UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Use of an obstruction theory from the Mueller Report would be unsupported - unsupportable in the House and unsustainable in the Senate. Do you remember writing that?
JONATHAN TURLEY, PROFESSOR, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY LAW SCHOOL: Yes, I do.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why did you write that?
TURLEY: Because I think it`s true. The fact is that this was reviewed by main justice. The special counsel did not reach a conclusion on obstruction. He should have. I think that his justification quite frankly was a bit absurd and not reaching a conclusion. But the Attorney General, Deputy Attorney General did, and they came to the right conclusion. I don`t think this is a real case for obstruction, but then this body would be impeaching the President on the basis of the inverse conclusion.
I don`t believe it will be appropriate.
REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): Gentleman`s time has expired. Ms. Dean.
REP. MADELEINE DEAN (D-PA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Words matter. In my earlier life professors, I was a professor of writing. I taught my students to be careful and clear about what they put to paper. That is a lesson that the framers of our Constitution understood far better than anyone. They were laying the foundation for a new form of government. One that enshrines democratic principles and protects against those who would seek to undermine them.
The Constitution explicitly lays out that a President may be impeached for treason, bribery, high crimes and misdemeanors. We`ve heard a lot of words today, foreign interference, bribery, obstruction of justice.
Professors, I`d like to go through the President`s conduct and the public harms we have discussed today and asked if they would fit into what the forefathers contemplated when crafting those words of the impeachment clause.
Professor Karlan, I`d like to ask you about the foreign interference in elections. As Americans, we can agree foreign interference, foreign influence erodes the integrity of our elections. And as you said so plainly, it makes us less free. Yet on July 25th, 2019, the President coerced you Ukrainian President Zelensky to announce an investigation into his political rival, Trump`s political rival, which was corroborated by multiple witnesses throughout the intelligence committee hearings.
Professor Karlan, can you explain for the American people in your opinion whether the framers considered solicitation of foreign interference and would they have considered it a high crime or misdemeanor. And does the President`s conduct rise to that level.
PAMELA KARLAN, PROFESSOR: The framers of our Constitution would have considered it abhorrent, would have considered the essence of a high crime or misdemeanor for a President to invite in foreign influence either in deciding whether he will be re-elected or deciding who his successor would be.
DEAN: Thank you. Professor Feldman, I`d like to talk to you about bribery. During the course of the Intelligence Committee hearings, multiple witness gave sworn unrebutted testimony that the President withheld nearly $400 million in congressionally approved aid on the condition that Ukraine announced investigations into his chief political adversary.
Professor in your opinion given those facts and the framers specific concerns, would you describe the President`s behavior here and the use of his public office for a private benefit as rising to those levels.
NOAH FELDMAN, DEMOCRATIC WITNESS, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: The framers considered as you said bribery to consist and bribery under the Constitution to consist of the President abusing his office corruptly for personal gain. If this House determines and if this Committee determines that the President was in fact seeking personal gain in seeking the investigations that he asked for then that would constitute bribery under the Constitution.
DEAN: Thank you. Professor Gerhardt, I`d like to ask you about obstruction of justice. The President has categorically refused to produce any documents responsive to congressional subpoenas attacked and intimidated perspective and actual witnesses including career and civil military - excuse me military and civil servants as discussed here like Ambassador Yovanovitch, Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, Ambassador Taylor, Jennifer Williams and others and he directed all current and former administration witnesses to defy congressional subpoenas.
Professor based on that set of facts does this conduct meet the threshold for obstruction of justice as envisioned in the Constitution.
MICHAEL GERHARDT, DEMOCRATIC WITNESS, UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA: Yes, ma`am. I believe it does. I remember when I was here 21 years ago along with Professor Turley testifying before a differently constituted committee on a very serious question regarding impeachment. And I remember a number of law professors very eloquently talking about President Clinton`s misconduct as an attack on the judicial system and that`s what you just described to me.
DEAN: Thank you. And thank you professors, all of you. All four of you. What you did today is you brought part of our Constitution to life and I thank you for that. You`ve shown what the framers were mindful of when they wrote the impeachment clause of our Constitution. They chose their words and their words matter.
You know it was my father Bob Dean, a terrific dad and a talented writer who instilled in me and my brothers and sister a love of language. He taught us our words matter. The truth matters. It`s through that lens, which I see all of the serious and somber things we`re speaking about today. Foreign interference, bribery, obstruction.
The framers likely could not have imagined all three concerns embodied in a single leader, but they were concerned enough to craft the remedy. Impeachment. The times have found us. I am prayerful for our President, for our country, for ourselves, may we the people always hold high the decency and promise and ambition of our founding and of the words that matter and of the truth. With that, I yield back Mr. Chairman.
NADLER: Gentlelady yield back. Ms. Mucarsel-Powell.
REP. DEBBIE MUCARSEL-POWELL (D-FL): Thank you. And thank you, professors, for your time today. It`s been a long day.
I want to tell you; I did not have the privilege of being born into this country. As an immigrant, when I became a citizen to this great nation, I took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution from all foreign and domestic enemies. And I had the fortune of taking that oath once again when I became a member of Congress.
And that includes the responsibility to protect our nation from continuing threats from a President, any President. You testified that the President`s actions are a continuing risk to our nation and democracy. Meaning that this is not a one-time problem. There is a pattern of behavior by the President that is putting at risk fair and free elections. And I think that we are here today because the American people deserve to know whether we need to remove the President because of it.
During the Nixon impeachment, the Judiciary Committee said, "the purpose of impeachment is not personal punishment. Its function is primarily to maintain constitutional government.
Professor Karlan, to me that means that impeachment should be used when we must protect our American democracy. It is reserved for offenses that present a continuing risk to our democracy. Is that correct?
KARLAN: Yes, it is.
