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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

House Continues Debate on Impeachment Articles. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired December 18, 2019 - 15:30   ET

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


SPEAKER: The gentleman from Georgia.

[15:30:00]

COLLINS: Thank you, Madam Speaker. And I am glad to know that Mr. Trump was giving them lethal aid, actually something to fight back with, not what was previously given to them. And there was, again, from the president himself, no pressure put on him.

Your whole case sort of destroys if you're coercing somebody if there was no pressure felt. But yet we don't seem to get that part on this floor debate today. So with that, I yield a minute and a half to the gentleman from Montana, Mr. Gianforte.

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

GIANFORTE: Today this chamber is pushing through the most partisan baseless Articles of Impeachment in our history. House Democrats hyperpartisan has been a sham since day one, driven by those who's bitter rage against President Trump has blinded their better judgment.

The fact is, they've resolved to overturn the results of the 2016 election, the day President Trump won. Earlier this year Speaker Pelosi said, impeachment is so divisive to the country, that unless there's something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don't think we should go down that path.

None of those standards have been met. None. The Committee hearings were a scripted, substance free, made for TV show. They would be comedy if impeachment weren't so serious and grave.

Witnesses denied awareness of an impeachable offense, and because the majority has failed to make the peach -- the case for impeachment, there is no bipartisanship. Compelling, overwhelming, bipartisan, Speaker Pelosi has not met her own criteria for impeachment, but here we are.

Despite Democrats testing and tweaking their impeachment message, the American people have rejected it. I will vote against this partisan impeachment sham. Let's get back to the work that the American people sent us here.

And on this sad day of an impeachment charade, 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 Texas, Mr. Gonzalez.

SPEAKER: Gentleman's recognized for one minutes.

GONZALEZ: Madam Speaker, I rise on a sad day for America, sad day for Texas and a very sad day for the people I represent. I'm not gleeful for today. I came to Congress to lower the cost of prescription drugs, fight for a debt-free education, improve the cost of special needs children, our seniors and our veterans. I did not come to Congress to impeach a sitting president, but we've been given no choice.

He has eroded the foundations of our democracy and used the office of the presidency for personal and political gain. Our founding fathers feared that one day that the power of the presidency would stretch beyond its limits, thus the enshrined in the Constitution a system of checks and balances.

We cannot and will not lower the ethical standards of our presidency. We cannot afford to wither like a cheap flower in bad weather, watching our democracy crumble and rot from within.

That is not the America the world knows and loves, and it's certainly not the America we would be proud to have our future generates inherit. And that is why today I must vote to impeach the President of the United States and fulfill my oath to the Constitution.

And I yield back.

SPEAKER: Gentleman from North Dakota.

ARMSTRONG: Madam Speaker, I yield one and half minutes to my friend from Texas, Mr. Hurd.

SPEAKER: The gentleman's recognized for one and half minutes.

HURD: Throughout this process the American people have learned of bumbling (ph) foreign policy decisions, but we have not heard evidence beyond a reasonable doubt of bribery or extortion.

Allegations of these two crimes aren't even mentioned in the Articles of Impeachment being debated today. But today, we have seen a rushed process divide our country. Today accusations have been hurled at each other questioning one another's integrity.

Today, a dangerous precedent will be set. Impeachment becoming a weaponized political tool.

We know how this partisan process will end this evening, but what happens tomorrow? Can this chamber put down our swords and get back to work for the American people. This institution has a fabled history of passing legislation that has not only changed our country, but has inspired the world.

This feat has been possible because this experiment we call America has one perpetual goal, make a more perfect union.

We can contribute to this history if we recognize the simple fact that way more unites our country than divides us. Tomorrow, can we start focusing on that?

SPEAKER: Gentleman yields back. Gentleman from New York.

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

SPEAKER: The gentleman's recognized for one minute.

D. DAVIS: Thank you, Madam Speaker.

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This is indeed a sad day for our country, this is indeed a sad day for America. But it's a good day for our Constitution. It is a sad day for our country because President Trump had defied our Constitution, our rules, our requirements and our expectations. It is clear that President Trump places himself above the law, above our Constitution and above the expectations of the American people.

At my last town hall meeting, which was held Saturday, December 15th at Malcolm X College in Chicago, someone asked a question. What is our position on impeachment? Madam Speaker, every person there rose and said, "impeach."

When I speak, I speak for the people of the 7th District of Illinois and my vote will be impeach, impeach, impeach.

