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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

House Judiciary Debating Articles Of Impeachment. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired December 11, 2019 - 20:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[20:00:00] JORDAN: The FBI opened the Trump Russia investigation and spied on four American citizens associated with President Trump's campaign. They took the dossier to the FISA Court, and they lied to the court 17 times. Didn't tell the court the guy who wrote the dossier was desperate to stop Trump, didn't tell the court the guy who wrote the dossier was working for the Clinton campaign, didn't tell the court the guy who wrote the dossier had been fired by the FBI for leaking information to the press. And the FBI continued the investigation after the election.

On January 3rd 2017, Senator Schumer said this, if you mess with the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you. It took all of three days for that statement to come true.

January 6, at Trump Tower, Jim Comey briefs President-elect Trump on the dossier, the dossier that the FBI already knew was false. They do it so that they can leak it to the press and the press will write about the fact they briefed him. The President was told he wasn't under investigation when in fact they were investigating him and trying to trap him at that meeting. And, of course, they continued their investigation after the inauguration.

When we deposed Jim Comey in this Committee last Congress, he said after 10 months of the FBI's investigation, they didn't have a thing. Comey gets fired on May 9, 2017. Eight days later, Bob Mueller gets hired, and we get two years of the Mueller investigation; 19 lawyers, 40 agents, 500 warrants, 2,800 subpoenas but zero collusion.

But Democrats don't care about the facts, and they're never going to stop. Whistleblowers lawyers said 10 days after the President was sworn, coup has started, impeachment to follow. Sixteen Democrats on this committee voted to move forward with impeachment before Bob Mueller ever sat in front of this committee and testified before President Trump and President Zelensky ever had their call. They're never going to stop with their attacks because they can't stand the fact that President Trump is actually draining the swamp and doing what he said he would do, and most importantly getting results, taxes cut, regulations reduced, economy growing at an unbelievable pace, lowest unemployment in 50 years, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh on the court, out of the Iran deal, embassy in Jerusalem, hostages home from North Korea, and oh by the way a new NAFTA agreement coming any day now.

They can't stand it, and they're never going to stop. And it's not just because they don't like the President, it's not just because they don't like the President, they don't like us. They don't like the 63 million people who voted for this President. All of us in flyover country, all of us common folk in Ohio, Wisconsin, Tennessee, and Texas, they don't like us.

How about what Mrs. Karlan said last week sitting right there, the Democrat professor who came in here and told us what she believes, "Liberals tend to cluster, conservatives spread out because they don't even want to be around themselves." How about our colleague, Maxine Waters, June of 2018, when she said this, "And if you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd, and you push back on them and you tell them they are not welcome anymore, anywhere." That is scary. How about Peter Strzok, the guy who ran the Clinton investigation, the guy who ran the Trump Russian investigation, the Deputy Head of Counterintelligence who was fired when he said this, "Went to a southern Virginia Wal-Mart, I can smell the Trump support. They don't like us."

That's what this is about. They don't like the President, they don't like the President supporters, and they dislike us so much they're willing to weaponize the government.

A few years ago was the IRS, more recently was the FBI, and now it's the impeachment power of Congress going after 63 million people and the guy we put in the White House. Think about what Chairman Schiff did last week. He released the phone records of the President's personal lawyer. He released the phone records of a member of the press and he released the phone records of a Republican member of Congress. This is scary stuff. This is scary stuff what they're doing. And frankly it is dangerous for our country, it is not healthy for our country.

And we should all remember what Emmet Flood told us, the President's lawyer, what he told us this past spring when the Mueller report first came out, "It would be well to remember that what can be done to a President can be done to any of us." This is scary stuff and serious stuff. And I hope you guys will reconsider and stop it while you can. I yield back.

NADLER: The gentleman yields back. Mr. Deutch.

DEUTCH: I've been worried about the impact of President Trump's attacks against our democracy, and how they're felt by my kids and how they're felt by our kids, by a younger generation that's just beginning to vote, that's just beginning to lead. And so I asked my kids on our family group text what they thought at this moment. And they responded almost immediately and they told me what they were feeling and what their friends were feeling, and they confirmed the worst. Their faith in our democracy is shaken.

[20:05:00]

One of my kids said Trump has made me feel like our country is failing. He's taken away America's common sense. Another said if our democracy is fragile enough to be manipulated by the President, then I worry for our future as a country. Why is our democracy so fragile? Well, the President smears the press

as the enemy of the people. He attacks verifiable facts and calls them fake news. He attacks his opponents in the ugliest and the most hateful ways. He degrades diplomats and he lashes out at law enforcement. He questions the patriotism of those who have bled on our battlefields. He questions America's leadership in the world. He believes Russia over our intelligence community, Russia over our NATO allies, Russia over Ukraine.

All these things break long-held American positions of leadership in the world, and they'll all be a part of the next election. But we're here at this moment to protect that election.

The President's ongoing attacks on the 2020 elections and his effort to cover it up, that is why we're here tonight. The President's abuses of power to cheat America's voters and threaten our national security, he welcomed Russian interference in the 2016 election. He solicited interference by Ukraine and by China in our 2020 election.

