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House Is Debating Rules For The Impeachment Of President Trump. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired December 18, 2019 - 10:30   ET

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


[10:30:00]

SMITH: Thank you, gentleman. Mr. Speaker, I -- Ms. -- Madam Speaker, I ask for unanimous consent to amend H.R. 767 to provide for 12 hours of debate, equally divided by the majority and the minority, which would allow each member of the House at least one minute and 40 seconds of debate as opposed to currently 50 seconds.

The people's representatives deserve the right -- more right of more than 50 seconds to be heard in this important matter.

SPEAKER: All time for -- has been yielded, as I said, for the purpose of debate by the gentleman from Massachusetts. Does the gentleman from Massachusetts yield for this unanimous consent request?

MCGOVERN: I do not.

SPEAKER: The gentleman from Massachusetts does not yield. Therefore, this unanimous consent request cannot be entertained. Gentleman from Oklahoma?

COLE: Thank you very much, Madam Speaker. I want to yield four minutes to my good friend, the distinguished member of both the Energy and Commerce Committee and the House Rules Committee. Dr. Burgess of the great state of Texas.

SPEAKER: Gentleman's recognized for four minutes.

BURGESS: I thank the gentleman for yielding. Madam Speaker, yesterday the Rules Committee spent eight hours considering whether to bring H.Res. 755, the articles of impeachment, to the House floor. Given the 4:9 ratio of Republicans to Democrats on the committee, it is no surprise that we are now considering the articles before us.

Despite robust debate on the so-called facts derived from the impeachment investigation and the process by which they were obtained, Democrats and Republicans remain in opposition to each other on our conclusions.

As outlined yesterday by Ranking Member Collins and several members of the Rules Committee through direct quotes, some Democrats have been seeking President Trump's impeachment since his inauguration. The rush to impeach first and solidify the case second threatens the credibility of the process and threatens the credibility of the body engaged, this very House of Representatives.

In fact, he's been quoted before, he'll be quoted again today I suspect -- Chairman Nadler recognized the gravity of impeachment when he stated in December of 1998, quoting here, "the effect of impeachment is to overturn the popular will of the voters as expressed in a national election. There must never be a narrowly voted impeachment or an impeachment substantially supported by one of our major political parties and largely opposed by the other. Such an impeachment would lack legitimacy and produce divisiveness and bitterness in our politics for years to come and will call into question the very legitimacy of our political institutions," end quote.

Well, on October 31st, this House voted to authorize the official impeachment investigation in H.Res. 660. The Process outlined in H.Res. 660 did not include the robust minority protections afforded the minority party in previous impeachment investigations. Even more concerning, Chairman Nadler, Chairman Schiff refused to comply with the very rules of the House in granting access to committee records for members and scheduling a minority hearing in a reasonable amount of time, thus preventing the American people from being equally represented in the process.

Refusing to allow members to access their own records -- these are records of members of the House of Representatives -- and we were not allowed to access these records obtained down in secret, under armed guard in the Intelligence Committee, but it's required under Section 2E, Rule 11. They've denied members the ability to do their job.

The Judiciary Committee did not hear testimony from even one fact witness -- not even one after they received a deluge of materials from the Intelligence Committee. This reversal of responsibility is indeed unprecedented. But turning to the case upon which the argument is based, we had a whistleblower, a -- not a fact witness, a whistleblower who never appeared before any member of Congress that we know of, a whistleblower complaint concerning a congratulatory call between President Trump and President Zelensky of the Ukraine.

The whistleblower is known to have had contact with Chairman Schiff's staff while Republicans were denied any contact. The whistleblower complaint is not based on firsthand knowledge and the call transcript that was to support impeachment reveals nothing more than a congratulatory phone call.

Look, our request for investigations to how American foreign aid will be spent does not -- does not equal soliciting election interference. The evidence brought before us does not amount to a high crime. Indeed, it does not amount to any crime.

Democrats claim that we must protect the integrity of our election. Look, if you really cared then I have to ask what are we missing while we've been focused on impeachment?

[10:35:00]

We tied up the Intelligence Committee. We've tied up the Judiciary Committee, and oh, by the way, the Ways and Means Committee had to give up their room. They couldn't even meet while you were doing all of this.

So this impeachment investigation is being painted as a protection against future interference, when in reality, President Trump's request looks back at the 2016 election.

Russia -- Russia is the winner in this exchange because they have disrupted the process.

SPEAKER: The gentleman's time's expired.

BURGESS: I yield back to the gentleman from Oklahoma.

SPEAKER: The gentleman from Massachusetts.