MUCARSEL-POWELL: Thank you. And I want to show you an example of what the President said just one week after the transcript of the July 25th call was released when a reporter asked the President, what he wanted from President Zelensky. And he responded with this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Well, I would think that if they were honest about it, that sort of major investigation into the Biden. It`s a very simple answer. They should investigate the Biden`s, because how did the company that`s newly formed and all these companies, if you look at - and by the way, likewise, China just started investigation into the Biden`s, because what happened to China is just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MUCARSEL-POWELL: So, we`ve heard today conflicting dialogue from both sides. And I just want to ask Mr. Feldman, is this clear evidence from a President asking for a foreign government to interfere in our elections?
FELDMAN: Congresswoman, I`m here for the constitution. We`re here for the Constitution. And when the President of the United States asks for assistance from a foreign power to distort our elections for his personal advantage, that constitutes an abuse of office. And it counts as a high crime and misdemeanor. And that`s what the constitution is here to protect us against.
MUCARSEL-POWELL: Thank you. And Professor Karlan, are the President`s actions a continuing risk that the framers intended impeachment to be used for?
FELDMAN: Yes. This takes us back to the quotation from William Davy that we`ve all used several times in our in our testimony, which is a President without impeachment, a President will do anything to get reelected.
MUCARSEL-POWELL: Thank you. And I want to show you one more example from the President`s Chief of Staff when asked about the President`s demands of the Ukrainian President.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let`s be clear, you just described is a quid pro quo. It is funding will not flow unless the investigation into the Democratic server happened as well.
MICK MULVANEY, ACTING CHIEF OF STAFF: We do that all the time with foreign policy. What McKinney said yesterday that he was really upset with the political influence in foreign policy. That was one of the reasons he was so upset about this. And I have news for everybody. Get over it. There is going to be political influence in foreign policy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MUCARSEL-POWELL: Professor Karlan.
KARLAN: I think that Mr. Mulvaney is conflating or confusing two different notions of politics. Yes, there was political influence on our foreign affairs because President Trump won the election in 2016, we`ve exited climate accords. We`ve taken a different position on NATO than we would have taken had his opponent won. But that`s different than saying that partisan politics in the sense of electoral manipulation is something that we need to get over or get used to.
If we get over that or we get used to that, we will cease to become the democracy that we are right now.
MUCARSEL-POWELL: Thank you. And I think that that is our greatest fear and threat. And I don`t think that anyone is above the law. The Constitution establishes that this type of behavior cannot be tolerated from any President. Not now. Not in the future. And I yield back.
NADLER: Gentlelady yields back. That concludes. I`m sorry, Ms. Escobar. I hadn`t checked off. Ms. Escobar is recognized.
REP. VERONICA ESCOBAR (D-TX): Thank you, Chairman. Professors, thank you so much for your testimony and time today.
Many facts, including the President`s own words in that famous phone call have been laid out before our very eyes and ears for months, despite the President`s repeated efforts at a cover up. But it appears that some have chosen to ignore those facts. What we`ve seen today from those who choose to turn a blind eye is not a defense of the President`s actions, because, frankly, those offenses are indefensible.
Instead, we have seen them attack the process and attempt to impugn your integrity. For that, I`m sorry. Now to my questions. Some have opined that instead of considering impeachment, we should just let this pass and allow the people to decide what to do next or what to do about the President`s behavior in the next election.
The framers of our Constitution specifically considered whether to just use elections and not have impeachment and rejected that notion. One statement from the framers really stuck with me and it`s up on the screen. George Mason asked shall the man who has practiced corruption and by that means procured his appointment in the first instance be suffered to escape punishment by repeating his guilt.
Professor Feldman, I have two questions for you. Briefly, can you please explain why the framers decided that a corrupt executive could not be solved through elections? And can you tell us why impeachment is the appropriate option at this point, considering all the evidence Americans have seen and heard rather than just letting this be decided in the next election?
FELDMAN: The framers understood human motivation extremely well, and they knew that a President would have a great motive to corrupt the electoral process to get reelected. And that`s exactly why they thought that it wasn`t good enough to wait for the next election, because the President could cheat and could make the next election illegitimate. That`s why they required impeachment. And if they couldn`t impeach a corrupt President, James Madison said that could be fatal to the republic.
The reason that it`s necessary to take action now is that we have a President who has, in fact, sought to corrupt the electoral process for personal advantage. Under those circumstances, the framers remedy if impeachment is the only option available.
ESCOBAR: Thank you. I want to play two clips. The first to President Nixon and the second President Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: When the President does it, that means that it is not illegal.
TRUMP: I have an article too, where I have the right to do whatever I want as President.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ESCOBAR: Two presidents openly stating that they are above the law. Professor Karlan, what happens to our republic, to our country if we do nothing in the face of a President who sees himself above the law, who will abuse his power? Who will ask foreign governments to meddle in our elections? And who will attack any witness who stands up to tell the truth? What happens if we don`t follow our constitutional obligation of impeachment to remove that President from office?
KARLAN: We will cease to be a republic.
ESCOBAR: Thank you. I represent a community that a little over a decade ago was marred by corruption at the local government level. There was no retreat into a partisan corner or an effort by anyone to explain it away. We also didn`t wait for an election to cure the cancer of corruption that occurred on our watch. We were united as a community in our outrage over it.
It was intolerable to us because we knew that it was a threat to our institutions, institutions that belong to us. What we face today is the same kind of test, only one far more grave and historic. From the founding of our country to today, one truth remains clear. The impeachment power is reserved for conduct that endangers democracy and imperils our constitution.
Today`s hearing has helped us to better understand how we preserve our republic and the test that lies ahead for us. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield back my time.
NADLER: Gentlelady yields back. That concludes the testimony under the five-minute rule. I now recognize the Ranking Member for any concluding remarks he may have.