The ongoing pattern of this president's abuse of power, his obstruction of investigations, refusing to turn over even one document, that's what requires us to act now. This is a moment that the President has forced upon us. These are the high crimes that violate the supreme law of our nation, the Constitution of the United States.

When my kids were younger, we taught them to tell the truth. We all teach our kids to tell the truth. If you've got nothing to hide, honesty is the clearest path to putting trouble behind you. You know that's true. Everyone does. If the President had not abused his power, if everything he did was truly perfect, he would have asked, no, he would have demanded, that everyone who works for him come forward and tell the truth and bring all of their documents with them, let them speak, let them all speak. But instead of ordering his staff to tell the truth, he silenced them.

What message does that send the next generation of American voters? The next generation of American leaders? The President violated his oath of office to defend and protect the Constitution. We cannot allow our children to believe that the abuse of power by the strongest leader in our country is acceptable or that it's normal.

Yesterday, my daughter sent another text, she said it feels like we're losing the battle to get people to care about democracy. I'm worried we won't be able to fix it. President Trump's violations threatened to break the foundation of our democracy, impeachment and removal from office is the only way to fix it.

I yield back.

NADLER: The gentleman yields back.

GOHMERT: A point of order.

NADLER: The gentleman will state his point of order. GOHMERT: We started this proceeding tonight, and we on the minority

side do not have the current amendment in the nature of substitute to H. Res. 755 because the one we have says the abuse of power is Article I and the other is the obstruction of Congress...

NADLER: The gentleman...

[20:10:00]

GOHMERT: ... and we keep hearing about crimes. We should be able to have the amendment that includes the crimes you're talking about...

NADLER: The gentleman will suspend it. That is not a point of order.

(OFF-MIKE)

NADLER: Mr. Buck?

BUCK: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. How will history judge this impeachment? I believe the American people will remember this impeachment effort unkindly; instead remembering Democrats have been resisting and looking for an excuse to impeach this president since the day he was elected.

There were false charges that pro-Trump Russians had shut down the power grids in Vermont. A frivolous lawsuit was filed claiming voting machines were rigged in three states. More than 50 House Democrats boycotted President Trump's swearing-in ceremony, including the Chairman of this Committee.

The Washington Post ran an article titled, "The Campaign to Impeach President Trump Has Begun on January 17, 2017. Strangely enough the article was posted at 12:19 p.m. while the inaugural ceremonies were still happening. The ACLU's Executive Director stated, "We think that President Trump will be in violation of the Constitution and federal statutes on day one." Then the genre of assassination and personal harm began with Kathy Griffin posing with a model of Trump's severed head. And actor Robert DeNiro using his Tony Awards speech to say, "Eff Trump, I'd like to punch him in the face."

Then came the efforts to impeach based on the emoluments clause and calls to remove President Trump under the 25th Amendment due to insanity. Then bureaucrats and President Obama's holdover appointees began to run roughshod on the Constitution by resisting from within the administration.

On March 21st, 2017, Representative Maxine Waters tweeted, "Get ready for impeachment," March 21st, 2017. On May 16th, 2017, representatives from this committee began -- or a representative from this committee became the second member of the House to raise the topic of future impeachment proceedings.

Representative Brad Sherman and Al Green introduced the Democrats' first impeachment resolution for obstruction of justice and Russian interference in July of 2017. Representative Cohen, then the ranking member on the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, introduced five articles of impeachment against President Trump in November of 2017. Representative Tlaib said, we're going to impeach the blank during a January 3rd 2019 swearing-in ceremony. What about May 6, 2019, when Representative Al Green said, "I'm concerned that if we don't impeach this President, he will get reelected."

Then Democrats could not let go of the Russian collusion story even after Special Counsel Robert Mueller stated in his report that the Trump campaign did not coordinate with Russia. In fact, when Representative Green forced a vote, 95 colleagues of ours voted in favor of proceeding to impeachment on July 17th, 2019. Sixteen of our Democratic colleagues on this committee voted for that.

It's clear that my Democrat colleagues have prejudged this case. They have ignored the President's right to assert executive privilege, asserting that a court case to determine the bounds of the President's privilege will take too long to serve justice to the American people. Democrats are so righteous in their belief that President Trump must be impeached that they ignore plain facts. Professor Turley was right when he said this impeachment, quote, "will be the shortest investigation producing the thinnest record of wrongdoing for the narrowest impeachment in history," end of quote.

At the end of the day, I want to invoke the words of my colleague from the Rules Committee, Congressman Alcee Hastings who said during one debate, with the majority's efforts -- that the majority's efforts would backfire. He said you will lose. This will cost you the majority next year. And some of you aren't going to be here in the next Congress. I hope you've had your fun.

Well, I tell my colleagues, go ahead vote to impeach President Trump tomorrow. But when you walk out of this hearing room, call your freshman colleagues and tell them they're not coming back, and you hope they've had their fun. Say goodbye to your majority status and please join us in January of 2021 when President Trump is inaugurated again. I yield back.

NADLER: The gentleman yields back. Ms. Bass.

[20:15:00]

BASS: Mr. Chairman, this is a sad day in U.S. history when we have to vote on articles of impeachment because Donald Trump has abused the power of the office of the presidency in his attempt to cheat his way to re-election. This evening we will begin the process because of the uncontested facts.