MCGOVERN: Madam Speaker, the -- the gentleman is passionate about records. I should remind him that we've gotten no records from this White House, not a single document.

At this time, I'd like to yield one and a half minutes to the gentlewoman from Florida, our distinguished member of the Rules Committee, Ms. Shalala.

SPEAKER: Gentlelady's recognized for one and a half minutes.

SHALALA: Madam Speaker, I come to impeachment with deep sadness. The facts of this case are painful and indisputable.

We know that the president illegally held up congressionally- appropriated aid to the Ukraine. We know that he conditioned the release of this aid on Ukrainian President Zelensky's opening an investigation based on a debunked conspiracy theory about his political rival and foreign interference in the 2016 election. We also know that the president has actively blocked congressional attempts to determine the extent of his misconduct by ordering executive branch officials to defy subpoenas and withhold information.

Despite the unprecedented obstruction from the president, the evidence in this case is powerful enough that to delay this vote any further would risk interference in the 2020 election and the permanent erosion of our system of checks and balances.

Madam Speaker, this is not a matter of politics; This is a matter of protecting the integrity of our democracy for the next generation. As we labor to pass on to future generations many of the great hallmarks of our society, we must also work with active stewardship and vigilance to pass on a vibrant and functional democracy. If we don't do our duty to protect the Constitution, the republic that we hand to our children will be less vibrant.

If we do not do our duty to protect the Constitution, the republic that we hand to our children will be less resilient and less effective. The...

SPEAKER: Gentlelady's time's expired. Gentleman from Oklahoma.

COLE: Thank you very much, Madam Speaker. Madam Speaker, I yield four minutes to my very good friend and fellow member of the Rules Committee and of the Judiciary Committee, the gentlelady from Arizona, Ms. Lesko.

SPEAKER: Gentlelady's recognized.

LESKO: Thank you, Mr. Cole, for yielding me the time.

Madam Speaker, you know, God takes us on journeys in our life, and about 30 years ago I was married to an abusive ex-husband. And when I finally left him, there were times in my life I had no money, no place to live. And I tell you what: I never dreamed in a million years that I would be standing here today as a congresswoman in the United States House of Representatives. And I tell you what: I never would have believed that I would be standing here talking about impeachment of a president of the United States.

I serve on the Judiciary Committee. I also serve on the Rules Committee. I have spent hours and hours and hours reading transcripts, looking at documents, hearing testimony, and I can tell you one thing: I believe this is the most unfair, politically-biased, rigged process that I have seen in my entire life.

Here are the facts: There is no proof -- none -- that the president has committed an impeachable offense. Not one of the Democrat witnesses -- not one -- was able to establish that the president committed bribery, treason or high crimes and misdemeanors, as required in the U.S. Constitution.

[10:40:00]

And as I've said before, the Democrats are really undermining their own -- own argument here because 17 out of the 24 Democrat members on the Judiciary Committee voted here on this floor to put forward, move forward articles of impeachment on July 17th of this year, before the -- President Trump's call even took place. And five out of the nine Rules Committee members that are Democrats did the same thing.

So if your argument is that this phone call is the main reason for this impeachable offense, why did you vote for impeachment -- moving impeachment forward before the call even took place?

The process has been rigged from the start. My members -- other members have told you. I mean, never in the history of the United States have we had impeachment that's gone through the Intelligence Committee in closed-door hearings; where a member of the Judiciary Committee, myself, wasn't even able to ask one single question of a fact witness.

The whole thing's been rigged; been unfair. In the process that you had set forth, you made sure that the president didn't have any right to have his counsel there until Judiciary, but by then it was too late. It was too late, because there was no fact witnesses allowed in Judiciary. So I couldn't even ask a question, nor could the president.

This is the most partisan impeachment in the history of the United States. Not one Republican voted for it in Judiciary Committee, not one Republican voted for it in Rules, and not one Republican, I don't think, is going to vote for it here today.

Madam Speaker, this is a sad day. I believe the Democrats are tearing this country apart. They're tearing families apart. May God continue to bless all of you, may God continue to bless the president of the United States, and may God continue to bless our great nation.

And I yield back.

SPEAKER: Members are reminded to direct their comments to the chair.

Gentleman from Massachusetts.

MCGOVERN: Madam Speaker, if Republicans want to defend the president's indefensible behavior, they can -- they can do so. But I would urge my colleagues to stand up for the Constitution and to stand up for this country and our democracy.

At this point, I'd like to yield one and a half minutes to the gentleman from California, a distinguished member of the Rules Committee, Mr. DeSaulnier.

SPEAKER: Gentleman's recognized for one and a half minutes.

