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The Trump Impeachment Vote; Judiciary Committee Leads Debate; Ahead: Pelosi Speaks. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired December 18, 2019 - 14:00   ET

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


[14:00:00] CHABOT: That's not what our founding fathers intended. They wanted impeachment to be rare. They set a high bar for impeachment: treason, bribery, high crimes and misdemeanors.

Alleged abuse of power, the first article, is not a high crime and misdemeanor. In fact, it's not even a crime. And since there's no concise legal definition of abuse of power, the majority party in the House can designate nearly any disagreement with the president from now on an impeachable offense.

The second article, alleged obstruction of Congress, would produce a similarly dangerous precedent. Asserting executive privilege, a practice that began with George Washington, is not obstruction of Congress. Rather it's a function of the essential checks and balances contemplated under the Constitution.

Here's what nearly every grade school student in America knows but apparently House Democrats do not: If Congress disagrees with the president, if they don't agree with the president, take it to court. Let the third branch of government decide. They're the refs.

The House has never -- I repeat, never -- approved either abuse of power or obstruction of Congress as an Article of Impeachment, but that's going to change today. Today, House Democrats are pursuing a wacky constitutional theory under which all four presidents on Mount Rushmore could have been impeached.

If all of this sounds absurd, Madam Speaker, it's because it is absurd. In fact, this whole process is absurd and has been from the outset.

But here's what's not absurd but rather frightening: House Democrats today are setting a dangerous precedent under which no future president will be immune from impeachment and that will forever negatively tarnish the history of this house.

I yield back.

SPEAKER: Gentleman yields back.

Gentleman from New York.

NADLER: Madam Speaker, the president's conduct constituted the highest of high crimes against our country. An offense does not have to violate a criminal statute to be impeachable. That was confirmed in President Nixon's case and again in President Clinton's. There is no higher crime than for the president to use the power of his office to corrupt our elections.

I now yield one minute to the gentleman from Wisconsin, Mr. Pocan.

SPEAKER: Gentleman's recognized for one minute.

POCAN: Thank you, Madam Speaker.

This July, President Trump blocked $400 million in congressionally approved aid that Ukraine desperately needed to defend itself against Russia because he needed Ukraine to do him a favor first. He asked the president of Ukraine to launch a public investigation into a political rival. Military aid and other benefits would only come after.

But this is not about a single call or a single transcript. This is about a perfect storm: months of activity directly ordered by the president to his senior Cabinet and political appointees, an orchestrated plan demanding a foreign power interfere in our democracy.

President Trump betrayed his oath of office. He abused the power of his office for personal and political gain and has refused to cooperate with a coequal branch of government.

This is a vote for our Constitution setting the precedent for all future president, Democrat or Republican. Donald Trump must be held accountable for his actions. Today we send a clear signal to this president and all future presidents: No one is above the law.

I yield back.

SPEAKER: Gentleman from Georgia.

COLLINS: Thank you, Madam Speaker.

This time I yield a minute and a half to the gentleman from Kansas, Mr. Marshall.

SPEAKER: Gentleman's recognized for a minute and a half.

MARSHALL: I rise today in opposition to the impeachment of a legitimately elected president of the United States.

Enough. Madam Speaker, for the love of this country, enough. Enough of this impeachment circus. Enough of these sham witch hunts.

I'm voting no because the president has done nothing wrong. The only thing that President Trump is guilty of is doing the things he said he would do. And if my Democrat colleagues were honest, they'd tell us the only thing President Trump is guilty of is not being Hillary Clinton.

The only party guilty of obstruction, abuse of power or whatever focus group term they're using today is the party on the other side of this aisle. They're obstructing the will of the American people. They're obstructing the very foundations of our country. By politically weaponizing impeachment, they have dangerously shattered precedent and abused our Constitution. They alone will bear this responsibility.

Madam Speaker, they'll fail. And it's no wonder the American people don't trust this body. It's past time be done with this circus and get to the work that matters, like securing our borders and passing trade deals.

I will vote no and encourage this body to move on from this heartbreaking, disgraceful day to things that actually matter.

I yield back.

