Impeachment Hearing Chairman: If Impeachable Offenses Committed, We ‘Must Move Swiftly’

Dec 4, 2019, 9:42 AM | Updated: 9:46 am
FILE: Capitol Dome in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images)...
FILE: Capitol Dome in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images)
(Photo by Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images)

(CNN) — House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler on Wednesday vowed to move swiftly to impeach President Donald Trump if his committee finds that Trump committed an impeachable offense, kicking off a process that could lead to the third impeachment of a President in US history.

“Never before, in the history of the republic, have we been forced to consider the conduct of a president who appears to have solicited personal, political favors from a foreign government,” Nadler, a Democrat from New York, said as he opened his committee’s first impeachment hearing. “When we apply the Constitution to those facts, if it is true that President Trump has committed an impeachable offense — or impeachable offenses — then we must move swiftly to do our duty and charge him accordingly.”

The Judiciary Committee’s impeachment proceedings began Wednesday with legal experts testifying on impeachment, but a larger showdown looms between the partisans on the panel expected to clash.

LIVE UPDATES: Judiciary Committee holds first impeachment hearing

From the moment Nadler gaveled into the hearing, Republicans raised a host of procedural objections and questions, including forcing votes on motion for House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff to testify and to postpone Wednesday’s hearing.

Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, the top Republican on the committee, slammed the Democrats’ impeachment proceedings as a “railroad job.”

“This is not an impeachment. This is simply a railroad job,” Collins said. “And today is a waste of time.”

Four law professors were the witnesses for the first hearing who were called to talk about the historical precedent of impeachment and how the allegations against the President apply.

“The President’s serious misconduct, including bribery, soliciting a personal favor from a foreign leader in exchange for his exercise of power, and obstructing justice and Congress are worse than the misconduct of any prior president, including what previous presidents who faced impeachment have done or been accused of doing,” Michael Gerhardt, a North Carolina University law professor, said in his written statement to the committee.

The first Judiciary hearing is an academic one to set the stage for the committee’s expected drafting of articles of impeachment against the President. Three of the legal professors invited by Democrats — Harvard University’s Noah Feldman, Stanford University’s Pamela Karlan and Gerhardt — all plan to testify that Trump committed impeachable offenses.

Jonathan Turley, the George Washington University law professor who is the Republican witness, argued that Democrats failed to meet that standard with their investigation into Trump.

“I am concerned about lowering impeachment standards to fit a paucity of evidence and an abundance of anger,” Turley said in his written statement. “If the House proceeds solely on the Ukrainian allegations, this impeachment would stand out among modern impeachments as the shortest proceeding, with the thinnest evidentiary record, and the narrowest grounds ever used to impeach a president.”

The move to the Judiciary Committee is also expected to ratchet up the partisan temperature in the committee room, as the committee has some of the most vocal partisans in Congress on both sides of the aisle.

Collins said that Republicans would tell the President’s side of the story because he was denied due process, and Republican lawmakers were expected to continue raising procedural objections during the hearing to protest the inquiry. The President’s attorneys were invited to participate in the hearing, but they declined, arguing that the process was unfair and they were given no details about the hearing itself.

Nadler has given the President’s lawyers until Friday to say whether they will participate in future impeachment proceedings in the committee, which is expected to include a presentation from the Intelligence Committee on its findings.

Democrats plan to make the Ukraine investigation a focal point of the questioning of the academic witnesses. But several Democratic sources say to expect discussion of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s report to come up as well, which they hope will exhibit a pattern of behavior showing Trump abused his power in office.

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Impeachment Hearing Chairman: If Impeachable Offenses Committed, We ‘Must Move Swiftly’