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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'Kangaroo court': Republicans slam process, Dem lawyer
Republican lawmakers have largely used their time to lambaste the impeachment inquiry and attack Goldman.
Rep. Louis Gohmert, R-Texas, refused to ask the witnesses questions during his time and instead castigated Goldman for the way in which Democrats have run the hearing and his reluctance to answer some of their questions about how the House Intelligence Committee compiled its report and how call logs made it into the impeachment report.
Gohmert called the process a "kangaroo court" and seemed to argue that there is little difference between Biden, acting on behalf of the Obama administration, demanding the firing of the Ukrainian prosecutor and Trump allegedly pressuring Ukraine to investigate a political rival.
"We already got the forms. All we have to do is eliminate Donald Trump’s name and put Joe Biden’s name," he said. "He’s already admitted to the crime that’s been foisted on the president."
Biden's ‘No Malarkey’ tour defense declared 'a lot of malarkey’
Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, criticized Hunter Biden’s top dollar work in Ukraine and his father’s defense of it, zeroing in on a testy spat the former vice president had with a voter last week during his ‘No Malarkey’ campaign tour.
The former vice president “falsely stating once again that nobody said there was anything wrong with his son’s deal in Ukraine,” Chabot said. “That’s a lot of malarkey!”
Old-timey phrases aside, Chabot’s retelling of the spat is inaccurate: Biden was accused of directing his son to take a job in Ukraine and sell access. There’s no evidence the elder Biden was involved in his son’s work. While there are ample critics who say Hunter’s work presents an appearance of conflict of interest, there are no credible claims that his father was at all involved.
Comey tweets Fox News canceled on him
Following the release of the Justice Department inspector general's report, former FBI director James Comey said in a tweet that he was bounced from a Tuesday morning appearance on "Fox & Friends," but he will be on MSNBC during the 4 p.m. hour today.
Fox News later issued a statement refuting that he was slated to be on as a guest.
“James Comey was not booked and was never confirmed to appear on Fox & Friends,” the statement said.
The Economist says it is 'puzzled' by Sen. Kennedy's Ukraine claim on 'Meet the Press'
The Economist magazine refuted a claim made by Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., about Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election in a letter released to NBC News on Monday.
The publication said it was "puzzled" after Kennedy claimed multiple times during an interview on NBC's "Meet The Press" on Dec. 1 that Kyiv interfered in the election citing multiple news outlets to support his allegation.
"I think both Russia and Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election. I think it's been well documented in the Financial Times, in Politico, in The Economist, in the Washington Examiner, even on CBS, that the prime minister of Ukraine, the interior minister, the Ukrainian ambassador to the United States, the head of the Ukrainian Anti-Corruption League, all meddled in the election on social media and otherwise," Kennedy said.
However, John Prideaux, the U.S. editor of The Economist, cited in the letter two articles of its reporting on Ukraine refuting that claim, one of which reported that the then-Ukrainian president favored Hillary Clinton but did not direct any of its government agencies to meddle in the election. It also reported that Ukrainian officials at the time supported Clinton because they believed she would be tougher on Russia than Trump.
"But there is no evidence we have seen that Ukraine was engaged in subversion or disinformation, which is what Sen. Kennedy seems to be implying," Prideaux wrote.
The president and his allies, including some Republican lawmakers, have floated a debunked conspiracy theory that it was Ukraine — not Russia — that interfered in the election. U.S intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia meddled in the 2016 election.
Hearing has resumed
After a 10-minute recess, the hearing is back in session.
DOJ inspector general report drops during impeachment hearing as witnesses grilled
Just as impeachment witnesses were being grilled during the second House Judiciary Committee hearing, the Justice Department inspector general released its long-awaited report examining the origins of the probe into Trump's 2016 presidential campaign.
Inspector General Michael Horowitz found that the investigation was justified and was not tainted by political bias, refuting Trump and his allies who have argued that partisanship drove the FBI probe.
It also found, however, that the FBI mishandled parts of its application to monitor Carter Page, a Trump campaign aide, as it was probing Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Horowitz concluded that the investigation was launched because of evidence the Russian government was using emissaries to contact the Trump campaign as part of its efforts to influence the election.
Read the full article here
Goldman details Trump's political interests in alleged demand for investigations
Goldman made a key point when breaking down the political implications of Trump's alleged attempt to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.
