Despite the GOP pushback, the result is all but pre-ordained: impeachment articles will be produced to match the gravity of the allegations, and they are slated to be unveiled this week.
To make their case Monday, Democrats turned first to Barry Berke, a former prosecutor retained by the Judiciary Committee for its Trump investigations. During testimony, Berke delivered a classic opening statement as though the hearing were a trial and Americans the jury. The message: Allowing Trump to go unpunished for his conduct would embolden him and future presidents to abuse their power in other ways.
“If, in fact, President Trump can get away with what he did again, our imagination is the only limit to what President Trump may do next or what a future president may do next to try to abuse his or her power,” Berke said.
Berke said the 2020 election, less than a year away, is not an excuse to forestall impeachment, but a reason it’s urgent to move forward — since Trump is alleged to be harming the integrity of the 2020 election.
Steve Castor, the top GOP counsel on the House Oversight Committee and an aide to Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), presented the GOP rebuttal and called Democrats’ case “baloney.”
“Democrats have been searching for a set of facts on which to impeach President Trump since his inauguration,” Castor said, adding, “The record in the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry does not show that President Trump abused the power of his office or obstructed Congress.
Trump and his lawyers did not participate in the hearing, despite an invitation from Nadler.
On NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday, Nadler said articles of impeachment are likely to be made public “later in the week.” That would lead to a full House vote that would lead to the impeachment of a president for the third time in U.S. history.
Nadler declined to say how many articles will be drafted and what they will look like, but he said the final product will detail a “pattern” of Trump’s behavior beyond his posture toward Ukraine — an indication that the articles are likely to at least reference allegations that Trump obstructed former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
Monday’s hearing featured a presentation of the House Intelligence Committee’s 300-page report alleging Trump pressured the Ukrainian government to investigate his political rivals and sought to withhold critical military assistance from the country and a White House meeting from its president as leverage. The Intelligence panel’s investigations director, Daniel Goldman, presented the report and took questions from lawmakers.
“President Trump directed a months-long scheme to solicit foreign help in his 2020 reelection campaign, withholding official acts from the government of Ukraine in order to coerce and secure political interference in our domestic affairs,” Goldman said.
Democrats on the Judiciary Committee spent the weekend strategizing at the Capitol behind closed doors ahead of Monday’s hearing. The lawmakers also huddled with Laurence Tribe, a Harvard law professor who supports impeaching the president.
Several lawmakers and aides said members of the storied panel also held informal talks about the substance and scope of potential articles of impeachment. House Democrats are likely to draft at least two articles — one on abuse of power and another on obstruction of Congress.
It remains unclear whether Democrats intend to charge Trump with bribery — an offense specifically mentioned in the Constitution — or obstruction of justice based on Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and Trump’s efforts to thwart the probe.
“I can tell you as a former prosecutor, it’s always been, you know, my strategy in a charging decision — and an impeachment in the House is essentially a charging decision — to charge those that there is the strongest and most overwhelming evidence and not try to charge everything, even though you could charge other things,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
Nadler’s comments indicate the articles are likely to include evidence drawn from the Mueller report, though it remains unclear whether Democrats will draft a separate article on it.
“There are a wide variety of factors that have to be considered, including the degree of proof, the degree of confidence and where the members of the caucus are,” Nadler said on “Meet the Press.” “We certainly have an abundance of evidence on various things.”
On Saturday, the committee released a staff report on the constitutional grounds for impeachment in the context of Trump’s alleged misconduct. The report, which is based on similar documents created during the Nixon and Clinton impeachment processes, also seeks to rebut claims from Republicans that impeachment amounts to the reversal of an election.
Trump’s GOP allies on the panel, led by Collins, have sought to delay the proceedings as they continue to argue that the process is illegitimate and does not provide fairness or due process to the president.
“There’s a big difference between what is being alleged against the president of the United States and what actually happened,” Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), a top Trump ally, said Sunday on “State of the Union.”
On Saturday, Collins demanded that Nadler postpone Monday’s hearing, citing a new tranche of documents the Republican side of the committee received over the weekend.
Nadler said on Sunday that he would not call any of the witnesses Republicans had requested. That list includes Schiff, Hunter Biden, and the whistleblower whose complaint set the impeachment inquiry into motion.