitution as well as the authority of the Constitution itself,"  he said. "No member of this House should ever want his or her legacy to be having left unchecked a president’s assaults on our Constitution."

"If Congress fails to impeach here, then the impeachment process has lost all meaning, and, along with that, our Constitution’s carefully crafted safeguards against the establishment of a king on American soil," he added. "No one, not even the president, is beyond the reach of our Constitution and our laws."

White House goes after Feldman, Karlan during opening statements

An official working on White House impeachment strategy is, as expected, going after Feldman and Karlan for their past comments on impeachment.

In the midst of Karlan’s fiery opening statement, the official said her "commentary is clouded by anti-Trump bias," saying she "has made no effort to hide her clear partisan bias against the President."

And on Feldman, the focus is on what he’s said before about presidential misconduct, including his issue with the president’s controversial pardon of Joe Arpaio.

Texas Rep. Green disappointed no persons of color testifying

Karlan compares Trump's Ukraine efforts to holding hurricane aid hostage

In her fiery opening statement, Karlan suggested that Trump's withholding of aid from Ukraine was akin to holding back hurricane aid from a governor until he or she did Trump's bidding.

"What happened in 2016 was bad enough: there is widespread agreement that Russian operatives intervened to manipulate our political process," Karlan said. "But that distortion is magnified if a sitting president abuses the powers of his office actually to invite foreign intervention. To see why, imagine living in a part of Louisiana or Texas that’s prone to devastating hurricanes and flooding. What would you think if, when your governor asked the federal government for the disaster assistance that Congress has provided, the president responded: 'I would like you to do us a favor. I’ll meet with you and send the disaster relief once you brand my opponent a criminal.'?"

"Wouldn’t you know in your gut that such a president had abused his office, betrayed the national interest, and tried to corrupt the electoral process?" she added. "I believe the evidentiary record shows wrongful acts on that scale here."

Trump "did this to strong-arm a foreign leader into smearing one of the president’s opponents in our ongoing election season," she said. "That is not politics as usual — at least not in the United States or any other mature democracy. It is, instead, a cardinal reason why the Constitution contains an impeachment power. Put simply, a candidate for president should resist foreign interference in our elections, not demand it."

Trump says he isn't tuning in for the hearing

President Trump — who is currently in the U.K. for a two-day NATO meeting — says he has not had time to tune in to today's hearing. 

"I don't think too many people are going to watch, because it'll be boring," he told the press pool. 

Law professor rips Republican: 'Insulted' by 'suggestion I don't care about the facts'

Stanford law professor Pamela Karlan, one of Democrats' witnesses, took aim at earlier remarks from Collins in her opening statement, saying she was "insulted by" the ranking member's "suggestion I don't care about the facts."

She said she read each of the impeachment inquiry transcripts before testifying and excoriated Collins for suggesting that she was simply acting on partisan preferences.

"Everything I read on those occasions tells me that when President Trump invited, indeed demanded, foreign involvement in our upcoming election, he struck at the very heart of what makes this a republic to which we pledge allegiance," she said later.

Feldman: Why Trump's acts are impeachable

In his opening statement, Feldman explained his analysis on why Trump's conduct is impeachable.

"Soliciting a foreign government to investigate an electoral rival for personal gain on its own constitutes an impeachable high crime and misdemeanor under the Constitution," he said. "The House heard further testimony that President Trump further abused his office by seeking to create incentives for Ukraine to investigate Vice President Biden.

"Specifically, the House heard testimony that President Trump placed a hold on essential U.S. aid to Ukraine, and conditioned its release on announcement of the Biden and CrowdStrike investigations; and conditioned a White House visit sought by President Zelenskiy on announcement of the investigations.

"Both of these acts constitute high crimes and misdemeanors impeachable under the Constitution," he continued. "By freezing aid to Ukraine and by dangling the promise of a White House visit, the president was corruptly using the powers of the presidency for personal political gain. Here, too, the president’s conduct described by the testimony embodies the framers’ concern that a sitting president would corruptly abuse the powers of office to distort the outcome of a presidential election in his favor."

Republicans deploy more delay tactics.

Republicans are continuing with more procedural delay tactics. 

Rep. Kelly Armstrong of North Dakota made a motion to postpone today’s hearing until Dec. 11. The Judiciary Committee voted along party lines to kill the motion. 

Graham on Judiciary hearing: 'Who cares?'

Senate Judiciary Chair Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., spoke to reporters briefly this morning about the House Intelligence Committee's impeachment report and the House Judiciary hearing today.

"Three law professors, talking about impeachment is, who cares?" Graham said.