President Trump directed military aid approved by Congress be withheld until a vulnerable ally publicly announce an investigation of the President's top opponent in the upcoming election. Fortunately, he was caught in the act by a brave patriot who took the risks of anonymously reporting and military assistance was finally released. However during the eight weeks that President Trump withheld military aid from our ally, at least 13 Ukrainians died in the field.

Now, I know Ukraine is far away and it might be difficult to imagine how and why this country should be of any concern to us here? In part, it is a matter of us honoring our commitments, but it is more than that. When countries are unstable, they can collapse become failed states and can be taken over by governments hostile to the U.S. or become fertile ground for terrorist organizations. The President compromised our national security for his personal gain when military assistance was withheld from Ukraine that left this country vulnerable to a neighbor that had already invaded its territory.

As a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, I regularly meet with head of states. And I often have to apologize for some embarrassing statement or tweet the President has made.

Since the Ukraine scandal, I have faced questions from leaders around the world. They ask, what is going on here, where does the U.S. stand in regard to past commitments, is this presidency just an anomaly, or has the U.S. presidency been permanently diminished, weakened, corrupted, has something fundamentally changed in the U.S.

The world is watching how we handle this crisis. There are many nations attempting to re-establish or create democratic governments after decades of autocratic or corrupt rule. And they are looking to the United States. When members of Congress travel on congressional delegations, we emphasize the importance of adhering to the rule of law. We encourage leaders to conduct free, fair, and transparent elections that are supported by and accountable to their citizens.

Now members of Congress have to acknowledge the challenges we face in our country. But we explained that because of the U.S. constitution and bill of rights, when efforts are made to restrict and limit the right to vote, we are free to speak out and challenge our government.

We preach good governance and transparencies, we insist the country's fight corruption, and one of the best ways to counter abuse is to encourage people to come forward and report. But to ensure that when people do come forward, they are protected and remain anonymous. We explain that in the U.S. there are specific laws that protect people who come forward.

Congressional delegations come and go, but there are thousands of federal employees who live and work around the world from the State Department, USAID. These Patriots work in difficult conditions. What message does it send around the world when they see the President and his supporters attack and attempt to reveal the identity of the patriot who took the risk that exposed Trump's abuse of his presidency, his abuse of power? What message does it send when the world witnesses the President and his supporters denigrate, disrespect, and via Twitter harass a patriot while she was testifying in public?

He has compromised their ability to fight for our values and democracy. This is another example of why the actions of this President threatens U.S. national security. The President's defenders shout coup, hoax, and demonstrate their 150 percent loyalty to the President while off-the-record acknowledge his wrongdoing. People from around the world understand this as autocratic behavior. They know if they step out of line, they might lose their lives, or in this instance they might lose their election. The President has forbidden everyone in the administration from

cooperating even when subpoenaed, leaving the only tool available to us, impeachment. This is not a coup and it is irresponsible to label a constitutional process a coup. It is the responsibility of this committee to follow the Constitution.

The world is waiting to see if we will hold ourselves to the democratic principles we insist that others uphold. Will we demonstrate our ability to peacefully hold our leaders accountable? We have an opportunity to show the world how a mature democracy handles a crisis. We have an opportunity to show the world that our democracy remains strong, and it is this President that is an anomaly.

We have an opportunity to demonstrate to the world and in the United States no one is above the law including President Trump. This is why we must adopt articles of impeachment and take the first step toward relieving our nation and the world of this presidency.

I yield back.

NADLER: The gentlelady yields back. Mr. Ratcliffe.

RATCLIFFE: I thank the Chair. Article I, Section 2, Clause 5 of the Constitution gives the House of Representatives the sole power of impeachment. The Constitution authorizes impeachment only on the basis of treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors. That's the expressed criteria. Those are the only constitutional grounds we have to act upon.

[20:20:00]

Today, we are marking up two articles of impeachment: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Nowhere does the Constitution mention either one. Neither meets the written criteria set forth by the founders, neither one has ever been sustained as the basis for impeachment, which explains why I had two members of Congress, one Republican and one Democrat, approached me on the floor yesterday to ask me exactly what obstruction of Congress means. They asked because they'd never heard of it before, we are marking up articles of impeachment for offenses that aren't crimes that some members of Congress have never heard of before, much less know what it means.

The Democrats keep repeating over and over again, the President is not above the law. I've said it before the President is not above the law, but he damn sure shouldn't be below it either. I've said it before because Democrats have tried this before.

During the Mueller hearing, Democrats said repeatedly, emphatically, unequivocally that Donald Trump must be impeached for obstruction of justice. That was until they heard the special counsel admit to me that his obstruction of justice analysis was done under a one-of-a- kind never-before-used by the Department of Justice legal standard that inverted a presumption of innocence to a presumption of guilt.

Now the Democrats are taking it one step further. Instead of creating legal standards out of thin air, they're creating impeachable offenses out of thin air. Whatever happened to quid pro quo, extortion, and bribery. The Democrats have been telling us. It was clear. The facts were undisputed, the evidence was overwhelming, except it wasn't any of those things and now it's all gone. Instead they've reached in to the grab bag for a nebulous abuse of power accusation that legal scholars admit is not a crime.