SPEAKER: Gentleman yields back.

Gentleman from New York.

NADLER: Madam Speaker, I now yield one minute to the gentleman from North Carolina, Mr. Price.

SPEAKER: Gentleman is recognized for one minute.

[14:05:00]

PRICE: Madam Speaker, the moment our -- the moment our founders anticipated in establishing the power of impeachment has arrived.

The evidence is clear: President Trump abuses his power by asking a vulnerable foreign leader to investigate both his political rival in a baseless Russian conspiracy theory, while withholding congressionally appropriated defense aid and a coveted White House visit. He then blocked congressional investigation into these abuses.

These abuses threaten the integrity of our elections, they corrupt our diplomacy and they undermine national security.

We sometimes regard constitutional checks and balances as the indestructible underpinnings of our democracy. In fact, they're not fixed, they're not indestructible. The president has demonstrated this beyond all doubt.

It's up to the Congress, the first branch of government, to apply the remedy that the Constitution prescribes, because the threats to our democracy are real and present.

With this vote we affirm that no one, including the president, is above the law.

SPEAKER: Gentleman from Georgia.

COLLINS: Thank you, Madam Speaker.

I yield a minute and a half to the gentleman from Kentucky, Mr. Comer.

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

COMER: Since the beginning of this impeachment inquiry, it's been extremely troubling to see the partisan divisive way in which Democrats have carried out this entire process. I guess we shouldn't be surprised, though. They promised they'd unseat this president since the day he took his oath of office.

From the start, this has been a baseless attempt to undo the will of 63 million Americans who voted for President Trump.

I can tell you, the people I represent in Kentucky, the very people who voted for this president to enact change and fight for this country, are appalled at the charade they've seen in the House in recent months. They are appalled at the actions from House Democrats who have failed to even come close to proving their case.

I hope all of my congressional colleagues carefully consider the precedent they are setting by voting in favor of this sham process and these illegitimate Articles of Impeachment.

These Articles were written and built on a report that was drafted with bias, presumptions, cherry-picked witnesses and vastly disputed facts. The president did not commit any impeachable offense, and it's clear for all of us to see through the now very well known transcript.

This rigged process sets a concerning precedent for impeachable offenses moving forward. And I wholeheartedly oppose these baseless Articles of Impeachment.

And I yield back the balance of my time.

SPEAKER: The gentleman from New York.

NADLER: Madam Speaker, I now yield one minute to the gentleman from California, Mr. Peters.

SPEAKER: The gentleman is recognized for one minute.

PETERS: Thank you, Madam Speaker.

Many have lamented that this effort is not bipartisan, but that's on my Republican colleagues. Republicans have not sought the truth, they have sought to avoid the truth. They have demeaned and insulted witnesses, patriots, warriors, career diplomats who have provided evidence against the president.

No House Republican has joined us to demand the documents and witnesses that President Trump has refused to produce. Instead, our Republican leaders, this week, have announced that President Trump himself can set the rules of his own trial and there will be no fact witnesses.

Republicans refuse to seek the truth and condemn the abuse of power or to work with us to prevent this ongoing behavior in the future. And that's the tragedy of today's events. In our nation's history thousands of Americans have gone into battle without reservation to fight for our republic, as they still do today. Many have been gravely injured and some have made the ultimate sacrifice.

But today, in contrast, for fear of losing an election, my colleagues will not speak up for the rule of law or against presidential abuse of power. Voters may give them a pass, but history will judge them harshly.

I will vote for the Articles of Impeachment.

I yield back.

SPEAKER: The gentleman from Georgia.

COLLINS: Thank you, Madam Speaker.

It is my privilege now to yield a minute and a half to the gentleman from Georgia, Mr. Loudermilk.

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

LOUDERMILK: I thank my colleague from Georgia and friend, Mr. Collins.

Madam Speaker, I rise today in opposition not only to these Articles of Impeachment, but in strong opposition to the process that has brought us to this point.

