The House Judiciary Committee on Monday heard from lawyers for both Democrats and Republicans on findings from the Intelligence Committee's impeachment inquiry over allegations that President Donald Trump withheld aid to Ukraine in order to pressure its government to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.
Witnesses for the Intelligence Committee included majority counsel Daniel Goldman and the Republicans' lawyer, Steve Castor. Also on the witness list was Barry Berke, majority counsel for the Judiciary Committee. The hearing began at 9 a.m.
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TRUMP IMPEACHMENT HIGHLIGHTS
- The House will announce articles of impeachment against President Trump on Tuesday, multiple sources told NBC News. They are expected to be abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
- The Monday hearing, which included roughly nine hours of testimony, was marked by interruptions and fiery exchanges.
- Rudy Giuliani's role in the push by Trump to investigate a political rival once again became the focus during an intense round of questioning by the Democrats' lawyer.
- As the Republicans' lawyer was being questioned, the Justice Department inspector general released its long-awaited report examining the origins of the probe into Trump's 2016 presidential campaign.
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Giuliani claims he found 'overwhelming' evidence against Biden during Ukraine trip
The president's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, said Monday he plans to release a report regarding his recent trip to Ukraine in an attempt to counter the impeachment inquiry into Trump.
Giuliani said in an interview on "War Room: Impeachment," a podcast hosted by former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, he was going to do an outline of the report and “try to present” it to Republicans and Attorney General William Barr at the end of this week. He also said that he “certainly would like to” meet with House Republicans before a vote on articles of impeachment.
Giuliani has been at the forefront of efforts among the president and his allies to turn up information in Ukraine to try and undercut the impeachment probe. He has also been at the center of the allegations that Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.
"I was going to do an outline of it and try to present it at the convenience of the Republicans in Congress and the attorney general at the end of this week," he said. "I should have it ready by Wednesday or Thursday, I don't know exactly when it will be made public."
Giuliani said he had "overwhelming" evidence that would be damaging to the Bidens and the Democrats, but did not disclose it during the interview.
This past Saturday, Trump said he is waiting to see what Giuliani gathers because he did not know what his attorney found.
"I just know that he's come back from someplace. He says he has a lot of good information. I have not spoken to him about that information yet."
Castor doubles down on conspiracy theory
Castor tried to justify the president’s actions on Ukraine on Monday, raising the allegations of corruption that surrounded Hunter Biden's Ukrainian employer and mentioning Ukrainian officials who didn’t like the president. One even wrote an op-ed, he recalled.
“These facts are important in assessing the president’s state of mind,” Castor said during testimony.
But while there may well be some Ukrainians who did not like the president — the president has many detractors here at home — there’s no evidence that the election interference orchestrated by the Russian government started in Ukraine as the president has repeatedly said. This is a conspiracy theory.
An 'alternative facts' for the age of impeachment
Expect to hear Republican lawyer Steve Castor's words replayed by Democrats.
Here's what he said about evidence collected in the investigation: "There are conflicting and ambiguous facts throughout the record."
Here's how Merriam-Webster defines a fact: "something that has actual existence ... an actual occurrence ... a piece of information presented as having objective reality."
Some party lawyer pleasantries
As Goldman and Castor stood up for the break, Castor turned to Goldman, patted him on the back and said, “Good job.”
Hearing is back in session
After the recess, Steve Castor, a lawyer for the Republicans, is beginning his presentation.
Nadler denies Republican witness requests, which include whistleblower and Schiff
Nadler denied Collins' witness requests — including the initial whistleblower and Rep. Adam Schiff — in a Monday letter, echoing Schiff's earlier rejection of a similar witness list provided by Rep. Devin Nunes during the House Intelligence Committee hearings.
Collins had requested eight witnesses in addition to any who were "requested by" Trump. Nadler wrote that since he understands Trump "is not requesting any witnesses to appear in our impeachment proceedings," there "is no further reason to address that request."
On other witnesses, Nadler said he agreed with Schiff that these hearings would not be used "as a vehicle to undertake the same sham investigations into the Bidens or 2016 that the president pressed Ukraine to conduct for his personal political benefit, or to facilitate the president's effort to threaten, intimidate, and retaliate against the whistleblower who courageously raised the initial alarm."
But, Nadler said he remains "prepared" to hold a meeting after Monday's hearing if Collins wants to revisit the requests or make any additional ones.
Goldman: Trump’s actions are 'imminent threat' to elections, national security
Summarizing Goldman's points for Trump's impeachment
Near the end of his lengthy opening statement, Goldman summarized why he believes the evidence evaluated during the House Intelligence Committee investigation warrants Trump's impeachment.
- Trump's push for Ukraine to open investigations into the Bidens and Democrats "would benefit his 2020 re-election campaign, not the U.S. national interest."
- Trump "used his official office and the official tools of U.S. foreign policy — the withholding of an Oval Office meeting and $391 million in security assistance — to pressure Ukraine into meeting his demands."
- "Everyone" — meaning Pence, Mulvaney, Perry, others — "was in the loop" on Trump's Ukraine efforts.
- "Despite" Trump's efforts becoming public knowledge — something that "prompted" Trump to release the nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine — the president "has not given up." Trump "and his agents continue to solicit Ukrainian interference in our election, causing an imminent threat to our elections and our national security."
Fact check: GOP claims Trump impeachment inquiry 'shortest' in modern history
"The entire duration of the impeachment inquiry from the time Speaker Pelosi announced it on Sept. 24 until today has been 76 days," Republican counsel Steve Castor said Monday. "As Professor Turley testified last Wednesday, this impeachment would stand out among modern impeachments as the shortest proceeding with the thinnest evidentiary record and the narrowest grounds ever used to impeach a president."
Castor's timeline is false. While impeachment is quite rare, other impeachments have happened more quickly, and the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump hasn't yet concluded.
The Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted Oct. 9, 1998, to begin impeachment proceedings against then-President Bill Clinton; he was impeached just 72 days later Dec. 19, 1998. While the scandal over his relationship with Monica Lewinsky had been ongoing for months, the actual impeachment process was pretty quick.
While perhaps not considered "modern," President Andrew Johnson's proceedings occurred even more rapidly. After impeachment proceedings were announced against Johnson on Feb. 22 1868, he was impeached two days later, on Feb. 24, 1868.
The impeachment inquiry into Trump began 76 days ago on Sept. 24 with Pelosi's announcement, as Castor notes. Last Thursday, Pelosi directed the House to proceed with drafting articles of impeachment.
More bickering over taking a 15-minute recess
The hearing is in recess for 15 minutes, but it required a vote and more arguing to make it happen. After he announced his "no" vote, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., said the only reason the Democrats wanted to take a break is so they could speak with reporters.