And now Democrats say the President obstructed Congress in its investigation into an alleged quid pro quo extortion bribery scheme that they now have to concede never existed in the first place. Gee? Where have I heard that before? I remember. It was when my same colleagues across the aisle first falsely accused the President of collusion and conspiracy with Russia. And when that fell apart, they accused him of obstructing justice into their investigation of false conspiracy and collusion allegations.

Every time Democrats get caught trying to frame this President with some crime he didn't commit, they follow up by accusing him of obstructing their efforts to frame him for the things that he never did in the first place. I'd like to say you can't make this stuff up but it is all made up.

I got to concede, though, to my colleagues. You all move fast. The day after we watched the Russian conspiracy and obstruction of justice claims from the special counsel go down like the Hindenburg, the next frame job started with a phone call where the only two people on the call both said it was a great call and none of the things that the Democrats alleged happened.

But I'll admit this time, it's hard to blame some of my colleagues on this committee for doing too much this time around. I concede that because the once respected House Judiciary Committee with jurisdiction over the Constitution and impeachment was humiliatingly excluded until the bitter end from participating at all in matters involving the Constitution and impeachment. One Week.

History will reflect that the House Judiciary Committee's involvement in the impeachment of President Donald J. Trump started with a hearing on Wednesday, December 4th and ended with a markup that started seven days later on Wednesday, December 11th.

How does that sound for fairness? How does that sound for due process? The founders warned and feared that today might come. Alexander Hamilton said the greatest danger of impeachment would be depriving a President of due process, the greatest danger Hamilton said would be if impeachment was used politically by a party that had the most votes in the house instead of being used on the basis of guilt or innocence for specified crimes under the Constitution. And today, the committee of jurisdiction after only one week is marking up a bill to impeach a President for crimes that aren't specified under the Constitution by the party that has the most votes in the house and pledged to impeach him from the first day of his presidency.

Today, Democrats are the founders of worst nightmare come true. Right now, I imagine most Americans are thinking if only we could impeach them. To those Americans, I say, you can next November.

NADLER: The gentleman's time has expired. Mr. Richmond?

RICHMOND: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. President Trump, on January 20, 2015, you raised your hand and swore to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution. Now we must preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution from you.

[20:25:00]

Donald Trump once bragged he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and get away with it. Well, he's shooting holes in our Constitution on Pennsylvania Avenue. We can't let him get away with it. The Constitution was written and signed over 232 years ago. Since then we have elected 45 presidents. And all that time, only four occasions as the House of Representatives considered articles of impeachment. So I do not take this lightly, I take it seriously, I take it very, very seriously.

I've heard Republicans say, why are we rushing to judgment? This is not a rush to judgment. It's a rush to justice. And we must not delay. Corruption is corrosive. It eats away like acid. And the longer we wait, the more time we allow for this President to do irreparable damage to our country and our democracy.

My lord, just last week, the President's political crony, Rudy Giuliani, was back at it in Ukraine, Ukraine, continuing to create new conspiracy theories. So please don't tell us to wait because the corruption continues.

In trying times like this, many people in this room look for guidance in scripture. Look no further than the story of Esther. Esther summoned the courage to stand up to the king and speak truth to power. Under threat of execution, she refused to hide saying, if I perish, I perish. She was willing to lose her life to save her people, and some people in this room aren't willing to lose an election to save our democracy.

The truth is staring us in our face, President Trump sent roughly $250 million in military aid to Ukraine in 2017. No problem. He sent nearly 300 million in military aid in 2018. No problem. So what was the problem in 2019? He was behind and opposed to Joe Biden. Even Fox News polls showed he was losing. He panicked and he concocted this outlandish corrupt conspiracy. He withheld congressionally approved military aid for Ukraine until Ukraine agreed to do him a personal favor. And that personal favor was to announce a bogus investigation against a very person beating him in the polls.

You don't need Sherlock Holmes to figure this one out, we have the evidence. The transcript of the call is a crystal-clear confession. His chief of staff co-conspirator admitted to it in the White House press briefing room. We have hours of testimony from State Department witnesses, confessions, admissions, witnesses, video. We have everything but DNA, what else do you need? You need the courage of Esther.

The Constitution does vest the President with certain powers, but not the power to lie, not the power to obstruct, not the power to cheat our democracy, not the power to threaten our security, there is no question that the President has abused his power. If we allow this, look the other way, say it's just politics, what are we telling other nations about the rule of law? What are we saying about our democracy? What are we showing our children if we cower to a bully with a bully pulpit?

During the darkest days of the Revolution, Thomas Paine wrote, "These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country." To my Republican colleagues fighting when it's comfortable is easy, running and hiding is easy, but it doesn't leave a legacy. How do you want to be remembered during this watershed moment in our nation's history? I ask my Republican colleagues, will you stand with President Trump and allow your legacy to be tied to his actions? If the tables were turned, do you think he would stand with you?

And let me conclude by reminding the members of this committee on both sides of the aisle. We each took an oath as well. We solemnly swore that when the time came, we would, and I quote, "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic," that we would bear true faith and allegiance to the same, and that we take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion.