[14:10:00]

Our Constitution and Bill of Rights are all about process. Our founders knew that a government without constraints could accuse anyone of any crime at any time even without compelling evidence. That's why the 5th and the 14 Amendments established a bedrock principle of innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

But on November the 14th, Speaker Pelosi informed the press that the president should prove his innocence when she stated, "Mr. President, if you have anything that shows your incident -- innocence," then he should make that known.

The Constitution also guarantees that the accused can call witnesses to testify on their behalf, but the Republicans and the president were continually denied that right throughout this process.

The 6th Amendment guarantees the right of the defendant to face their accuser, but not only have the Democrats prohibited Republicans and the president from questioning the so-called whistleblower, his identity has been kept secret.

Before you take this historic vote today, one week before Christmas, I want you to keep this in mind. When Jesus was falsely accused of treason, Pontius Pilate gave Jesus the opportunity to face his accusers. During that sham trial, Pontius Pilate afforded more rights to Jesus than the Democrats have afforded this president in this process.

I yield back.

SPEAKER: The gentleman from New York.

NADLER: The president was given the opportunity to come and testify before the Judiciary Committee, to send his counsel, to question witnesses. He declined to do so.

I now yield one minute to the gentleman from Michigan, Mr. Kildee.

SPEAKER: For one minute.

KILDEE: Thank you, Madam Speaker.

This is -- this is a sad day for our country and for our democracy. The president has abused the powers of his office, betrayed the public trust and undermined America's national security by pressuring a foreign government to interfere in our elections for his own political gain.

In this moment in our history, the Constitution is clear: The remedy for such misconduct for -- by a president is impeachment.

I didn't come here to Congress to impeach a president of the United States, but sadly the president's misconduct leaves us no choice but to follow the Constitution.

I have two grandchildren. My granddaughter, Kaitlyn (ph), is 8, and my grandson, Colin (ph), is 4. Someday, a long time from now, they'll ask me about this day. They'll ask about the time a president put himself above the law. And they'll want to know what I did to stop him. And I will have an answer for them. Today, I vote to uphold the Constitution. I will vote to impeach Donald Trump.

I yield back.

SPEAKER: The gentleman from Georgia.

COLLINS: Thank you, Madam Speaker.

It is interesting that the president was supposedly given rights in the Judiciary Committee, but maybe who would he have asked questions of, three law school professors and a staff member? Not a lot of due process there.

With this I yield a minute and a half to the gentleman from Texas.

SPEAKER: The gentleman's recognized for a minute and a half.

BABIN: Madam Speaker, we're here today because House Democrats have spent upwards of $30 million in three years trying to overturn the 2016 election of President Trump and come up with nothing.

Because of their radical left wing, Democrats are willing to make all future presidential elections invalid until judged worthy by the majority in the House of Representatives. The president of the United States does not serve at the pleasure of the House of Representatives.

Perhaps the greatest denial of reality regarding President Trump is acknowledging that under his policies things are actually going much better than they have in decades for working Americans.

We are a democratic constitutional republic in which power flows from we the people to our president and elected officials. The Democrat majority thinks otherwise. They believe that they are entitled to rule us, even if they have to change the rules to invalidate the will and the votes of the people of American. And that is why the absence of a case does not matter in this charade of impeachment.

I believe that the American people recognize and share my urgency about what is at stake here. Madam Speaker, you and your majority may decide today, but I have faith that the American people will decide otherwise next November.

Thank you and I yield back.

SPEAKER: The gentleman yields back.

Gentleman from New York.

NADLER: Madam Speaker, I now yield one minute to the gentlelady from Washington, Miss DelBene.

SPEAKER: The gentlelady is recognized for one minute.

DELBENE: Thank you, Madam Speaker.

I rise today in support of this resolution.

After carefully reviewing all of the evidence and the Articles of Impeachment before us, it is clear that President Trump abused the power of the presidency and obstructed Congress.

I did not come to this conclusion lightly. Impeachment is an extremely serious matter, but no president can be allowed to pressure a foreign country for personal and political gain. No president is above the law.

His behavior has jeopardized the integrity of our elections, put our national security at risk and placed his personal interest above those of the American people. His obstruction has prevented the House from conducting its constitutional duty to -- of oversight of the executive branch.