And I yield back the balance of my time.

SPEAKER: The gentleman from North Dakota?

ARMSTRONG: Madam Speaker, I yield two minutes to my friend from Texas, Mr. Gohmert.

SPEAKER: The gentleman is recognized for two minutes.

GOHMERT: Thank you.

In 1998, Senator Schumer said -- and I quote -- that this impeachment "will be used as a routine tool to fight political battles." We thought it was a prediction. It was a promise, and now it's playing out. It's exactly what's being done here. And for those that say we don't address the defenses or fact, here you go.

The impeachment serves two purposes. Number one, stop the investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice and Ukraine into the corruption of Ukraine interference into the U.S. election in 2016. You said this was about, oh, this terrible Russia collusion? Oh, then that fell through. It's about emoluments, it's about bribery, it's about extortion. It's changed. But one thing hasn't changed, and that is the intent to impeach this president. It's always been there.

But let's be honest. The president turning his back on Ukraine? That happened in 2009. Because in 2008, Ukraine invaded Georgia. What happened? Bush put sanctions on Russia to teach them a lesson.

What happened after that? Well, in March of 2009, Hillary Clinton was sent over to Russia with a reset button to say, Bush overreacted. We're OK that you invaded Georgia, it was a green light to Russia to invade Ukraine. And what do you do? Oh, yeah, you send blankets and MREs so you can eat and be warm while the Russians are killing them. That is what the Obama administration did.

This is a travesty. And we're in big trouble. Because Schumer was -- right now, it's lowered even farther, the bar. It will be used for political battles and this country's end is now in sight. I hope I don't live to see it. This is an outrage.

I yield back.

SPEAKER: The gentleman from New York?

NADLER: Madam Speaker, I am deeply concerned that any member of the House would spout Russian propaganda on the floor of the House. I now yield one minute to the gentleman from New York, Mr. Higgins.

(UNKNOWN): Will the gentleman yield?

SPEAKER: The gentleman from New York is recognized for...

(UNKNOWN): Will the gentleman (ph) yield?

SPEAKER: The House will come to order.

The gentleman from New York is recognized for one minute.

B. HIGGINS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you.

(UNKNOWN): (inaudible) Russian (ph) propaganda...

(CROSSTALK)

SPEAKER: The House will come to order.

(UNKNOWN): (inaudible)

(CROSSTALK)

SPEAKER: The House will come to order.

(UNKNOWN): ... its words (ph) (inaudible).

SPEAKER: The gentleman from New York is recognized for one minute.

B. HIGGINS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Madam Speaker. The United States Constitution is explicit. Bribery is an impeachable offense, bribery involves the abuse of power. And the president of the United States abused the power of his office by soliciting a bribe of a foreign leader to interfere in an election that he was afraid he could not win honorably, fairly or freely.

The new (ph) president of Ukraine opened and announced an investigation of my political rival and I, president of the United States, will release $391 million in military aid and give you the stature-amplifying White House meeting that you need.

This is a this-for-that, something-for-something transaction. Soliciting a bribe from a foreign leader is an abuse of power and a federal crime.

I yield back.

SPEAKER: The gentleman yields back.

Gentleman from North Dakota?

ARMSTRONG: Madam Speaker, I yield one and a half minutes to the gentleman from Florida, Mr. Bilirakis.

SPEAKER: The gentleman's recognized.

BILIRAKIS: Thank you, Madam Speaker.

I want to thank my Republican colleagues, who have toiled honorably in defense of the Constitution, the rule of law under difficult circumstances, Madam Speaker.

You know, Mr. -- Madam Speaker, it's a darn shame that we have found ourselves in this position today. Every time I step into this chamber, I'm humbled to be serving in the greatest legislative body in the history of the world. However, it's deeply disappointing that the hyper-partisanship that has gripped this country has made its way into this chamber.

I pride myself on being a consensus-builder who works across the aisle to get things done for the American people. But when it comes to the matter of impeachment, I have no doubt that the entire process has been politically motivated. There is absolutely no evidence that President Trump committed an impeachable offense, which is why I will vote no.

This whole process has been a ploy to circumvent the will of the people by removing a duly elected president of the United States. It is a national disgrace, and sets a dangerous precedent. But we are a great nation and we will survive this indignity.

Let's put this ugly chapter behind us, Madam Speaker, and get to work. I yield back.