Members of this committee, members of this House, that time has come. The time has come to be the winter soldier. The time has come to show the courage of Esther.

And with that, I yield back.

NADLER: The gentleman yields back. Ms. Roby.

[20:30:00]

ROBY: I've made clear how woefully incomplete this process has been, how the minorities rights to hearing has been completely disregarded, how no fact witnesses were called before us, and how staff questioning staff to get the truth was bizarre.

No matter what any member on this side says here tonight, the majority will unanimously vote to send these articles of impeachment to the House floor. However, I have a duty to continue to point out how flawed this process has been.

All members of Congress are required to take an oath of office at the beginning of every Congress. By taking this oath, we swear above all else to defend the constitution of the United States.

I have the distinct honor to represent the hard working people of Southeast Alabama. They have placed their trust in me to represent their values and be their voice here in Congress. This revered and longstanding oath serves as a guiding principle for every decision I make as a member of Congress.

For the record, let me be clear. I believe in the rule of law. I believe that no person is above the law. I believe process is vital to this very institution. I have stated time and time again before in committee, process matters. Without abiding by framework that adheres to our constitution, we are charting a course that does not follow our country's founding principles.

Whether you identify as a Republican, a Democrat or independent, whether you agree or disagree with the president's policies, whether you like or even dislike a president, the American people should feel cheated by what has taken place here.

We sit here tonight without all the facts of the case because the majority decided to conduct an incomplete and inadequate pursuit of the truth. Many questions remain. With the consequential decision of impeaching a president, it is our right and duty to the citizens of this country to properly use the powers of congressional oversight to adjudicate impasses through the courts and arrive at actual undisputed facts of a case that all Americans, regardless of ideology, can agree are truthful and honest.

And impeachment proceedings -- in the impeachment proceedings of President Nixon, the underlying facts were undisputed. In the impeachment of proceedings of President Clinton, the underlying facts were also undisputed.

Here before us tonight, that is not the case. The articles of impeachment before us in this committee do not meet the necessary requirements, nor have they followed an exhaustive pursuit to even find out all of the facts of the case. Therefore, the bar to impeach a sitting President of the United States has not been met.

For the sake of our country and for the future trajectory of this body, I implore my colleagues to take a hard look at the course of this investigation. It has severely discounted the tenants of our Democratic system.

Tomorrow, we write history. A history that cannot be undone, a dangerous precedent will be set for future majorities of this body. The American people deserve a process that puts politics aside. The American people deserve a process that is led by our promise to protect and defend the constitution. The American people simply deserve better.

And with that, Mr. Chairman, I'd like to yield the remainder of my time to Mr. Collins.

REP. DOUG COLLINS (R-GA): Thank you for yielding. I just want to view, we're in an interesting situation. We can make up facts or we cannot make up facts, but there's one fact that needs to be refuted, and that's the idea that lives were lost during the pause.

And Undersecretary Hale testified that the funds were prospective in this. In fact on page 85 of his testimony he said, bear this in mind, in future -- this is future assistance. This is not to keep the army going now. It is to help them in the future.

And so to be careless with the facts on primetime to say that people's lives were lost in this is just categorically wrong. If we actually had a chance to actually go to lessons of the testimony, we would actually see that in the testimony of Undersecretary Hale as we go forward.

Again, it is amazing to me. Most -- and some people saying, you don't attack the substance. We attacked the substance, it's real simple. They got the aid. They didn't do anything to get it and we're attacking the fact that there is no way for us to even talk about this because this process has been such a rushed process.

But that is something that is just not right to say and when no one else can check it, when Professor Hale said it and he said that was for prospective not now, those were mot losing lives on money that was not yet there. So with that, I yield back.

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): The gentleman yields back. Mr. Jeffries.

[20:35:00]

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY): George Washington in his fare well addressed to the nation counseled America that the constitution is sacredly obligatory upon all. It's in that spirit that we proceed today. The impeachment of a president is a solemn responsibility that we undertake prayerfully.

Scripture says in the book of Psalms, for the Lord loves justice, and will not abandon his faithful ones. We undertake this responsibility prayerfully. We do not take this step to divide, though some will scenically argue that the impeachment of this President will further divide an already fractured union.

But there is a difference between division and clarification. Slavery once divided the nation, but emancipators rose up to clarify that all men are created equally. Suffrage once divided the nation, but women rose up to clarify that all voices must be heard in our democracy.

Jim Crow once divided the nation, but civil rights champions rose up to clarify that all are entitled to equal protection under the law. We do not take this step to divide. And at this moment, this committee can rise up to clarify that under the constitution here in America no one is above the law.

There are some who have asked, why should it matter, that Donald Trump pressured a foreign government to target an American citizen for political gain and at the same time withheld without justification $391 million in military aid from a vulnerable Ukraine that remains at war with Russian-backed separatists in the east. Why should it matter?