REP. DOUG COLLINS (R-GA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Well, today has been interesting, I guess, to say the least. It has been - we have found many things. In fact, three of our four witnesses here today allege numerous crimes committed by the President. At times, it seemed like we were even trying to make up crimes as we go. Well, if it wasn`t this well, it was the intent to do it.
It went along that is interesting today as I started this day. And I will come back to it now as much as I respect these who came before us today. This is way too early, because we`ve not as a committee done our job. We`ve not as a committee come together, looked at evidence, taken fact witnesses, pay here in front of us under oath to say what happened? How did it happen? And why did it happen?
We`re taking the work of the Intel Committee and the other committees. We`re taking it is seemingly at face value. And I will remind all that the Chairman even is the biggest proponent of this not happening in his earlier statements almost 20 years ago when he said, we should not take a report from another entity and just accept it. Otherwise, we are a rubber stamp.
Now, to my Democratic majority, they may not care because as I`ve said before, this is about a clock and a calendar. A clock and a calendar.
They`re so obsessed with the election next year that they just gloss over things. In fact, what is interesting is, as I said earlier, three of the four witnesses alleged numerous crimes committed by the President. However, during the Intel Committee hearings, none of the fact witnesses identified a crime. If you`re writing about this, that should alarm you.
So, this impeachment narrative being spun by the majority is a fake one. It`s majority spinning three percent of the facts while ignoring 90 percent - of the 7 percent of the other. In fact, Professor Turley earlier said today impeachment needs proof, not presumptions. We have one of the facts witnesses in the Intel Committee, I presume that was what was going on, Mr. Sondland.
You know what is happening here today is also we found out today. I thought it was really interesting. This is the Judiciary Committee. But we also found out something that the facts don`t matter. In fact, facts don`t matter unless we can fit those facts to fit that narrative we want to spin before this committee and the American people.
If they don`t matter. We also heard one of the witness`s state today that it doesn`t matter if aid was released or not. Of course, it matters. But unfortunately, the only one of the many facts ignored by the majority, they`re ignoring a ton of substantive facts that matter. It apparently doesn`t matter to the Democrats that Ambassador Volker, the Former Special Envoy to the Ukraine, made clear in his testimony there was no conditionality on the White House meeting or the aid.
The Democrats and their witnesses haven`t mentioned that because it`s unhelpful to the narrative they`re spinning. It apparently doesn`t matter the Democrats, to the Democrats and a majority here that the President did not condition his aid on an investigation. In fact, Mr. Sondland`s statement is to the contrary was presumption. It was right here in this room. He called it a guess right where you`re sitting.
Called it a guess, a presumption. It`s what he thought, God forbid, if we walk into our courtrooms or in our proceedings now and find somebody guilty of something we`re calling a crime and we walk into court now and all of a sudden, well, I thought it was the witness that I presumed it was, God forbid. This is where we`re at.
But, you know, we`ve also heard today that you can make inference, though, it`s OK, if you`re just inferring. I don`t know about the professors here for those of us in court on both sides. I`ve never heard in going to hear a judge say, just infer what you think they mean. And that`ll be enough. It`s not inferences.
You know, it probably doesn`t matter that the President didn`t condition a meeting on an investigation. He met with Zelensky with no preconditions, Zelensky didn`t even find out about the hold on the aid until after a month after the call when he read in Politico. The aid was released shortly thereafter, and Ukraine didn`t have anything to do to get the aid released, not only was the aid release, but lethal aid was given as well.
And if you think that doesn`t matter. There were five meetings between the aid - time, the aid was stop and the time the aid was released. And none of those meetings between ambassadors and others, including the vice president and senators, none of that was ever connected to a promise of anything, only nothing was ever connected, five times. And two of those were after President Zelensky learned that aid was being held.
Tell me there`s not a problem here with the story. That`s why fact witnesses aren`t here right now. The evidence against the President is really about policy differences. In fact, three of the Democratic star witnesses Hill, Taylor and Kent weren`t even on the call. They read transcripts like everyone else.
On July 26th, Zelensky met with Volker and Sondland and made no reference to quid pro quo or hold on aid. They met several more times. No references, but none of those are in - none of these inconvenient facts or so many other inconvenient facts matter to the majority. Moreover, we don`t even know what if additional hearings we will have to address other facts. This is the part that bothers me greatly.
It is something we have seen from January of this year. No concern about a process that works, but simply getting to an end that we want.
You know, I agree with Professor Feldman. He may find that strange, but I do agree with you on something. It`s not his job to assess the credibility of witnesses, that`s this Committee`s job. And I agree, but this Committee can`t do our jobs if none of the witnesses testify before our Committee, even ones that we have talked about calling today in the majority who said we don`t want.
Due to that, we still don`t have an answer on what this Committee will do once this hearing ends. The Committee received Mr. Chairman Schiff`s report yesterday. But we still don`t have the underlying evidence. The rules even set up by this body are not being followed to this day, but yet nobody talks about on the majority side.
The witness is produced by Chairman Schiff, the American people talk about their feelings, their guesses, their presumptions. But even though the facts may not matter to the majority, 97 percent of the other facts do matter to the American people. So, my problem is this.
As the Ranking Member of this Committee, one of the oldest most should be fact-based, legal-based committees we have here where impeachment should have been all along. I have a group of members who have no idea where we`re headed next. I bet you though, if I asked the majority members outside the Chairman, they don`t have a clue either. Very much one, because if they haven`t, they should share it, because this is not a time to play hide the ball. This is not a time to say we`re going to figure it out on the floor. You`re talking about overturning 63 million votes of a President duly elected who is doing his job every day.
And, by the way, he was overseas today while we`re doing this. Working with our NATO allies.