SPEAKER: The gentleman yields back.

Gentleman from New York?

NADLER: Ms. Speaker, I now yield one minute to the gentleman from Mississippi, Mr. Thompson.

SPEAKER: Gentleman's recognized for one minute.

B. THOMPSON: Thank you very much, Madam Speaker.

Madam Speaker, the question that will be answered today is, will members honor their oath to uphold the Constitution. Democrats are not supporting impeachment based on a policy disagreement or the election results of 2016. No one is above the law. The president must be held accountable.

A constitutional process is not a hoax or a witch hunt, President Trump just opposes it. No one is above the law, not even President Donald J. Trump.

The president abused his power by pressuring Ukraine to help his re- election campaign. Impeachment is a constitutional remedy for these actions. Trump betrayed his oath, betrayed the Constitution and undermined the integrity of our elections.

Those who are against the impeachment inquiry are willing to turn a blind eye to constitutional violations by the president. As a nation, we have no other alternative. We must protect our Constitution and the United States of America. In his own words, no intelligent person believes what he is saying.

SPEAKER: The...

B. THOMPSON: I yield back.

SPEAKER: ... gentleman's time's expired.

Gentleman from North Dakota?

ARMSTRONG: Madam Speaker, I yield one and a half minutes to the gentleman from Indiana, Mr. Baird.

SPEAKER: The gentleman is recognized for one and a half minutes.

BAIRD: Madam Speaker, the totality of this process is just another reminder that my colleagues across the aisle are more focused on politics than policy. The American people deserve better, our republic deserves better.

The brave men and women of our military -- myself included -- have fought for the freedom and democracy all around the world. Yet, today, my colleagues are eroding those freedoms through a process that ignored facts, abused power and was shrouded in secrecy.

Those facts could not be more clear. The president committed no crime, broke no laws and there was no quid pro quo.

I look forward to doing the right thing, representing the Hoosiers in my district and voting against this impeachment charade. I stand with President Trump and look forward to passing policies that continue to move our country forward.

I yield back the balance of my time.

SPEAKER: The gentleman yields back.

Gentleman from New York?

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

SPEAKER: The gentleman's recognized for one minute.

BLUMENAUER: Thank you.

Thanks to the hard work of our committees, the leadership of the speaker, we found overwhelming evidence Trump invited foreign interests to interfere in our elections for his personal gain and he then took unprecedented efforts to cover it up, obstructing Congress.

I'm proud of the courage of new members to do their duty so that for the first time in his privileged live, Donald Trump will be finally held accountable for his reckless personal behavior and business practices.

I vote proudly for these two Articles of Impeachment and then I hope the house retains control of the articles until the Speaker and Leader Schumer can negotiate agreement on process and witnesses from McConnell so that the next stage will be open and fair so that Donald Trump will ultimately be held accountable.

SPEAKER: Gentleman yields back. Gentleman from North Dakota.

ARMSTRONG: Madam Speaker, I yield one and a half minutes to my friend from Oklahoma, Mr. Hern.

SPEAKER: Gentleman is recognized for one and a half minutes.

HERN: Public hearings began November 13th. Less than a month later, Speaker Pelosi announced Articles of Impeachment on December 5th saying that the investigation had revealed enough information to move forward with impeachment.

Let's think about that. 22 day investigation. Six of those days were weekends where hearings weren't happening and the House was not in session. Seven of those days were weekends that the House was in recess, including the week of Thanksgiving.

Two of those days were in-flying (ph) days, where Congress doesn't hold hearings. So out of the 22 days, just seven days -- seven days were used to investigate, debate, and vote on the impeachment of the duly elected leader of our country.

No wonder my constituents are upset. Seven days to impeach the president of the United States. Not to mention that this seven day investigation uncovered zero facts in support of impeachment.

I spent every minute I had in there as an observer of these hearings and all I learned is that if you hate someone so strongly and enough people agree with you that's grounds enough to be impeached.

We ask for 12 hours to debate, the same amount of time allotted to President Clinton's impeachment. 12 hours of debate for the -- possibly the biggest vote I will cast in my tenure as representative isn't asking too much.

But no. They want to get out here before Christmas. So it's OK to rush through the process. I'm ashamed to be a part of this today even as I vote against the impeachment. My constituents are calling every day mad as hell saying we should be ashamed that this historic chamber has fallen so low to allow something like this happen. I yield back.

SPEAKER: (Inaudible) back. The gentleman from New York.