Perhaps Ronald Reagan posited the best answer. When he delivered a speech at the foot of the Berlin Wall in 1987 and stated East and West do not mistrust each other because we are armed, we are armed because we mistrust each other. And our differences are not about weapons, but about liberty. That is at the heart of the Trump-Ukraine scandal, liberty, national security, abuse of power. America is the leader of the free world. We play that role because it is in the best interests of the national security of the United States. We play that role because we believe in liberty and justice for all. We play that role because freedom is in our DNA. Freedom from oppression, freedom from tyranny, freedom from abuse of power, freedom is in our DNA.

What role should this committee play in defending freedom? The House is a separate and co-equal branch of government. We don't work for this President or any president. We work for the American people.

We have a constitutional responsibility to serve as a check and balance on an out of control executive branch. That is not the Democratic Party playbook. That is the playbook in a democratic republic.

James Madison once wrote in Federalist 51 that the House should serve as a rival to the executive branch. Why would Madison use the word rival? It's because the framers of the constitution did not want a king, they did not want a monarch, they did not want a dictator, they wanted a democracy.

The House Judiciary Committee must defend our democracy, because in America no one is above the law, not even the President of the United States. We must hold this President accountable for his stunning abuse of power. We must hold this President accountable for undermining America's national security. We must hold this President accountable for corrupting our democracy. We must impeach this President.

We can't stop. We won't stop. The constitution is sacredly obligatory upon all. I yield back.

[20:40:07]

NADLER: Gentleman yields back. Mr. Gaetz.

REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): House Democrats aren't clarifying that no one's above the law. They're just clarifying that none of them are above partisanship and politics. This is the quickest, thinnest, weakest most partisan impeachment in all of American presidential history. And for all the radical leftist attacks on the President's honesty, it's their lies that continue to fuel this scorched earth strategy of impeachment.

When a member of this committee said that President Trump was an agent of the Russian government engaged in a criminal conspiracy with the Russians, he lied. Needing a new way to undermine our President, the Democrats said he obstructed justice, but they couldn't make the case. They didn't have the facts. And there are no obstruction of justice articles in this impeachment.

So needing another new distraction, Chairman Schiff announced a whistleblower. He said we'd hear from this person about bad presidential conduct. Some in the media reported on the whistleblower raising serious concerns about political bias and proper motivation and scandalous coordination with a political hit job aligned with none other than the operatives of Chairman Adam Schiff.

With public opinion turning against impeachment, the Democrats scurried to assemble focus groups and commission polls. They learned that accusing the President of bribery would be good politics. While Democrats House members are willing to follow the pundits and consultants, the evidence and the witnesses were not.

Even their seemingly most anti-Trump witness, Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, said I was never involved in anything that I would consider bribery or extortion. Lo and behold, there are now no bribery articles in this impeachment, another lie.

But the biggest lie of all was that House Democrats would not put our beautiful nation through a partisan impeachment. Speaker Pelosi said there must be evidence that is compelling and bipartisan. Chairman Nadler said impeachment should not be partisan. And tonight, they stubbornly defy the standard that they set for themselves.

Not only has this week case failed to convince the President's supporters to abandon him, they can't even convince the President's congressional critics to go along with this sham. Democrats Jeff Van Drew and Collin Peterson don't support the President, but they don't support this hot garbage impeachment either.

Congressman Will Hurd is a critic of the President, he told you the truth. This is not impeachable. After years of pointless and endless investigations against the President, this witch hunt is no longer simply troublesome. It has become deeply and excruciatingly tiresome. It's time to move on. The American people hate this, and it's making some of them hate us.

This is nothing more than these sloppy straight to DVD, Ukrainian sequel to the failed Russia hoax. And if it seems like you've seen this movie before, it's because you have and we know how the cycle goes.

Last night's CNN or MSNBC promised smoking gun turns into today's disappointing nothing burger. It's like Democrats forgot they're trying to impeach President Trump for delivering military aid that President Obama himself withheld.

And so now with no crime, no victim, House Democrats impeach because they have no agenda for America. Impeachment has become reflexive for Democrats. It's what they've wanted all along. Impeachment is their passion, their drug, their all consuming ambition and obsession, and has been since the moment they stopped crying at the Hillary Clinton election night sob fest.

They say President Trump abused his power, a sad low energy placeholder for an actual impeachable offense. President Trump's true crime in their eyes was winning the 2016 election against all odds and against the establishment of both parties.

The only relevant quid pro quo is the American people's decision to send President Trump to the White House and exchange for Trump's commitment to support our workers, restore our economy, defend our troops and drain the swamp.

How dare they accuse the President Trump of abusing his power when they have released the phone records of journalists and congressmen contrived a kangaroo court and subjected this administration to more harassment than any other American history? They are the sorest of sore losers.

The second article accuses President Trump of obstructing Congress. If obstruction in Congress is an impeachable offense, maybe we best impeach ourselves. For this fact free impeachment has obstructed progress on a budget, on border security, on an infrastructure plan and on economic reforms that will put America and the American people first.

The American people know what this is really about. It's not about Ukraine. It's not about Russia. It's not about the Democrats nosiness into the executive decision making process. It's about the election.

[20:45:03]

And so to the America First movement, we will face this illegitimate impeachment with our heads high, our facts straight and our commitment to our transformational President deeply intensified. We'll see on the field in 2020.

NADLER: Gentleman yields back. Mr. Cicilline.

REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D-RI): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Since our founders ratified the constitution in 1788, the President of the United States has had a duty to advance our national interests, not his own personal or political interest.

220 years later, a congressman on this committee said, "This business of high crimes and misdemeanors goes to the question of whether or not the person serving as President of the United States put their own interests, their personal interests ahead of public service." The congressman who said that was Mike Pence, and he was exactly right.

Impeachable offenses as Alexander Hamilton explained are, "abuses of public trust, injuries done to society itself." High crimes, in other words, are abuses of power committed against the people. This is exactly what President Trump has done.

And yet, I have to admit, I think the President's distractions are working, because most folks are probably sitting at home thinking, what in the world has any of this got to do with me? How does stopping foreign aid to Ukraine actually affect my life? That's why with my time, I want to take a step back and remind everybody in this body and everyone watching at home what this is really about.

President Donald J. Trump wielded the enormous powers of the presidency to cheat in the 2020 election, specifically, he used our nation's leverage over an ally, undermining our national security to try to smear the opponent he feared most in the general election. That wasn't an attack on Vice President Biden, it was an attack on our democracy. And if we don't hold the President accountable for it, we will set a catastrophic precedent. Anytime a future president is afraid of losing reelection, they'll feel entitled to do whatever it takes to win, even if they have to abuse their power to do it.

If we set that precedent, if we decide the president is above the law, then we will no longer live in a democracy. We will live in a dictatorship trading the values of Madison for the values of Moscow. That's why this should matter to every single person watching tonight.

Because if the President gets away with trying to cheat in the 2020 election, he will no longer be responsive to the will of the people. That means he could launch wars, sending young people into harm's way without worrying about facing repercussions at the ballot box. They can continue to separate children from their parents and lock them in cages, not worrying about public outrage.

He could take away your healthcare, pocket your tax dollars, do whatever he wants. If the President can cheat to win reelection, the people lose their voice and he's no longer a president, he's a king.

I'm proud to represent the great state of Rhode Island, the very first state that said enough to King George III. And once again, I am here on behalf of my state to say enough. In America, we don't bow to the president, because he works for us, we the people.

But here's the thing. The people don't vote on impeachment, Congress does. So before I close, I want to speak directly to my Republican friends. Wake up. Stop thinking about running for reelection. Stop worrying about being primary. Stop deflecting and distracting and treating those you represent as if they don't see what's going on. Like they're not smart enough to realize that you are willfully ignoring the facts to protect a corrupt and dangerous president.

Do what you were elected to do. You didn't swear an oath to Donald Trump. You swore an oath to protect and defend the constitution of the United States. Honor that oath. Reach deep within yourselves to find the courage to do and the evidence requires and the constitution demands to put our country above your party.

All of you have, all you have to do is look at the evidence before you because it will leave you with only one answer. This President must be impeached. Our democracy, for our constitution, for the people you represent, and for all who will inherit our country from us, I pray you will do the right thing.

And despite everything that has happened these past few months, I still have hope in my heart that you will. And with that I yield back.

NADLER: Gentleman yields better. Mr. Johnson.

[20:50:01]

REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate that, Mr. Cicilline and I was going to make a request to my colleagues and friends on the other side as well just to put country over party, also.

We're looking at the same set of facts with two totally different ways. Look, the founders of this country warned against a single party impeachment. You know why? You guys know why. Because they feared it would bitterly and perhaps irreparably divide our nation. And years past, that risk was openly acknowledged by the very Democrats who are leading this single party impeachment charade today. Some of you are famously quoted in saying so.

Our radical liberal colleagues have vowed to impeach President Donald J. Trump since the day of his election. They have desperately created a fraudulent unprecedented process to pursue that goal. And now, they're pulling the trigger on what was described by Professor Turley in his expert testimony here just several days ago, "The shortest proceeding with the thinnest evidentiary record and the narrowest grounds ever used to impeach an American president."

We've called this impeachment a sham because we just simply don't have a better way to describe it. House Democrats have been working to impeach Donald Trump since the very beginning. They introduced four separate impeachment resolutions while they were in the minority in 2017 and 2018, and a new resolution on January -- in January 2019, right, when they took the majority.

In all, as many as 95 House Democrats, listen, 95 of them, including 16 of the 24 Democrats sitting on the other side of the room in this committee, have already voted to proceed with impeachment. And they did it well before the famous phone call between Presidents Trump and Zelensky that took place in July of 2019.

Although every previous U.S. president has made unpopular decisions and even at times infuriated his political opponents, impeachments are for good reason and by specific design exceedingly rare. In the 243- year history of our nation, only two previous presidents, Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998, had been impeached by the House. Richard Nixon, of course, resigned to avoid it.

And each of those three previous impeachments, evidence clearly established that specific criminal acts were committed, and that is not the case here. The language of the constitution in Article II Section 4 shows the inherent weakness of the current case. And you got to look at these details, because Democrats found no evidence of treason or bribery or any high crime or misdemeanor against President Trump.

But of course, they'd already promised his impeachment to their liberal base, so they felt they had no choice. They felt they had to default. And what did they come up with? These two amorphous articles, we've got abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Abuse of power is a non-criminal act. It is significant. The Democrats made this their first article in their document.