By failing to uphold his oath of office, President Trump forces each of us as members of the House of Representatives to uphold ours. I urge my colleagues to do just that and defend our democracy.

I yield back.

SPEAKER: Gentleman from Georgia.

COLLINS: Thank you, Ms. Madam Speaker. At this time I yield a minute and a half to the gentleman from Virginia, Mr. Riggleman.

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

RIGGLEMAN: Thank you, Madam Speaker.

I oppose this impeachment effort and will vote no on the Articles of Impeachment.

I represent the 5th District of Virginia, which is home to so many founding fathers whose vision shaped the great country we are living in today. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison are not around to see what their creation has become, but I don't think they would be pleased to see Congress subverting the will of democracy by holding an impeachment vote because the majority party simply cannot accept the 2016 election.

Instead of wasting the taxpayers' time and money on specious investigations, we could have passed legislation to address surprise medical billing, secure the border, address the opioid epidemic, reduce student debt and solve a litany of other issues that Americans actually care about.

Tomorrow, we might have a vote on USMCA, which we should have passed months had it not been for the obstruction and delays from Democrats, delays that have made farmers in my district and other districts suffer.

Votes like the one we will take today, the decisions that have led up to today's vote, the nature and entire process of this proceeding, reeks of careerist bureaucrats and politicians that put politics over people.

I was not elected to take political votes in an attempt to overturn the will of the American people. I ran for office to serve my constituents. Let's remember that's why we are here. Weaponizing emotion is not the way to serve the United States of America.

And to my colleagues who do just that, I offer a quote Thomas Paine, wrote in a crisis. "To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead."

Thank you and I yield back the balance of my time.

SPEAKER: The gentleman yields back.

The gentleman from New York.

NADLER: Ms. -- Madam Speaker, I would remind the gentleman that the House has passed over 400 bills, 275 bipartisan bills, driving down cost of health care and prescription drugs, raising wages, rebuilding infrastructure, taking on corruption and self-dealing in Washington. 80 percent of these bills are languishing on Senator McConnell's desk.

I now yield one minute to the gentlelady from Ohio, Ms. Kaptur. SPEAKER: Gentlelady is recognized for one minute.

KAPTUR: Madam Speaker -- I thank the chairman for yielding -- I wish to place on the record that members of Congress swear a solemn oath to protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. And today we fulfill our oath by defending liberty.

The central figure testing America's resolve is not here in Washington today, rather the closeted villain sits in Moscow in the Kremlin. Vladimir Putin has coordinated murders, election hacking, propaganda, the entrapment of willing fools and greedy underlings who put their own selfish interest over liberty.

Putin seeks to sow disarray and destabilize democracies and the NATO alliance. At Putin's direction, Russia illegally invaded Ukraine in 2014, and as Ukraine defends Europe's eastern flank, 14,000 people have been killed at Putin's hand with over 2 million displaced.

Rather than stand up to Putin, President Trump and his minions aided Putin; first in (inaudible) Russian interference in our 2016 elections and then more recently withholding vital military aid from Ukraine to coerce its interference in our 2020 elections for Mr. Trump's personal gain.

SPEAKER: The gentlelady's time expired.

KAPTUR: Might I end by saying onward liberty, vote for the Articles of Impeachment?

SPEAKER: Gentleman from Georgia.

COLLINS: Thank you, Madam Speaker.

At this time I yield a minute and a half to the gentleman from North Carolina, Dr. Murphy.

G. MURPHY: Madam Speaker, I rise in opposition...

SPEAKER: The gentleman is recognized.

G. MURPHY: ... to these baseless Articles of Impeachment and the unprecedented process that's been used in this effort to impeach the duly elected president of the United States. It is a mockery of American justice.

In 1788, one of our founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton, wrote in the Federalist Papers, "In many cases impeachment will connect itself with the preexisting factions. And in such cases there will always be the greatest danger that the decision will be regulated more by the comparable strength of parties, majority and minority, than by real demonstrations of innocence or guilt. What does this mean? It means that the majority can exert its influence regardless of justice."