"If you don't like President Trump, you can vote him out, versus an impeachment inquiry that’s driven by partisan people, no outside counsel defective due process, that will end in a trial that the Senate will dispose of this quickly," he added.

Constitutional scholar: 'Trump has committed high crimes and misdemeanors'

Noah Feldman, the Harvard law professor whom Democrats called as one of their constitutional scholar witnesses at Wednesday's hearing, cut to the point early in his opening statement.

"President Trump has committed high crimes and misdemeanors."

Collins: Impeachment is happening because Brooklyn liberals cried over 2016 election

Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, called the impeachment probe a "sham" in his opening statement and said Trump was being impeached simply because New York liberals can't get over the 2016 election.

"This is not an impeachment," Collins said. "This is just a simple railroad job, and today's [hearing] is a waste of time."

"It didn't start with Mueller, it didn't start with a phone call," he added. "It started with tears in Brooklyn in November 2016."

Committee kills effort to call Schiff to testify

The House Judiciary Committee just voted along party lines to kill the motion by Ranking Member Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., to call Schiff to testify before the committee. 

Read Nadler's full opening statement

Republicans interrupt Nadler as impeachment hearing begins

Republicans kicked off the hearing with frequent interruptions and disruptions, including during Nadler's opening statement. This may be a preview of what's ahead for the rest of the hearing.

House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said in his opening statement that "the storm in which we find ourselves in today was" created by President Donald Trump, calling "the facts" of Trump's conduct toward Ukraine "clear."

Nadler said Trump "directly and explicitly invited foreign interference in our elections" for his own "personal and political gain."

Adding that it "does not matter that President Trump got caught and ultimately released" the nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine, but what matters is he "enlisted a foreign government" to assist him politically by announcing investigations into the Bidens and Democrats.

If the matter is not addressed by Congress, Nadler said, Trump will "almost certainly try again."

Pence thanking House GOP for vigorous defense of Trump

Vice President Mike Pence huddled with the House GOP conference Wednesday morning ahead of the Judiciary Committee impeachment hearing.

The message, according to two White House officials: thanking Republicans for what the White House sees as the strong messaging and vigorous defense of the president — particularly on television — and a push to focus more heavily on what Democrats are not doing when it comes to policy issues like trade, etc.

One of those sources, a senior official, does not see today’s hearing with four academics as a game-changer (or, frankly, a ratings-buster). And another source familiar with the White House strategy agrees, arguing the Schiff Intel report didn’t change anything and neither will this.  

It’s a defiant posture from the White House, but they are very aware of what is very likely coming down the road: a Senate trial, which is increasingly becoming a focus. That's why it’s so notable that White House counsel Pat Cipollone will be attending the Senate Republicans' lunch today. 

Judiciary impeachment inquiry hearing begins

House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler gaveled in the first impeachment inquiry hearing of the committee at roughly 10:06 a.m. Opening statements of the four witnesses are beginning shortly. 

Inside the hearing room

The hearing room is set up the same as it was during the Intelligence Committee hearings but it’s tighter because there are more members on the committee. There are also more tables and seats for Judiciary staff.

Judiciary Republicans are using the Intelligence Committee Republicans' playbook, displaying three large posters.

Twenty-two seats are reserved for members of Congress.

Image: A congressional staffer puts up signs before a House Judiciary Committee hearing on impeachment on Dec. 4, 2019.
A congressional staffer puts up signs before a House Judiciary Committee hearing on impeachment on Dec. 4, 2019.Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Flashback: What Nadler said about impeaching a president in 1998

In a packed hearing room on Wednesday, Rep. Jerry Nadler will lead the House Judiciary Committee in the next phase of the impeachment process against President Donald Trump.

But Nadler, D-N.Y., has been through the process once before, in a very different capacity. On Dec. 10, 1998, he was a rank-and-file member of the powerful committee he now chairs. As part of the minority — Republicans controlled both chambers of Congress at the time — he opposed the articles of impeachment that had been drafted against President Bill Clinton.

During a 10-minute opening statement, Nadler, who has a law degree from Fordham, laid out a case for what he believed constituted an impeachable offense, framing the issue in a way that now seems prescient.

Read the full story.

Read the four Judiciary witnesses' opening statements

Feldman testimony

Karlan testimony

Gerhardt testimony

Turley testimony

Giuliani responds to revelations of calls to OMB

First Read: Giuliani and Nunes star in latest Ukraine saga

The more we continue to learn from the Ukraine scandal, the more Rudy Giuliani and Devin Nunes continue to pop up.