So, the question I have is where do we head next? We`ve heard this ambiguous presentation, but here`s my challenge. I have already been voted down and tabled today. Mr. Schiff should testify. Chairman Schiff, not his staff must appear before this Committee to answer questions about the content of his report. That`s what Ken Starr did 20 years ago and history, demanded.
I told the Chairman just a while ago in a couple of weeks when we`re doing the markup, I said, Mr. Chairman, the history lights are on us. It is time that we talk and share how we`re going forward. I`m still waiting for answers.
So, Mr. Chairman, as we look ahead, is the Democratic majority promised that this was going to be a fair process when it got to judiciary for the President and others? The President and you may say he could have come today, what would have this done? Nothing. There is no fact witnesses, there is nothing to rebut. In fact, it`s been a good time just to see that really nothing came of it at the end of the day.
So, why should he be here? Let`s bring fact witnesses in, let`s bring people in, because as you said, Mr. Chairman, you say it, in your words, we should never on this Committee accept an entity giving us a report and not investigate it ourselves. Undoubtedly, we`re well on our way to doing that because of a calendar and a clock.
So, Mr. Chairman, I know you`re about to give a statement and they`ve worked on and you`ve worked on it very hard, I`m sure. But I want before you gavel this hearing, before you start your statement, before you go any further, I would like to know two things. Number one, when do you plan on scheduling our minority hearing day? And number two, when are we actually going to have real witnesses here that are fact witnesses in this case? When? Or what you said many years ago is faded just like the leaves in fall.
I don`t really care anymore that somebody else gives us a report. Chairman Schiff as chairman over everything with impeachment. And he doesn`t get to testify. He is going to send a staff member. But I don`t even know if we`re going to have a hearing past that to figure out anything that`s been going on.
So, my question as I started out today is where is fairness? It was promised. It`s not being delivered. The facts talked about were not facts delivered. This President, as facts were given, did nothing wrong. Nothing to be impeached and nothing for why we`re here. And in the words of one of our witnesses, Mr. Turley, if you will rush through this, you do it on flimsy grounds. The American people will not forget the light of history.
So today, before you give your opening statement - your closing statement, before you get to this time, my question is, will you talk to this Committee? Your chairman? You hold a very prestigious role. Will you let us know where we`re going? Are we going to adjourn from here after you sum up everything saying that they all did good and go out from here? We`re still wandering. The lights are on. It`s time to answer the question. I yield back.
NADLER: The gentleman yields back. And I want to - before my closing statement acknowledged that I received a letter today requesting a minority day of testimony under Rule 11. I have not had a chance to read the letter but look forward to conferring with the Ranking Member about this request after I have had a chance to review it.
COLLINS: Mr. Chairman, I have a question. You can`t review a letter. It is a demand that we have.
NADLER: The gentleman is not recognized.
COLLINS: There is nothing for you to review.
NADLER: I`ll now recognize myself for closing statement.
George Washington`s farewell address warns of a moment when cunning, ambitious and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to serve for themselves the reins of government. President Trump placed his own personal and political interests above our national interests, above the security of our country, and, most importantly, above our most precious right, the ability of each and every one of us to participate in fair elections, free of corruption.
The constitution has a solution for a President who places his personal and political interests above those of the nation. The power of impeachment.
As one of my colleagues pointed out, I have in the past articulated the three-part test for impeachment. Let me be clear, all three parts of that test have been met. First, yes, the President has committed an impeachable offense. The President asked the foreign government to intervene in our elections, then got caught, then obstructed the investigators, twice.
Our witnesses told us in no uncertain terms that this conduct constitutes high crimes and misdemeanors, including abuse of power.
Second, yes, the President`s alleged offenses represent a direct threat to the constitutional order. Professor Karlan warned, drawing a foreign government into our election process is an especially serious abuse of power because it undermines democracy itself.
Professor Feldman echoed. If we cannot impeach a President who abuses his office for personal advantage, we no longer live in a democracy. We live in a monarchy or under a dictatorship.
And Professor Gerhardt reminded us, if what we`re talking about, if what we`re talking about is not impeachable, then nothing is impeachable.
President Trump`s actions represent a threat to our national security and an urgent threat to the integrity of the next election.
Third, yes, we should not proceed less at least some of the citizens who supported the President in the last election are willing to come with us. A majority of this country is clearly prepared to impeach and remove President Trump. Rather than respond to the unsettling and dangerous evidence, my Republican colleagues have called this process unfair. It is not. Nor is this argument new.
My colleagues on the other side of the aisle, unable to defend the behavior of the President, have used this argument before. First, they said that these proceedings were not constitutional because we did not have a floor vote. We then had a floor vote. Then they said that our proceedings were not constitutional because they could not call witnesses. Republicans called three of the witnesses in the live hearings of the Intelligence Committee, and we`ll have an opportunity to request witnesses in this Committee as well.
Next, they said that our proceedings were not constitutional because the President could not participate. But when the Committee invited the President to participate in this hearing, he declined. The simple fact is that all these proceedings have all the protections afforded prior presidents. This process follows the constitutional and legal precedents.
So, I am left to conclude that the only reason my colleagues rushed from one process complained to the next is because there is no factual defense for President Trump. Unlike any other President before him, President Trump has openly rejected Congress`s right as a co-equal branch of government. He has defied our subpoenas. He has refused to produce any documents. And he directed his aides not to testify.
President Trump has also asked the foreign government to intervene in our elections, and he has made clear that if left unchecked, he will do it again. Why? Because he believes that in his own words, "I can do whatever I want." That is why we must act now.
In this country, the President cannot do whatever he wants. In this country, no one, not even the President is above the law. Today, we began our conversation where we should with the text of the Constitution. We have heard clearly from our witnesses that the Constitution compels action. Indeed, every witness including the witness selected by the Republican side agreed that if President Trump did what the Intelligence Committee found him to have done after extensive and compelling witnesses from the Trump administration officials, he committed impeachable offenses.