Goldman, a seasoned prosecutor, noted the fact that Trump wanted only the announcement of an investigation by the Ukrainians is an indication of him wanting it to help his campaign because investigations are done covertly and then an announcement is made.
He also undercut the Republican argument that there was no bribery because the needed military aid was released after the whistleblower complaint began to circulate in the administration and news of Congress inquiring about the holdup.
Watch as Collins has testy back-and-forth with Goldman over call records
Collins and Goldman had one of the fiercest exchanges of the day, with Collins shouting at Goldman over the House Intelligence Committee releasing call logs from Giuliani and his indicted associate Lev Parnas that showed conversations with Nunes and conservative journalist John Solomon.
Pressed on who looked for Nunes' phone number in the call information they received, which appeared to come from subpoenas the committee made to AT&T, Goldman said he would not address how they conducted the investigation. On why it was decided to include the information in the report, Goldman said it was peripheral evidence to the probe and that questions about the calls were better addressed to the individuals who were actually on the calls.
“I’m done with you right now,” Collins said to Goldman at one point when Goldman was trying to expand upon an answer. Minutes earlier, Republicans were criticizing Democrats for "badgering" their counsel, Castor.
Collins also pushed Goldman to say who authorized the release of the phone call information in the report, to which Goldman said he would not address specific deliberations of the investigation.
At another point, Collins criticized Goldman for suggesting Sondland landed his ambassadorship because he was a major Trump donor. Sondland donated $1 million to Trump's inauguration.
"Mr. Goldman, you’re a great attorney, but you’re not Adam Schiff and you don’t wear a pin,” Collins said. Gaetz later jumped in, shouting at Goldman that Republicans "want Schiff in that chair and not you."
In conclusion, Goldman tried to offer a closing statement in the exchange but Collins cut him off, saying, "you won't answer my questions, so we're done.
'Talk to Rudy': Everything's coming up Giuliani during impeachment questioning
Once again, the focus during an intense round of questioning by the Democrats' lawyer is Giuliani's role in the push by Trump to investigate a political rival.
The U.S. ambassador to the E.U., Gordon Sondland, testified last month that he handled communications with Giuliani and that the president's personal lawyer played a key role in shaping the president’s view of Ukraine and alleged efforts to investigate Biden.
Sondland said Trump was "skeptical" of Ukraine and that he thought Ukraine was not serious about reform. Sondland said the president thought Ukraine tried to take him down in 2016 and as a result Trump "directed us to 'talk with Rudy.'"
"We understood that 'talk with Rudy' meant talk with Mr. Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer. Let me say again: We weren’t happy with the president’s directive to talk with Rudy," he said. "We did not want to involve Mr. Giuliani. I believed then, as I do now, that the men and women of the State Department, not the president’s personal lawyer, should take responsibility for Ukraine matters."
Trump is staring down at least 2 articles of impeachment: Abuse of Power and Contempt of Congress.
The debate among Democrats right now revolves around whether they nod to obstruction in the broader Abuse of Power article or break it out into a separate one.
If you noticed, neither Berke nor Goldman used the words “bribe” or “extortion”and that was intentional. It appears that despite a lot of public and internal pressure to do this, a separate count on bribery/extortion is unlikely.
Some advising Democrats, see Larry Tribe tweet below, say the fact that Trump’s demand that Zelenskiy not only investigate the Bidens but, essentially, undo any smear against Putin (blame Ukraine instead of Russia for 2016 meddling) is cause enough for the committee to nod to obstruction in a broader Abuse of Power article.
Others want a separate count related to Mueller given the counts in his report and a two-year investigation. But critics say that would be vulnerable to the fact that the main witness to obstruction, Don McGahn, and his refusal to testify is still being adjudicated. His live testimony is considered indispensable. The same argument can be made about the grand jury material (it’s all still in the courts and being adjudicated.)
Castor: Biden isn't a front-runner
Republican counsel Castor dodged a question on whether Trump viewed Biden as a front-runner in the 2020 election.
“I wouldn’t agree with that,” Castor said. “It’s too early.”
And what about all the things Trump tweeted about Biden?
"I try to stay off Twitter, lately," Castor countered.
We'll let the polling speak for itself.