DESAULNIER: Thank you, Madam Speaker, and I want to take a minute to thank the leadership of the Rules Committee, Mr. McGovern and Mr. Cole, for our civility last night. Although it was a long hearing and we are very much in disagreement, I felt proud to be part of that hearing, and I really want to recognize both the ranking member and the chair.

The previous speaker is part of that Rules Committee, and I would just say that the passion that she demonstrated in her comments, I can't say how much I completely disagree with her, which is a statement on the environment we find ourselves in, and I unfortunately agree with some of her comments. But where the responsibility is, I would -- I would put at the White House and the president. He is the divisive one. He is not trying to heal our wounds.

The reality and urgency of this moment cannot be more consequential to the American democracy. This is not a hypothetical. President Trump violated the law and so solicited foreign interference in our election.

At the same time, objective experts have overwhelming evidence that Russia interfered in the 2016 election and is actively engaged in undermining the 2020 elections. Our vote today and the Senate's actions on impeachment have very real long-term consequences for American democracy. Where do we go from here if the Senate does not remove him?

The president has a pattern of escalating behavior. The day before the special counsel testified to Congress that the Russian government interfered in our election in sweeping and systemic fashion, President Trump made this call. Two days before that, the president says that Article 2 of the Constitution says that he can do whatever he wants.

As Washington warned in his farewell address, foreign interference tampers with domestic factions and misleads public opinion. We must honor the nation that our founders envisioned and impeach this president for violating law and betraying the American people.

I yield back.

SPEAKER: Gentleman from Oklahoma.

COLE: Thank you very much, Madam Speaker. I yield two minutes to my very good friend, a distinguished member of the Armed Services Committee, former member of the Rules Committee, Mr. Byrne of Alabama.

SPEAKER: Gentleman's recognized for two minutes.

BYRNE: Madam Speaker, I rise in strong opposition to the rule and the underlying resolution to impeach President Trump.

[10:45:00]

When the framers granted the House the power to impeach, they feared that it would be abused. Today those fears are realized. In record speed this majority has assembled hearsay, speculation, and presumptions for the purpose of overturning the 2016 election.

We're not here today days before Christmas because the majority has assembled a case against President Trump. No, we're here today because the Democrat majority believes getting impeachment done now will provide their (inaudible) members time to distance themselves from their vote.

But I assure you, Madam Speaker, the American people are watching. Many of my colleagues have, from day one, rejected the people's choice of President Trump, but another president will come along more to the majority's liking. Our actions here today will be remembered and will set the standard.

The second article of impeachment seeks to remove President Trump for failure to produce certain requested witnesses and documents. But as the majority knows, every president in history has asserted executive privilege. The House has a legal avenue to challenge the president, the courts. But the majority has skipped this step, showing that this is about impeachment, as fast as possible, however possible.

Most of my friends on the other side of the aisle had no problem backing President Obama when he stonewalled the House for years to block our quest to find out the truth in the "Fast and Furious" investigation. That is why I filed an amendment to the resolution, rejected by the Rules Committee, saying, based upon the Democratic majority's standard, they should have written articles of impeachment against President Obama and Eric Holder.

I wish my colleagues would think about the standard being set. I predict that they will very soon regret it.

And I yield back.

SPEAKER: The gentleman yields back.

The gentleman from Massachusetts.

MCGOVERN: Madam Speaker, I yield one minute to the gentlewoman from California, our distinguished member of the Rules Committee, Ms. Torres.

SPEAKER: The gentlelady is recognized for one minute.

TORRES: Madam Speaker, the facts are clear. To quote the USA Today editorial board: "Trump used your tax dollars to shake down a vulnerable foreign government to interfere in a U.S. election for his personal benefit."

The rule of law is what gives our great country its strength. The rule of law is what separates us from third world countries where dictators reign for decades on end. The rule of law is what makes us the envy of the world, the place that other countries look to as they grow their own democracies. And it is the rule of law that brings us here today.

We never want to see the rule of law deteriorate or rampant corruption take hold. We never want to see the day when future generations flee for refuge in another country the way that others are seeking refuge in our southern border right now.

I urge my colleagues to vote yes. American values and our Constitution are worth fighting for.

SPEAKER: The gentleman from Oklahoma.

COLE: Thank you, Madam Speaker. I yield two minutes to my very good friend, distinguished lady from Indiana, Ms. Walorski, also distinguished member of the Ways and Means Committee.

SPEAKER: The gentlelady is recognized for two minutes.

WALORSKI: Thank you, Madam Speaker.