Well, the Republican witness may not be convinced that there is sufficient evidence that the President engaged in these acts. The American people and the majority of this Committee disagree. I also think that the Republican witness Professor Turley issued a sage warning in 1998 when he was a leading advocate for the impeachment of Bill Clinton. He said, "if you decide that certain acts do not rise to impeachable offenses, you will expand the space for executive conduct." That was the question of Professor Turley in 1998 in the impeachment of President Clinton.
That question should guide us all today. By any account that warning is infinitely more applicable to the abuses of power we are contemplating today, because as we all know if these abuses go unchecked, they will only continue and only grow worse. Each of us took an oath to defend the Constitution. The President is a continuing threat to that Constitution and to our democracy.
I will honor my oath and as I sit here today having heard consistent clear and compelling evidence that the President has abused his power, attempted to undermine the constitutional role of Congress and corrupted our elections, I urge my colleagues stand behind the oath you have taken. Our democracy depends on it.
This concludes today`s hearing--
COLLINS: Mr. Chairman. I have one thing.
NADLER: My purpose is that gentleman seek recognition.
COLLINS: Thank you Mr. Chairman. Pursuant to Committee Rule 8, I`m giving notice to intent to file dissenting views to the Committee`s report on constitutional grounds for presidential impeachment.
NADLER: Noted. This concludes today`s hearing. We thank all of our witnesses for participating. Without objection. All members will have five legislative days to submit additional written questions for the witnesses or additional--
COLLINS: We have a unanimous consent request.
NADLER: Too late.
COLLINS: It`s too late for unanimous consent request.
NADLER: Without objection. The hearing is adjourned.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, that`s just typical, isn`t it just typical.
COLLINS: Give me a break.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: You are listening to the end of what has been 8.5 hours of marathon hearings before the House Judiciary Committee. One of the Congress` largest committees and as we saw one that ping-ponged between the lofty and the assertive today Chairman Nadler, we see there surrounded by the still cameras on what is by far the biggest day of his government career overseeing the beginning of what increasingly looks like the road to the impeachment of President Donald Trump.
Chairman Nadler ending the hearing there, exchanging some words with the Republican Ranking Member as well as Congressman Gohmert. What we saw in these hearings. And if you`re joining us here 6:30 PM on the East Coast. I`m Ari Melber, continuing our special coverage.
What we saw in these hearings today was the outgrowth of all the facts that the Intelligence Committee says it found presented with legal analysis by experts, defining what it means that all of this plotting that all of this basic chicanery, scheming and other work was done to try to go after the President`s rival Joe Biden. And what if anything Congress is going to do about it. We are right in the strike zone of a major moment.
Let me tell you what we`re going to do. Number one, we`re keeping an eye on that room that you see as members of the Judiciary Committee are still filing out of it. And if the Chairman or anyone else of a senior level steps to the cameras, we will bring that to you live. We also have a lot planned to tell you exactly what`s most important to what we just saw and to try to give you context as we do around here.
For me, I actually want to turn right now to former Federal Prosecutor John Flannery who has advised several congressional investigations as counsel. John, big picture the whole day including the ending we just saw. Explain.
JOHN FLANNERY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, I think the Democrats dominated from the very beginning. The Chairman saying that not only was he concerned about what the select committee on intelligence had found and therefore the report as well I`m sure but also that he was going to look back at the Mueller investigation and the obstruction charges there because it was similar to this offense in the sense that both had to do with interference in an election, the first by Russia and the second are interference in the Ukraine for purposes of our domestic election again.
It was very interesting that the only witness that the Republicans had really was Turley and Turley was discredited not so much by his light jokes about how mad his dog was, but by the fact that in an earlier appearance before the Clinton impeachment, he had spoken about not withholding judgment on those articles of impeachment that could be said because then they would invite a chief executive to do more. And he`s taken a very different view at this hearing that seems to contradict not only how he looks at the facts, but also the positions that he took on the law from time-to-time were more like a word salad than they were like in a legal opinion.
The other experts on the panel were quite persuasive.
MELBER: And as you mentioned John, just to walk folks through who may not have followed every single witness, the one you`re speaking about was interesting in that this is who the Republicans put forward as their big star legal defense witness. All of this coming as we are getting new reports late in the day into the evening tonight about the secret preparations on the Senate side for a potential trial of the president. Momentous stuff.
So, John I want you to stay with me, I want to share with viewers that we have a full panel of experts to get to all of this live tonight, but I want to begin by telling you everything you actually need to know. A few highlights from this momentous day.
First, as these judicial hearings were unfolding, there were more ominous developments for President Trump behind the scenes, senators in both parties beginning preparations for his potential trial. That includes Republican senators were told huddling privately with the White House counsel at this private senator only lunch today including a draft calendar that was distributed that showed January wide open for a potential trial of the President.
Meanwhile, new reports tonight the Democratic leader Chuck Schumer presented on quote the mechanics of this potential Senate trial to Democrats including featuring video from the 1999 trial of then-President Clinton. As Washington was weighing, the President`s fate, he was faltering on foreign policy abroad today abruptly bailing on a NATO press conference after what many described as a kind of global humiliation after several leaders of allied nations appeared to mock him directly on video as sort of a triple split screen moment, because that was a backdrop for what was this first Ukraine hearing in this committee that actually drafts potential articles of impeachment.
And I am going to show you briefly an important moment when we saw these experts answering very straightforward questions about Donald Trump`s potential high crimes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do President Trump`s demands on Ukraine also establish the high crime of bribery.