As Professor Turley testified in January, the country's never impeach the president solely or largely on the basis of a non-criminal abuse of power allegation because it is so amorphous, it's debatable. It's very subjective. In this case, there has to be, he said, clear and unequivocal proof of a quid pro quo. That does not exist here.

Democrats know there's zero direct evidence in the record of these proceedings to prove their case and it's rather shocking that they built their impeachment articles on mere hearsay, speculation and conjecture. That wouldn't even be admissible in your local traffic court.

Democrats include bold allegations that are completely unsupported by the evidentiary record. For example, Article I alleges corrupt purposes or intent at least eight times but presents zero proof for the claim. There's also zero proof that, for example, President Trump was pursuing personal benefit or ignored or injured the interest of the country. The contrary, the record is clear he was doing exactly the opposite.

There's four indisputable facts in a record today that clearly destroyed this case. Both President Trump and President Zelensky say there was no pressure exerted. The July 25th call transcript shows no conditionality between aid funding and an investigation. Ukraine was not aware that aid was delayed when the President spoke and Ukraine never opened an investigation but still received aid and a meeting with President Trump.

The real abuse of power here is on the part of the House Democrats as they have recklessly pursued impeachment and they've done so at the detriment of our rules, our procedures and our constitutionally guaranteed due process.

There's no way that they have obstructed Congress here or they have a legitimate claim to that, because that's what every president has done in the modern era. All the president did was assert a legitimate executive privilege and immunity to avoid subpoenas to various White House officials, but that's always been resolved in the third branch of government and the courts. They don't have time for that, because they're afraid that Donald Trump is going to get reelected. And in fact, that he may get reelected by an even larger margin.

They can't stand this President. They bristle at literally everything he does. But in our system, Congress doesn't get to remove a president just because they don't like them. They don't get to ignore the constitution just because they abort his policies, his staff members or his manner of speaking. When the rule of law in our system rules, we all do better and it has to be followed, defended and preserved.

I pray that we can still do that when this charade is over and after this dangerous precedent is set for the future of this blessed nation. I would say this again as I did in the last hearing, God help us. I yield back.

[20:55:03]

NADLER: Gentleman yields back. Mr. Swalwell. REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): When I was five, my dad was the police chief about going to Iowa. He was and still is a law and order guy, everything by the book. So that year when the county fair was going on and the fire chief called him and told him that cars were parked illegally in the fire lane, it wasn't a close call from my dad. He knew what to do.

Trouble was the owners of those cars were the mayor and a few council members who believe that their titles allowed them to park wherever they wanted. My dad warned that they were compromising the safety of other fairgoers and that they must move. They just laughed at my dad and kept their cars there. And my dad stuck to his guns and at the next city council meeting, he was summoned by the mayor and told he was to fix the tickets or be fired.

My dad believed no one was above the law and held firm. He lost his job and we packed up our little family and moved west. It was my first lesson in politics, abuse of power and executive arrogance. And watching these proceedings, and watching my colleagues across the aisle ignore and deny facts and blind defense of the President of the United States, I'm certain that had they been an Algona, they too, would have supported that law of smear.

Their behavior has been a reminder that too often in politics there's more of an emphasis of keeping your job rather than doing the right thing. But governance is about courage. Think about the courage displayed by the witnesses who came forward in this investigation, people like Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, and Dr. Fiona Hill.

They knew the price they would pay for their truthful testimony. They knew that they would be smeared by supporters of the President, and sadly, even by the President himself. They knew their careers could be impacted, perhaps forever. But they told the truth anyway and they held fast for the oath to the constitution.

If they can show that type of courage and risk everything, why can't my Republican colleagues? The facts here are not in dispute. Donald Trump abused his power by putting his pure personal gain over our country.

Here are the facts. Donald Trump directed Rudy Giuliani to smear his political rival. Donald Trump fired an anti-corruption ambassador who stood in his way. Donald Trump withheld $391 million in aid that was essential to Ukraine. And Donald Trump withheld a White House meeting, unless Ukraine's president would do him a favor.

In this scheme, Donald Trump was not an incidental player. He was the central player. And anything we don't know about what Donald Trump did is because Donald Trump continues to this moment to block us from knowing. Donald Trump used his office to abuse his power to reelect himself. Those are your taxpayer dollars. Those are your votes. And that's our national security.

This is no longer about what the President did. We know what he did. He admitted it. This is about what will we do? And my colleagues are laying a bet that the hard working people in Dublin, California and Hayward, California and my district or a mom in Michigan or a farmer in Wisconsin aren't following this and don't care, despite how unquestionable the facts are in support of impeachment.

But I have faith in the American people and I know that they know right from wrong, just as my father did. And I know that regardless of the title of person holds, no one can abuse their power.

Imagine you're a kid with a paper route, it's the first job that so many Americans have held, and the owner of the local paper tells you, you're due for a raise, and I'm going to give you that raise, but first, I need you to remove our competitors' paper from every house on your route.

A 10-year-old should know right from wrong, but our children will only know right from wrong if we lead by example. Wrong is wrong from your workplace to the White House. There's no time to spare here. No time to waste. This is a constitutional crime spree.

[21:00:00]