That was the new revelation from the 300-page impeachment-inquiry report that Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee released on Tuesday.

The report contains call records — as early as from April — with Giuliani speaking with the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, and with Nunes, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, speaking with Giuliani, plus recently indicted Lev Parnas.

Get First Read's take.

Dem thinking ahead of Judiciary impeachment inquiry hearing

Democratic staffers working on the impeachment inquiry told reporters Tuesday night what they expect  to explore in the Judiciary Committee's impeachment inquiry hearing on Wednesday:

"The framers established a standard for impeachment in the Constitution: treason bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors, and the purpose of the hearing tomorrow is to hear from some of our nation's top legal experts," the aides said. "We're going to explain the scope of that constitutional standard of impeachment, and how it applies to the president's conduct on the undisputed and extremely grave facts that have been found here.

"The hearing tomorrow will explore the extent to which is a powerful, powerful evidence we now have of the president's conduct implicates all of these dangers. You can think of them as the ABCs of high crimes and misdemeanors: abuses of power, betrayal of national security connected to foreign interest and corruption of our elections.

"We will certainly have a primary focus on the Intelligence Committee report but we will see what other information comes up tomorrow."

Counsel Norm Eisen will ask the questions on the Democratic side.

House GOP leadership criticizes Democrats ahead of Judiciary hearing

Top House Republicans made statements ahead of the Judiciary hearing on impeachment and answered several questions on the hearing, the majority report released Tuesday and Rep. Devin Nunes' phone calls. 

"It doesn’t raise any concerns,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said when asked about the communication between Nunes, Giuliani and others that was revealed in Tuesday's report from the House Intelligence Committee. He later added, "There's nothing wrong with Devin has done except once again, try to get accused of something, it is a simple smokescreen."

Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, the House Judiciary Committee's ranking member, said impeachment should have been in the Judiciary committee from the first place.

"If they're going to do an impeachment it should have been in our committee to start with, but the committee failed miserably on so many counts this year that it was actually taken from us, but it's coming back tomorrow," Collins said.

Collins added that Wednesday's hearing "adds nothing besides a dreary eyed, drowsy approval for this country to watch as the impeachment process, slowly drags on with no direction, no focus because they're having one big problem. And the big problem is the president did nothing wrong."

Who are the witnesses in the House Judiciary impeachment hearing?

The House Judiciary Committee’s Wednesday hearing, "The Impeachment Inquiry into President Donald J. Trump: Constitutional Grounds for Presidential Impeachment," will feature four witnesses.

Here’s a look at all four:

Noah Feldman

Feldman is Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, where he’s also the director of the Julis-Rabinowitz Program on Jewish and Israeli Law. A Rhodes scholar who got his law degree from Yale Law School, Feldman once clerked for Supreme Court Justice David Souter. He’s also written eight books, including one on James Madison, a founding father who advocated for including an impeachment clause in the U.S. Constitution.

In addition to being an expert on the U.S. Constitution, Feldman was an adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq in 2003, advising on the drafting of an interim constitution. 

He’s written opinion articles on the impeachment proceedings for Bloomberg View, where he’s called Trump’s actions in dealing with Ukraine "brazen" and an "abuse of power."

Pamela S. Karlan 

Karlan is the Kenneth and Harle Montgomery Professor of Public Interest Law and Co-Director of the Supreme Court Litigation Clinic at Stanford Law School. A Yale Law School graduate, she's worked for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and was a Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Justice Department's civil rights division. She clerked for Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun. She teaches constitutional law and his written numerous books and articles on the subject.

Michael Gerhardt 

Gerhardt is the Burton Craige Distinguished Professor of Jurisprudence at the University of North Carolina School of Law, and is the author of the book, "Impeachment: What Everyone Needs to Know." Gerhardt, who got his law degree from the University of Chicago, has testified more than a dozen times in Congress and was called as a joint legal expert in the impeachment proceedings against Bill Clinton. He has written in defense of how the House has handled the impeachment proceedings against Trump and criticized the White House's decision not to cooperate with the inquiry. 

Jonathan Turley                          

Turley is the J.B. and Maurice C. Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University Law School. He's the witness that was requested by the committee's Republican minority. Turley, who got his law degree from Northwestern University, represented House Speaker John Boehner and House Republicans in a lawsuit against then-President Barack Obama. Turley, who's appeared as a legal commentator on NBC and MSNBC, also once represented workers who'd been injured while working at the secret military base Area 51 in Nevada. Turley, who's written on constitutional law, has been a frequent critic of the House impeachment inquiry and written that what's been found so far doesn't reach the level of an impeachable offense.