As House Judiciary Committee members gave their opening statements at a markup session designed to finalize the articles of impeachment and set the stage for a vote by the full chamber, things got heated: Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) effectively admitted that swift action against President Donald Trump was needed in order to thwart his re-election, Fox News reported.
Nadler claimed that Trump’s actions with Ukraine constituted an “urgent” national security threat as well as a threat to the 2020 election. “We cannot rely on an election to solve our problems when the president threatens the very integrity of that election,” he said.
Republicans fight back
Ranking Republican Doug Collins (R-GA) said that Democrats had been trying to impeach Trump since he was elected and called into question their motives for the current inquiry in light of the fact that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly stated that Trump did not pressure him to investigate Joe Biden, as Democrats have accused. Collins went on to slam Democrats for calling Zelensky a liar for supporting Trump’s account.
Republicans have argued that it was appropriate for Trump to withhold aid to Ukraine while verifying the seriousness of anti-corruption initiatives in that country, an assertion that the White House Office of Management and Budget also made in a formal memo.
But Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) pointed out that neither of the two rather vague articles of impeachment — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — encompasses these recognized crimes, contrasting those allegations to the actual legal offense of perjury for which President Bill Clinton was impeached, The Hill notes.
Another Republican, Rep. Louie Gohmert (TX), brought up the recently-released report from Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, which said that Democrats’ warrant applications under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) contained 17 separate, “significant” errors including some that may be illegal in nature, according to NPR. While that probe was not directly related to the current impeachment effort its results are indicative of a pattern of bias against Trump within the D.C. establishment and a willingness to use official channels to further it.
Gohmert pointed out that Democrats had been falsely accusing Trump of crimes for years, but not a single claim was ever substantiated, even though the media repeated their claims ad nauseam and trumpeted many of them as true in the absence of evidence.
When Gohmert tried to ask Nadler for specifics on the “crimes” to which Democrats repeatedly referred in their opening statements, Nadler shut him down, saying he hadn’t raised a proper point of order.
Those on the Democrat side continued to make false accusations against Trump as the evening unfolded. Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA) said that Trump aide Mick Mulvaney “openly confessed” to an illegal quid pro quo with Ukraine, though Mulvaney later explained that the comment he made referred to the administration’s practice of not disbursing aid without first receiving assurances that it would not be used to aid corruption and would be applied efficiently and appropriately.
Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) used his time to make the bizarre argument that Trump’s call with Zelensky was “an affront to the memory of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.”
Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) attempted to justify the vague impeachment articles by saying it wasn’t the House’s job to determine whether Trump should be removed from office, but also declared that the president’s actions in inquiring about the Bidens ahead of the 2020 election represented an affront to democracy.
The seemingly interminable session dragged on until 10:40 p.m. local time, with each of the 41 members of the panel receiving five minutes in which to make an opening statement.