I rise today in direct opposition to this rule and in opposition to the divisive bi -- partisanship that is on display in this House of Representatives. It's no secret the Democrats have wanted to impeach President Trump since day one, regardless of any fact. They knew the result they wanted. They just needed time to figure out how to get there.

So they began their impeachment inquiry behind closed doors, selective leaks, instead of transparency. No due process. Once they crafted their perfect narrative, they moved on to public hearings. They hoped the American people wouldn't notice that they failed to uncover one piece of evidence to justify impeachment.

They failed to make the case for this drastic action, and, yet, here we are. For the first time in history a president is on the brink of being impeached with the votes of one single party. But let's be clear about one thing, this impeachment obsession is not about accountability. It's not about justice. It's not even about the Constitution.

It's about pure partisan politics at its worse. And you're watching it right here. And the American people see right through this today. They've seen the rigged process. They've seen the lack of transparency and the complete absence of any supporting evidence.

[10:50:00]

They know that Washington is broken. That's why they sent us here to fix it.

But instead, House Democrats are dividing the country and further shaking the people's trust in this Congress. It's a sham impeachment. It's been carried out at the expense of hardworking Americans, who just want us to move forward.

Madam Speaker, this charade should go no farther. We should stop wasting time, focus on what keeps our nation moving forward, helping workers and families thrive, protecting the safety and security of our country.

I urge my colleagues to vote against the rule so we can get back to work for the American people.

And I yield back.

SPEAKER: The gentlelady yields back.

Gentleman from Massachusetts?

MCGOVERN: Madam Speaker, I yield one minute to the gentleman from New Mexico, the assistant speaker, Mr. Lujan.

SPEAKER: The gentleman is recognized for one minute.

LUJAN: Madam Speaker, no one came to Congress to impeach a president. We came here to solve the mighty issues that impact the lives of the constituents we pledge to serve. I'm here because too many families in my district still rely on water trucked in from dozens of miles away. I'm here because too many New Mexican children still go to school hungry. I'm here because too many women in New Mexico drive for hours to find a doctor able to care for them.

But this moment has found us. We have reached a point in time where our love of country compels action, where our duty to this republic mandates that we do what's right. The president's behavior is so blatantly wrong that ignoring his abuses of power would be abdicating the oath we made to protect this country and uphold our Constitution.

Thank you and I yield back.

SPEAKER: The gentleman yields back. Gentleman from Oklahoma?

COLE: Thank you, Madam Speaker.

Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

SPEAKER: The gentleman is recognized.

COLE: Thank you, Madam Speaker.

If we defeat the previous question, I will offer an amendment on the rule, the House shall not proceed to consideration of the underlying resolution until six conditions are met. All evidence in the possession of Chairman Schiff has been made available to the Judiciary Committee.

That (ph) Chairman Schiff appear before the Judiciary Committee to testify to the report that he authored, that all underlying unclassified evidence has been made available to the public, minority members of the Judiciary Committee have received their right to minority hearing day, minority witnesses requested by the ranking -- by Ranking Member Nunes and Ranking Member Collins are called and allowed to be heard in accordance with H.Res. 660, and subpoenas requested by the ranking -- by Ranking Member Nunes and the Intelligence Committee are issued in force.

Madam Speaker, to be clear, my amendment ensures that the majority does not proceed without providing a fair and equitable and transparent process, one that respects minority rights, ones that opens up the investigation to all members of the House and one that allows Republicans on the Judiciary Committee to examine the most relevant witnesses.

Perhaps most crucially, that will allow all members to fully consider the information available to the committee that actually conducted the impeachment investigation, the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

The process the House has followed has been abysmal. It was closed, an unfair process and did not respect minority rights and did not give the president due process. But we can change that today. If we defeat the previous question, the House will only move forward with a real thorough and ultimately fair process that all members can be proud.

Madam Speaker, I ask unanimous consent to insert the text of my amendment in the record along with extraneous material immediately prior to the vote on the previous question.

With that, I urge...

SPEAKER: Without objection, so ordered.

COLE: ... no vote on the previous question. And I yield one minute to my good friend, gentleman from Georgia, Mr. Hice.

HICE: Thank my... SPEAKER: The gentleman is recognize for one minute.

HICE: I thank my good friend.

The majority has thrown almost every allegation imaginable against this president. And yet these articles of impeachment that have been submitted cannot name a single actual crime. After all the drama, the majority has not found a single shred of evidence, only second, third, fourth-hand information.

But the facts have remained the same, the transcript speaks for itself. There was no quid pro quo. The Ukrainian government said multiple times, they felt no pressure whatsoever. The aid ultimately came, and even Speaker Pelosi said that this whole thing would have compelling, overwhelming bipartisan support. None of those things exist.