[14:20:00]

In this statement, Hamilton warned us about the danger of mob rule. Democrats have a criminal and have been searching for a crime for three years. But this president has not committed a crime.

As a leader of American foreign policy, the president has a constitutional obligation to root out corruption in countries to which we provide aid. This is not an abuse of power, it is his job.

One of the Articles is obstruction of Congress. The only thing that's been obstructed is this president's right to due process. I don't blame the president for refusing to fully participate in this guilty- until-proven innocent circus. This is not how our founding fathers framed American justice.

This is a tragic day in our nation's history. We have individuals that hate this president more than they love this country. Our country needs prayer and not this destructive partisanship.

Thank you. I yield back.

SPEAKER: Gentleman from New York.

NADLER: Madam Speaker, the president's obstruction is unprecedented and categorical.

President Trump claims that the House cannot investigate his misconduct outside an impeachment inquiry. He defies lawful congressional subpoenas and then -- and then he sues to block third parties from complying with such subpoenas. Even as he pursues his own interest in court, his administration simultaneously argues that Congress is barred from obtaining judicial enforcement when executive branch officials disregard its subpoenas.

So when can the president be held accountable for his -- for his wrongdoing? In his mind, never. The Constitution, however, disagrees.

I now yield one minute to the gentlelady from the District of Columbia, Ms. Holmes Norton.

SPEAKER: The gentlelady is recognized for one minute.

NORTON: Madam Speaker, my words are my only remedy today. In spite of the upcoming D.C. statehood vote we expect to be successful, the people of the District of Columbia have no vote on impeachment or on any other matter on this floor now.

I spoke on this floor on the impeachment of President Clinton 20 years ago. Unlike the Clinton impeachment on perjury concerning an affair with an intern, Trump's impeachment turns on sabotage of national security to get himself reelected.

Clinton repented. Trump insists that he did nothing wrong. That's a promise to continue his long pattern of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Impeachment is our only recourse.

I yield back.

SPEAKER: Gentlelady yields back.

Gentleman from Georgia.

COLLINS: Thank you, Madam Speaker.

At this time I yield two minutes to the gentleman from Colorado, member of the Judiciary Committee, Mr. Buck.

SPEAKER: The gentleman is recognized for two minutes.

BUCK: Thank you, Madam Speaker.

I thank the gentleman from Georgia.

Today Democrats lower the bar for impeachment. Under this standard a president can be impeached in the absence of a crime, without due process and for asserting a legally constitutionally recognized privilege.

History shows Democrat presidents have abused power to undermine democracy and win elections and yet they have not been impeached.

President Franklin Roosevelt used the IRS to target his political opponents. His son later admitted FDR used, quote, "the IRS as a weapon of political retribution."

President John F. Kennedy used the FBI to wiretap and monitor political opponents, including congressional staff. He deported one of his mistresses to avoid scandal.

President Linden Johnson spied on Goldwater's campaign, signing off on wire-tapping his opponent and Goldwater's airplane and using a CIA spy to obtain advance copies of Goldwater's strategies and speeches.

President Barack Obama refused to provide documents to Congress related to Fast and Furious. His unconstitutional recess appointments were unanimously struck down by the Supreme Court. He used national security agencies to lie to the American people about Benghazi to win the 2012 election. He spied on reporters. Finally, it was the Obama administration that committed 17 serious violations before the FISA court to spy on Trump campaign associates.

Despite these clear abuses of power by FDR, JFK, LBJ and Obama, Republicans did not impeach. Why? Because the framers did not want a low bar for impeachment. They wanted Congress and the president to work out their differences.

When I asked Professor Turley in a Judiciary Committee hearing if any president could avoid impeachment with a low standard, he said no.

I yield back.

SPEAKER: Gentleman from New York.

NADLER: Madam Speaker, I would remind the gentleman that President Obama provided thousands of pages of information to congressional requests, that Attorney General Holder and others testified, unlike now.

I now yield one minute to the gentle -- to the gentlelady from Illinois, Ms. Kelly.

[14:25:00]

SPEAKER: The gentlelady is recognized for one minute.