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

SPEAKER: The gentleman's recognized.

NADLER: Madam Speaker, my friend the gentleman from Georgia has a tagline about the clock and the calendar. Madam Speaker, this is not about the clock and the calendar, it is about corruption and the constitution. It is about a president who abuses power to coerce an ally to intervene in our election and poses a continuing threat to the integrity of our next election.

The president's defense is built on three pillars. And when those three pillars -- pillars fall, the entire defense of the president collapses. First, they claim there was no quid pro quo. Well, the evidence is undisputed. President Trump conditioned a White House visit and military aid on President Zelensky's public announcement of the investigations.

Ambassador William Taylor wrote at the time, quote, I think it's crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign. Close quote. A reporter asked White House Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney, if there had been a quid pro quo here and he replied we do that all the time. Get over it.

The president refused to help our ally until he got a personal political favor. And so the first defense falls. Second, the minority claims that the Ukrainians didn't know about the hold. The evidence again is undisputed.

Ukraine knew about the hold on the military assistance within hours of the president's July 25th call. Laura Cooper of the Department of Defense testified under oath that on July 25th, the State Department sent two e-mails to -- to the Department of Defense notifying them that Ukrainian officials were asking where is the aid.

The Ukrainians understood exactly what President Trump was asking. He wanted a personal political favor before the aid was released. And so the second defense falls. Third and finally, my Republican friends say the aid was released. But the aid was released only after the president got caught.

This House launched its investigation on September 9th. The hold on the aid was lifted on September 11th. This is not evidence of innocents. It is evidence of culpability. The evidence is overwhelming.

And when he got caught he did everything in his power to prevent the American people from learning the truth about his actions by defying the congressional investigation by ordering that all request and demands for information be denied.

With our national security and the integrity of our election at risk, we must act. Not because of the clock and the calendar but to fight against corruption and for continued self government by the American people. I yield back. I reserve the balance of my time.

SPEAKER: Gentleman from North Dakota.

ARMSTRONG: Madam Speaker, I would just point out that to believe everything that was just said, you have to also believe that President Zelensky is a pathological liar. And with that I yield one and half minutes to my friend from South Carolina, Mr. Duncan.

SPEAKER: The gentleman is recognized for one and a half minutes.

DUNCAN: Thank you, Madam Speaker. You know we're not debating impeachment of an American president today. Your minds are already made up. The Democrat majority has had a verdict impeachment looking for a crime since the inauguration.

The Washington Post ran the headline, the Campaign to Impeach President Trump Has Begun, just 19 minutes after President Trump took oath of office. 19 minutes. Freshman congresswoman from Michigan told a group of supporters we're going to impeach the mother blank shortly after she was sworn in.

In Speaker Pelosi admitted last week that the impeachment effort has been going on for two and half years, long before any phone call between two world leaders. In fact, 71 percent of the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee supported impeachment before the phone call.

The impeachment sham is based on hearsay, conjecture, and opinion. And you know what, you can't even get a speeding ticket in this country based on hearsay. But yet, we're going to impeach an American president based on just that. Where are the crimes of treason, high crimes, or misdemeanors committed here.

Those are things that constitute impeachable offenses. Not hatred or policy disagreements. If memory serves me right, congress told the administration to withhold aid to Ukraine until they got their act together, address corruption, straightened out -- that was in multiple NDAAs voted on by both parties in this chamber.

So in the simplest terms we're impeaching the president for doing something we told him to do, give me a break. We have wasted precious time we are given to serve the American people while you held secret hearings and depositions behind closed doors in Chairman Schiff's chamber of secrets.

But the American people have a great sense of fairness, I promise you. They see President Trump has not been treated fairly in this process, impeachment based on hearsay and opinion, not facts. It's a sad day in this chamber, the people's House. I yield back.

SPEAKER: Members are again reminded to address their remarks to the chair. Gentleman from New York.

NADLER: Madam Speaker, I would now inform you that the gentleman from California, Mr. Schiff, the chair of the Intelligence Committee will now serve as my designee and will control the remainder of the time on the majority side.

SPEAKER: Does the gentleman yield to the gentleman from California.

NADLER: He's my designee.

SPEAKER: OK. Does the gentleman from California yield to himself.

SCHIFF: Yes, Madam Speaker, I yield to myself as much time as I may consume.

SPEAKER: The gentleman is recognized.