I urge my colleagues to stand against the rule and the forthcoming articles of impeachment. This is a disgrace and dangerous to America and I urge a no.

With that, I yield...

SPEAKER: Gentleman yields back.

HICE: ... back.

SPEAKER: Gentleman from Massachusetts?

MCGOVERN: Madam Speaker, I yield one minute to the distinguished gentlewoman from Massachusetts, Ms. Clark.

SPEAKER: The gentlelady is recognized for one minute.

[10:55:00]

CLARK: Madam Speaker, to paraphrase one of our founding mothers, Abigail Adams, a people may let a president fall, yet still remain a people. But if a president lets his people slip from him, he is no longer a president.

Just as Abigail Adams warned, Donald Trump has let the people slip from him. He works for himself, not us. He tried to extort a foreign government into investigating a political rival, and he has unlawfully withheld witnesses and evidence.

If we want a democracy, today we must stand for the rule of law. A vote to impeach is a vote to remain a government that is of, for and by the people. It is a vote borne of great fear for our future, but also rooted in optimism that if we stand for the truth, for our Constitution, we can continue to create a country of liberty, justice and equality for all.

I yield the remainder of my time.

SPEAKER: Gentlelady yields back. Gentleman from Oklahoma?

COLE: Might I inquire, Madam Speaker, how much time we have remaining?

SPEAKER: Gentleman from Oklahoma has five and one-quarter minutes remaining.

COLE: Thank...

SPEAKER: Gentleman from Massachusetts has 13 and a quarter minutes remaining.

COLE: Thank you very much, Madam Speaker. I yield 90 seconds to my good friend, the distinguished gentleman from New York, Mr. Zeldin.

SPEAKER: The gentleman is recognized for a minute and a half.

ZELDIN: Thank you, Madam Speaker.

And my colleagues on the other side of the aisle throughout this whole process, their allies in the media, they like to say that Republicans only want to talk about process, not substance even though we continue to talk about substance as well. They declare their facts are uncontested.

They just did it again, so just to maybe recap a few for everyone watching at home as well as my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, hopefully they'll listen.

President Zelensky says there was no demand, no pressure, no quid pro quo. Andriy Yermak said, on December 10th, that their whole story with regards to the December 1st meeting with Ambassador Sondland is completely refuted.

We heard from Ambassador Sondland himself, who admitted that he heard from President Trump, that he didn't want any quid pro quo and that he was guessing when he stated otherwise. Ambassador Sondland, that is, said that he was guessing and that no one on the planet had told him otherwise.

Ambassador Volker tells us that President Zelensky didn't know that there was a hold on aid on July 25th. He didn't find out until after he read it in Politico on July 29th. The aid got released shortly thereafter, and Ukraine didn't have to do absolutely anything in order to get the hold released.

When our colleagues on the other side of the aisle says that the July 25th call transcript says, "Do me a favor," we have to correct it, time and again. It says "do us a favor." And if you look at that paragraph, it's only about Ukrainians interfering in the 2016 election.

Now, if you want to ignore the Chaly op-ed, Chalupa worked with Ukrainian embassy to dig up dirt, the black ledger, to bring down the Trump campaign. The -- whether it's Ivakov's statement or origins of the Steele dossier, these are all examples. Look at Ken Vogel's reporting from January 2017, it is irrefutable. These are all substance. So stop saying that the facts are uncontested.

I yield back.

SPEAKER: Gentleman from Massachusetts?

MCGOVERN: Madam Speaker, I ask unanimous consent to insert into the record page 69 of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence's November 20th open hearing, where a deputy assistant secretary of defense, Laura Cooper, testified that the Department of Defense was not able to distribute all of the aid, with $35 million not provided since it was released so late.

SPEAKER: Without objection, so ordered.

MCGOVERN: And I also ask unanimous consent to insert into the record a November 18th A.P. article entitled, "U.S. Officials Knew of Ukraine's Trump Anxiety."

SPEAKER: Without objection, so ordered.

MCGOVERN: At this point, Madam Speaker, I'm proud to yield one minute to the gentleman from Massachusetts, Mr. Kennedy.

SPEAKER: The gentleman is recognized for one minute.

KENNEDY: Dear Ellie and James: This is a moment that you'll read about in your history books. Today, I will vote to impeach the president of the United States. And I want you to know why. He broke our laws, he threatened our security, he abused the highest, most sacred office in our land.

I want you to know that it does not feel good. I can't stop thinking about the cost to our country, not just the impeachable offenses, but the collateral damage of a president who uses power like a weapon against his own people, erodes our decency, degrades our dignity.

[11:00:00]

END