R. KELLY: Madam Speaker, today is a solemn day in America, a day that none of us hoped for when we came to Congress. But the events of today are something that each of us swore that we were prepared to execute in defense of the Constitution of the United States, against all enemies foreign and domestic. This is the oath that binds that men and women of the 116th Congress as our democracy implores we defend her.

A clear and present threat to American democracy is what brings us here. The architect, a president who asked that a foreign nation interfere in our election. This was our founding father's greatest fear.

I cast this solemn vote for the many individuals in my district who entrusted me to be their voice in Congress. They entrusted me to uphold our Constitution for them. I vote yes for Sarah (ph) in Chicago, Doug in Kankakee, Diane (ph) in Flossmoor, yes for Kathy (ph) in Momence, Katherine (ph) in Crete, and Jimmy in Park Forest.

The facts are simple, the path forward is clear. Impeachment is not an option, it is an obligation because no one is above the law.

I yield back.

SPEAKER: The gentleman from Georgia.

COLLINS: Thank you, Madam Speaker.

At this time it is my privilege to yield two minutes to the gentleman from Pennsylvania, another member of the Judiciary Committee, Mr. Reschenthaler.

SPEAKER: Gentleman is recognized for two minutes.

RESCHENTHALER: Thank you, Madam Speaker.

And thank you, Ranking Member Collins.

You know, in the Navy we had a saying, BLUF: bottom line up front. Well, I'll give you the bottom line: Democrats are terrified that President Trump is going to win reelection.

They can't beat him on the merits, so Democrats are caving to their far-left radical base, and they're using the thoughts and the feelings and the assumptions of some unnamed bureaucrats, rather than relying on facts and law, to impeach a duly elected president.

Let me be clear: This is nothing more than a political hit job.

You know, I've been on all sides of the court room. I was a prosecutor in the Navy, I was a defense attorney in the Navy, I was a district judge in my hometown. And let me tell you, as a lawyer, I would defend this case every day of the week. As a judge I would dismiss this on day one for lack of merit. There's no prima facie case here.

I'll tell you who I'd prosecute, though. I would prosecute Adam Schiff for abuse of power. Why? How about the fact that he used his position as chairman to leak phone records of Ranking Member Devin Nunes? How about the fact that he dumped over 8,000 pages of documents on Republicans less than 48 hours before a hearing? That is the abuse of power.

And obstruction? I'd prosecute the Democrats for obstruction. How about the fact that Judiciary Democrats voted down my request to subpoena the whistleblower? How about the fact that Chairman Nadler refused every single Republican request for a fact witness? That is obstruction of Congress.

So again, let me be clear: Today is nothing more than a political hit job.

Thank you, and I yield back.

SPEAKER: The gentleman yields back.

COLLINS: Reserved.

SPEAKER: Gentleman from New York.

NADLER: Madam Speaker, once again I hear a lot of attacks on members of -- on Democratic members of Congress, but not one single word of substantive defense of the president's conduct.

I now yield one minute to distinguished gentleman from Virginia, Mr. Connolly.

SPEAKER: Gentleman is recognized for one minute.

CONNOLLY: Madam Speaker, each of us here took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, not the president, and not our political party. Today history will judge, did we abide that oath?

To extort a foreign country to investigate your political opponent is an unconstitutional abuse of power. To solicit foreign interference in an American election is an unconstitutional abuse of power.

The need to protect against just such abuses prompted our founders to grant the sole power of impeachment to this House.

The delicate balance of power that underpins our democracy is threatened when a president disregards the Constitution by obstructing Congress' power to cover up illegal behavior. In doing that President Trump violated his oath. Today we must put country over party, conscience over complicity. Today we must assert no one's above the law. Today we are summoned by history to do the right thing.

I yield back.

SPEAKER: Gentleman from Georgia.

COLLINS: Thank you, Madam Speaker.

I really -- I know this is probably not true, but I think the speakers are not working on the majority side, because I have talked about it and many of our members have talked about the facts. Let's just go over them real quickly. No pressure, no conditionality, no -- nothing was ever denied them, and when they got through they actually got the money and they never did anything -

[14:30:00]