SCHIFF: I thank my colleague, Chairman Nadler, I thank him for the extraordinary job that he has done as Chairman of the Judiciary committee and throughout these difficult proceedings.

Madam Speaker, my colleagues, my fellow Americans, I rise to support the impeachment of President Donald J. Trump.

When a man unprincipled in private life, desperate in his fortune, bold in his temper, possessed of considerable talents, having the advantage of military habits, despotic in his ordinary demeanor, know to have scoffed in private at the principles of liberty; when such a man is seen to mount the hobby horse of popularity to join in the cry of danger to liberty, to take every opportunity of embarrassing the government -- the general government and bringing it under suspicion.

To flatter and fall in with all the nonsense of the zealots of the day it may justly be suspected that his object is to throw things into confusion. That he may ride the storm and direct the whirlwind.

These are the words of Alexander Hamilton written in 1792. Could we find a more perfect description of the present danger emanating from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The framers crafted a constitution that contemplated free and fair elections for the highest office in the land.

But also afforded the Congress with the power to remove a president who abused the powers of his office for personal gain. Who compromised the public trust by betraying our nation's security or who sought to undermine our democratic system by seeking foreign intervention in the conduct of our elections. I would say that the founders could have little imagined that a single president might have done all of these things except that the evidence has sadly proved this is exactly what this president has done.

Hamilton, among others, seems to have predicted the rise of Donald Trump with a staggering prescience. Having won freedom from a king, the drafters of our Constitution designed a government in which ambition was made to check ambition in which no branch of government would predominate over another, and no man would be allowed to be above the law including the president -- especially the president since with whom would the danger be greater, than with the officer charged with being our commander in chief?

Over the course of the last three months we have found incontrovertible evidence that President Trump abused his power by pressuring the newly elected president of Ukraine to announce an investigation in to President Trump's political rival, Joe Biden. With the hopes of defeating Mr. Biden in the 2020 presidential election and enhancing his own prospects for reelection.

He didn't even need the investigation to be undertaken, just simply announced to the public -- the smear of his opponent, the smear of his opponent would be enough. To effectuate this scheme President Trump withheld two official acts of vital importance to a nation at war with our adversary Vladimir Putin's Russia.

The president withheld a White House meeting that Ukraine desperately sought to bolster its standing on the world stage, and even more perniciously President Trump suspended hundreds of millions of dollars of military aid approved by this Congress to coerce Ukraine in to doing his electoral dirty work.

The president of the United States was willing to sacrifice our national security by withholding support for a critical strategic partner at war, in order to improve (ph) his reelection prospects. But for the courage of someone willing to blow the whistle, he would have gotten away with it.

Instead, he got caught. He tried to cheat, and he got caught. Now this wasn't the first time. As a candidate in 2016 Donald Trump invited Russian interference in his presidential campaign, saying at a campaign rally, "Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing." A clear invitation to hack Hillary Clinton's e-mails.

Just five hours later Russian government hackers tried to do exactly that. What followed was an immense Russian hacking and dumping operation, and a social media disinformation campaign designed to help elect Donald Trump. Not only did candidate Trump welcome that effort, but he made full use of it building it in to his campaign plan, his messaging strategy, and then he sought to cover it up.

This Russian effort to interfere in our elections didn't deter Donald Trump. It empowered him. The day after Special Counsel Bob Mueller testified before Congress about Russia's sweeping and systemic effort to influence the outcome of our last election, the day after President Trump believed that the investigation in to his first electoral misconduct had come to an end, the president was back on the phone urging yet another country, this time Ukraine, to help him cheat in another election.

Three consecutive days in July tell so much of the story -- three consecutive days in July, of 2019. July 24th, the day that Special Counsel Mueller testified before Congress, and President Trump thought he was finally in the clear.

July 25th, the day that President Trump got on the phone with the Ukrainian president and in the context of a discussion about military support for hat embattled nation that the president had recently frozen said, I would like you to do us a favor though -- and asked Ukraine to do two investigations to help his reelection efforts in 2020 -- that was July 25th.

And then we come to July 26th, the day Gordon Sondland called President Trump on his cell phone from a restaurant in Ukraine. Gordon Sondland, not some anonymous never-Trumper, but a million dollar donor to the president's inauguration, and is handpicked Ambassador to the European Union. What does President Trump ask Sondland? The day after this call, what does President Trump ask?

[16:00:00]

What does the president want to know?