KARLAN: Yes, they do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Yes, they do. There were many moments like that today and as the committee was assessing this evidence, the Trump and Giuliani pushed Ukraine for potentially illegal election help. News was breaking in The New York Times that Rudy Giuliani is in Ukraine today again pushing to meet with Ukrainian prosecutors apparently allegedly to continue on aspects of this plot. He was spotted leaving for Europe Sunday night. Huffington Post reporter catching this photograph.
Now today some Republicans were arguing that impeachment is moving too fast. Let me put this in a little bit of perspective. Giuliani`s apparently brazen actions now have Democrats arguing maybe they can`t move fast enough if they`re trying to deter further actions in what they call a campaign conspiracy. Unfolding now in plain sight. They`ve also been invoking those newly released call logs from Rudy Giuliani that people are still making sense of with regard to the money in this plot, you see their calls to the Office of Management and Budget.
You also have contacts with a cryptic negative one number at key inflection points during this plot. That`s part of the fact pattern. Congress is reviewing in these new hearings; the bottom-line tonight I can tell you is it appears that the majority of Congress backed by a private meeting with Speaker Pelosi as well thinks they may be on the way to grounds for impeachment very soon.
Now as promised I bring in more of our experts, New York Times Columnist Michelle Goldberg, Daniella Gibbs Leger of the Center for American Progress and John Flannery prosecutor back with us. Daniella in Washington, your view on what we learned today and where we`re headed, and I should mention we`re keeping a close eye on the cameras so we will cut in and out if we get news.
DANIELLA GIBBS LEGER, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT: Yes, I think today`s hearings for folks who wanted pizzazz, you definitely got a lot of that today. The three witnesses from the Democratic side were very compelling and making the case that the President has indeed committed impeachable offenses. And I think they reiterated that over and over again. And what you saw from the Republican questioning was a lot of flailing a lot of going back to debunk theories about what is happening. And I think it was really overall a positive day for Democrats like I said, they made a good case for why the President should be impeached.
MELBER: When you said - let me jump in and ask you. You said going back to theories conspiracy theories but also literally going back to Ukraine today, you couldn`t script this in a movie.
LEGER: I don`t understand what is wrong with Rudy Giuliani. How is he actually in Ukraine possibly doing the Crimea that we are discussing at this very moment.
MELBER: Yes. This is the kind of thing where people might say, OK, is that old news. Are you referencing? No. This is new news. This is new action. We showed the photo of him on the way there. I`m rooting for the New York Times here. Giuliani facing scrutiny, travels to Europe to interview Ukrainians meeting in Budapest Tuesday as the report came out with this former Ukrainian prosecutor, Lutsenko. Daniella.
LEGER: Yes, it is again these folks are so brazen about what they are doing. They don`t even feel like they have to hide it at all. And that emanates from the top. And so, I think what you also heard today was we are at a very important inflection point. And again, this behavior isn`t impeachable. What is and what message would you send to the next president be it a Democrat or Republican, if you don`t impeach this President over what he has done.
MICHELLE GOLDBERG, THE NEW YORK TIMES COLUMNIST: So, I thought one of you know Jonathan Turley, the Republican witness, his bad faith was absolutely staggering. The difference between what he said during the Clinton impeachment and what he`s saying now, the piece that he wrote in 2014 saying, you don`t actually need a crime for impeachment, now he`s saying that Trump`s actions don`t meet the federal statutes for bribery.
That said, he kept saying over and over again that he thought there was more facts to be developed and there is more of a case to be made. Again, I think this is a bad faith argument given that these people have refused their subpoenas and they`ve obstructed this investigation. But I also sort of think that Democrats should consider taking them up on their offer. Right. You want more witnesses; you want more investigation. I think there are more witnesses and more investigation that they could credibly do, particularly since the Senate under Mitch McConnell is not going to run a fair trial.
I think they could take a little more time before they turn this over to him. Fine, say, you want more witnesses, let`s call Lev Parnas, who currently is eager to testify and who is at the middle - who is in this whole plot.
MELBER: Michelle, to your point, you could take this New York Times report on Giuliani pushing the plot this week and staple it to the back of the intelligence report.
GOLDBERG: Yes, absolutely. I mean and find out - again, there is - the SDNY investigation into Giuliani`s two henchmen. They`ve accumulated a lot of information, a lot of recordings data that there`s currently wrangling over when and if this will be turned over to impeachment investigators.
I would like to know a lot more about those Giuliani calls to the Office of Management and Budget, because there is no earthly reason that the President`s private lawyer has to be speaking to the Office of Management and Budget. And so, I actually think that you know if Democrats wanted to kind of pull back a little bit and draw this out, now they have a perfect excuse too because it was the Republican witness who was making the case that that`s what they should do.
MELBER: Right, an excuse or many of them would argue a rationale given what we`re seeing. John, I want to play for you another exchange today because obviously we`re not going to try to do everything that happened, but in high points there were clear exchanges where you saw something that I think Americans could benefit from whether they`re convinced or not. 70 million people watched part of the fact hearings. Now you`re in the law hearings. And so, you have the facts and the evidence as presented applied by experts. Many of these people with tremendous credentials and saying their view of what the law dictates. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KARLAN: When you ask for private benefits in return for an official act or somebody gave them to you to influence an official act, that was bribery.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And so, we have constitutional bribery here, the high crime and misdemeanor of constitutional bribery against President Trump.
KARLAN: If you conclude that he asked for the investigation of Vice President Biden and his son for political reasons that is to aid his re- election, then yes, you have bribery here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: What did you think of both that exchange specifically John and any others that you would point to for viewers especially at the end of the day people living their lives and see every moment, is that important, is that useful? Do you agree with the bulk of the analysis? My ear and I was covering this as an expert guest as well as an anchor around here with everybody else on our team, my ear, I heard at least three cases for - three articles of impeachment or more.
