WASHINGTON — Lawyers for U.S. House Democrats laid out their best case for impeaching President Donald Trump on Monday, warning that his behavior continues to pose an “imminent threat” to national security.
Democrats are pushing ahead with impeachment proceedings against Trump after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) directed committee leaders to draft formal impeachment articles.
An hours-long hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on Monday gave staff attorneys the opportunity to lay out their strongest arguments for and against impeachment. But the proceedings did little to move the needle on Capitol Hill, where both sides remain firmly entrenched in their positions on whether Trump abused his power by pressuring Ukraine’s president to investigate Trump’s political rival.
“We are here today because Donald J. Trump, the 45th president of the United States, abused the power of his office – the American presidency – for his political and personal benefit,” testified Daniel Goldman, counsel for the House Intelligence Committee. “President Trump directed a months-long campaign to solicit foreign help in his 2020 re-election efforts, withholding official acts from the government of Ukraine in order to coerce and secure political assistance and interference in our domestic affairs.”
And the president “has not given up,” Goldman added: “He and his agents continue to solicit Ukrainian interference in our election, causing an imminent threat to our elections and our national security.”
Barry Berke, a lawyer for Judiciary Committee Democrats — among them Colorado’s Rep. Joe Neguse — urged lawmakers on the panel to consider their place in history as they weigh whether to support impeachment.
“My son, our children, our grandchildren, they will study this moment in history. They will read all of your remarks, they will learn about all of your actions,” Berke said. “That is a reason for us to have a fair debate about what the undisputed facts show, to recognize that it is wrong, it is very wrong, and it cannot happen again with this president or any president.”
GOP dismisses ‘charade’
Republicans’ witness, staff attorney Steven Castor, portrayed Democrats’ case as “baloney.”
Trump’s conduct “does not” fit the definition of an impeachable high crime or misdemeanor, Castor said. “The record in the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry does not show that President Trump abused the power of his office or obstructed Congress.”
Democrats, Castor added, “have been searching for a set of facts on which to impeach President Trump since his inauguration on Jan. 20, 2017.”
Much of Monday’s hearing was acrimonious, as Republican lawmakers on the Judiciary Committee decried the proceedings as biased, unfair and rushed. Republicans, including Colorado’s Ken Buck, interjected several times to criticize the process. At the start of the hearing, a protester disrupted the hearing to accuse Nadler of “treason.”
Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, called the hearing a “charade.”
Democrats hadn’t shown evidence of a crime, he said, deriding Pelosi for pushing her colleagues to draft articles of impeachment after holding just one Judiciary Committee hearing last week. That hearing followed a series of private and public hearings in the Intelligence Committee.
“They can’t get over the fact [that] Donald Trump is president of the United States and they don’t have a candidate that they think can beat him,” Collins said. “It’s all political.”
Democrats have said the president obstructed Congress, which can rise to the level of an impeachable offense, by allowing officials in his administration to ignore subpoenas to testify in the impeachment inquiry. Buck, who was speaking to Castor, the GOP staff attorney, argued the president has a right to keep communications with White House officials private.
“That’s a privilege that we’ve reserved here in Congress,” Buck said. He added, “The president also has a privilege. It’s called executive privilege. He can meet with the secretary of state and that’s a privileged conversation.”
Buck also echoed debunked claims that Ukraine officials interfered in the 2016 election.
“Isn’t it true that President Trump had a legitimate reason to request help from the Ukraine about the 2016 election? And I’m not suggesting for a minute that Russia didn’t interfere. Of course they interfered. But the Ukraine officials tried to influence the election.”
‘Pounding the table’
House Democrats, meanwhile, dismissed GOP objections as a distraction.
“The evidence is overwhelming and the GOP has not laid a glove on our case,” Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) told reporters outside the hearing. “The president has no alibi, he’s essentially admitted all of the relevant misconduct.”
Republicans, Raskin said, are “pounding the table about process, but the evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors is compelling and overwhelming.”
Raskin said as Democrats move forward, he’d like to see “as comprehensive a statement of the president’s misconduct as possible and very focused articles of impeachment.”
Congressman Neguse criticized Trump for spreading the false narrative that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election.
“It begs the question: Why would President Trump perpetuate this conspiracy theory — already disproven by the entirety of the intelligence community — that actually helps our adversary, a country that is attacking our elections in real time?”
Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Pa.) another member of the Judiciary panel, accused the GOP of trying “every procedural trick in the book to prevent the American people from hearing the truth.”
Scanlon wrote on Twitter during the hearing, “When you don’t have the facts, or the law, on your side, pound the table.”
Washington correspondent Allison Stevens contributed to this report.