FLANNERY: Yes, I thought that while they talked about abuse of power, they talked about bribery, they talked about obstruction. But the thing that I thought about that exchange that the questioner missed was that she was giving credence to a statutory bribery charge, she wasn`t asking for any leeway on a description of bribery and some constitutional sense. she spoke about official acts which is one of the elements and bribery that that the Supreme Court was concerned with.
And the official acts that were spelled out during the Intelligence Committee hearings were one, you want a meeting. Two, you like this $391 million to defend your nation against Putin my friend in Russia. And I think that the Trump had hoped that he`d never have to give them any money at all. But finally, because the whistle was blown on him literally, it was forced by Congress that the funds should go for the country. Now the questions I thought sometimes drifted, but the professors were amazing I thought.
MELBER: Who do you think was the strongest?
FLANNERY: Well, I like Feldman particularly and I think it was because he was the first to speak as I remember. And I thought he was so clear. In other words, for the public, he was giving the building blocks in a way that was undeniable. And I thought that was powerful. I thought the references to the 1787 meetings of our founding fathers as to why impeachment and what it meant and what the debate was and why they decided they couldn`t do without it particularly within the shadow of why they had declared their independence from a king ridden country.
MELBER: I want to bring Daniella in on that because it was the lofty part. I mentioned in our open here. There was all the partisan brawling. There was plenty of doublespeak as people have seen these hearings before. But I would argue as an observer that there were loftier times than a lot of other congressional hearings. The founders got a lot of things wrong. They were cabined and blinkered by their times. They made many mistakes.
I wonder what you thought of, Daniella, the loftier part where the founders they did know something that remains so true today. Everything has changed, technology has changed, our minds have changed. But absolute power abused within a democracy to hold on to more power unchecked can endanger democracy itself.
LEGER: Yes, some things withstand the test of time and abuse of power and not acting like a king or a monarch. You know no matter what century you`re in, I think it all plays out the same way. And I agree I think laying that out at the beginning really set a good grounding for what these hearings are about. Because at the end of the day, this is not a happy process. This is not a good thing that this country is going through.
It is a sad, sad moment for us that we are actually possibly on the verge of impeaching another President for asking a foreign government to interfere in our elections. And you know I just have to say I don`t know which Congresswoman played the tape of President Trump actually saying that he did the thing that we`re accusing him of doing. But I`m glad that they did that, because it`s almost as if the Republicans up there on that stage forgot that President Trump did this and that we heard him say these things.
MELBER: That was powerful evidence, Michelle unlike some of the evidence presented, it`s come from the President and his own people in public statements, on Fox News and elsewhere. I`ve had very thoughtful conservative Federalist Society experts Michelle on who make the argument that if the President was pursuing a legitimate investigation that would be a good defense. And I say to them legally that`s true. But the problem is he already admitted that what he wanted was to go after his rivals.
GOLDBERG: Right. He already admitted that. And I can`t remember who it was who made the point that if you really want to pursue a legitimate investigation, you don`t go on CNN and announce it, right. That`s the opposite of what you do when you want to pursue a legitimate investigation. And then of course, there are actual avenues that you use when you want another country to pursue an investigation.
So, they could make that argument. But you`re right. I mean both Trump and Mulvaney have already basically told us exactly what happened here. But you know speaking of the Federalist Society, I do think there was a missed opportunity on the part of the Democrats. These three witnesses were fantastic, but I think they could have had. There are plenty of Federalist Society law professors who also think that Donald Trump deserves to be impeached, right.
GOLDBERG: They could have had a very conservative Federalist Society law professor making the case in conservative terms. And I think that I don`t know that it`s going to convince anyone out there. But I think it might have been a useful foil to some of the Republican insistence that this is a purely partisan process.
MELBER: That`s a great point and one rejoinder as they may say well, they have some additional potential hearings coming. But I do think also it was heavy on lawyers, we all get that. They could have had someone who`s steeped in government might not technically be a law professor but knows about national security because one of the things that really did Nixon in was the abuse of the FBI CIA powers, those are tremendous and secret powers wielded in secret.
If you can get away with that game on, game off and so the question there of whether you bring that and of course, I think also we`ve heard from some of those people as fact witnesses. I always like to tell viewers where we`re headed here on a busy, evening all of our panelists stay because I want to get all of your reactions on the other side to a few more highlights that we`ve put together in terms of what happened in Congress today at this first judiciary hearing on impeachment.
Here`s one way that I think everyone can understand it, lawyer or not. This was a nationally televised marathon eight-and-a-half-hour dry run of the case against President Trump at any future Senate trial. That alone is already rare. A potential trial of a sitting president. It is a faith that when you think about it, if you take a step back, Donald Trump has actually ducked that exact accountability moment in so many ways when he`s about to go to court in civil trials like against Trump University. He has settled.
When he`s dealt with times where his aides and associates and advisers have been indicted or even cooperated. He has ultimately evaded prosecutors, he`s stiff armed Mueller famously over even doing an interview. But if these Democrats do impeach him this month based on what grows out of what we just saw today, it will tee up a trial. Today`s hearing shows what that case looked like. What it looks like with the facts, with the reports, with the experts informing how you write an article of impeachment, which is a presidential indictment.
And I want to show you that today the experts were sounding an alarm. They argued if this stuff is an impeachable, nothing is, and with our democracy at stake, they also tackled straightforward questions on what is impeachable.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Professor Feldman did President Trump commit the impeachable high crime and misdemeanor of abuse of power based on that evidence and those findings.
FELDMAN: Based on that evidence and those findings the President did commit an impeachable abuse of office.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Professor Karlan, same question.
KARLAN: Same answer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And Professor Gerhardt, did President Trump commit the impeachable high crime and misdemeanor of abuse of power?
GERHARDT: We three are unanimous. If what we`re talking about is not impeachable then nothing is impeachable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That was a strong expert testimony. What is Chairman Nadler make of all of it? Well, he just stepped to the cameras. Let`s go to him live.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NADLER: And they were overwhelming. In that they clearly show and all the - well, the witnesses testified that they meet all the requirements for impeachment that they meet all the requirements envisioned by the framers than impeachment in fact was put in the Constitution to protect against the President who would act as this one has.
The evidence is so obvious. So, overwhelming that the Republicans did not really present or try to present a factual defense, all they kept talking about was a process. They pointed out that I have propounded in the past, that I have talked in the past about a three-part test of impeachability. And as you heard in my closing statement, this situation meets all three tests.
The President committed impeachable offenses. They were important impeachable offenses. They go to the constitute - the heart of our constitutional republic. They threaten the survival of democracy itself and the integrity of free elections. And a majority of the people. And if the house I believe I understand that. Those are the three tests.
The Committee will take the information we received today. And we will proceed pursuant to House Resolution 660 and the impeachment procedures contained within it. We will receive evidence; more evidence and we will conduct the proper hearings. Thank you very much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: We have been watching their Chairman Nadler making - I would call it uncharacteristically brief remarks, but he of course has had a long day. And you heard him lay it out there. Bottom line, he says that the invocation of his past standards is fine with him because he thinks this meets the standard for impeachable conduct.
With my experts waiting, I want to show you a little bit more of the highlights that we were walking through. Why the Democrats say they showed that Trump`s conduct is so impeachable. These expert witnesses applying evidence from those fact witnesses using this new 300-page report while the Republicans call the witness, we were just discussing Professor Turley. He actually today trended all the way to number one on Twitter partly on the heat of some very sweeping claims that Donald Trump should just definitely not be impeached.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TURLEY: This would be the first impeachment in history where there would be considerable debate and, in my view, not compelling evidence of the commission of a crime. This is a facially incomplete and inadequate record in order to impeach a President.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Fact check, the Constitution does not require a crime for impeachment. Quite the opposite and that is a point that is clear in the Constitution. And if you want, it`s a point that Turley himself acknowledged in 2014. Serious misconduct or violation of public trust is enough. That claim though was a little odd given that so much evidence does suggest there is a potential criminal plot here. There`s also a criminal investigation in New York and it`s all about alleged quid pro quo bribery and illegal foreign campaign help, the kind of evidence torpedo that well even skeptical legal experts would say advances the case like well Professor Turley himself back before the dime started dropping on the President.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TURLEY: They are going to have to try to separate that quid from the pro quo. The biggest concern that they have, the torpedo in the water is if somebody comes forward and makes that connection and says the president made it clear this money is not giving to the Ukraine until I get this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Now about that big torpedo.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GORDON SONDLAND, AMBASSADOR TO THE EU: Was there a quid pro quo as I testified previously with regard to the requested White House call and the White House meeting. The answer is yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: The answer is yes. That is part of the living testimony under oath by someone still employed by the President that these legal experts were applying.
I want to bring back in our panel as promised. Starting with John briefly, your big takeaways tonight as we near the end of the 7 o`clock hour here.
FLANNERY: Well, the big takeaway I think is that it`s very interesting that in the report that maybe not everybody has digested, has Rudy Giuliani playing a new prominent role because of telephone records and text message records from Verizon and AT&T and he appears to be the crazy glue that connects the President and the other members of the syndicate who sought to bribe and to force the very deal that he wanted which is--
MELBER: Mr. Flannery, counselor.
MELBER: Are you saying this is getting sticky or are you calling him crazy?
FLANNERY: He`s a little bit of both actually. You`ll notice the conversations and if you go into the footnotes, they have the sequence of phone calls and to whom--
MELBER: We did, and the footnotes in this thing are incredible. We`re going to be on this for days.
FLANNERY: Yes. They`re amazing. And what they show is they show Rudy having connections to the White House and to minus one and several critical times when Yovanovitch is coming in to get fired, when they`re talking about what the statement will say and they change it in August between two different dates.
The connection with OMB at a time when OMB is taking care of the funds instead of as normally happens the State Department and the Defense Department. That`s all very significant material and that comes in at a time when we have the Republicans saying there is no there-there. And in fact, we`re having an accumulation of evidence, we don`t have less, we have more.
MELBER: Let me do this because it`s part of my job with the 80 seconds we have left in a final sentence or two the most important thing that you learned that was advanced today starting with Michelle.
GOLDBERG: I don`t know if I learned this, but I guess I learned it new. I found a lot of the Republican questioning although I know that their bad faith is infinite, and they`re sort of disloyalty to the majority of the country that is horrified by this conduct is total. Nonetheless, I find it really hard to watch and it really actually made me profoundly sad. It`s just the constant denial of the factual record from the Intelligence Committee hearings, the constant insistence that that there were no firsthand witnesses to any of this conduct when we all heard from them.
LEGER: Yes, I`m just going to piggyback on that and just - they want us to not believe the things that we see in front of our faces, the things that we hear with our own ears and it`s like at what point will they ever put this Democracy ahead of their party and their own political personal benefit.
MELBER: And John, finally, do you think based on what you saw today, the President will be impeached by the end of the year?
FLANNERY: Absolutely. And I`m hoping that they`re going to have the obstruction charges from the Mueller Report as suggested at the outset by the Chair.
MELBER: Yes, well that also was clearly something that is still being worked out.
MELBER: People like to make predictions a lot of this is happening in real- time. It`s being tested in public. Some of it under oath and a lot of it for the civic education of the American people, as we try to make sense of it, which we couldn`t without such great guests and patient experts who were rolling with this in this unpredictable hour. My special thanks to Daniella, Michelle, and John. You have been watching THE BEAT with Ari Melber. Always appreciate you joining us. I`ll be back at 6 p.m. Eastern tomorrow. But you know what time it is. "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews starts right now.
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