Yet there was plenty of drama as both sides pounded the other Wednesday night. Democrats complained that Trump — with backing from Republicans — was acting like a “dictator” who sought to dismantle the checks-and-balances built into the American political system. Republicans countered — as Trump himself has repeatedly — that Democrats are seeking to overturn the results of his 2016 victory.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) lashed out at Trump for using “his official powers to serve his own personal, selfish interests at the expense of the public good” while “stonewalling all congressional requests for information.”
“We cannot rely on an election to solve our problems when the president threatens the very integrity of that election,” said Nadler. “Nor can we sit on our hands while the president undermines our national security — and while he allows his personal interests and the interests of our adversary Russia to advance.”
Nadler also implored Republicans to “please keep in mind that — one way or the other — President Trump will not be president forever. When his time has passed, when his grip on our politics is gone, when our country returns, as surely it will, to calmer times and stronger leadership, history will look back on our actions here today. How would you be remembered?”
But Doug Collins of Georgia, the top Republican on Judiciary, lambasted Nadler and Democrats for “the destruction by the majority of the House parliamentary rules to get what they want … This has been very disturbing. There’s partisan, and then there’s this.”
“After they did all this [investigating], this is all they could come up with?” Collins asked. “It’s been three years to get to here and this is all they got.”
Collins said Republicans planned to offer numerous amendments Thursday when they get the chance, but they don’t expect to be able make any substantive changes to the measures.
“I can’t fix bad,” Collins said in an interview. “We all understand that there’s not any making this better. Our amendments will be for time to speak, or ‘strike and replace.’ But this is what Speaker Pelosi wanted, and this is what she’s going to get.”
Shortly before the markup began, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) delivered to the committee a classified letter provided to investigators by Jennifer Williams, a national security aide to Vice President Mike Pence.
Schiff had asked Pence’s office last week to declassify the contents of the letter, which he said describes a Sept. 18 call between Pence and Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky. But Pence’s office, Schiff revealed, did not respond to his request.
Williams provided the letter to the committee on Nov. 26, a week after she testified publicly. According to Schiff, Williams’ letter provides “corroborative” evidence for the impeachment investigation.
During her previous rounds of testimony, Williams told investigators that she believed Trump’s July 25 phone call with Zelensky — which is at the center of the impeachment inquiry — was “unusual and inappropriate,” echoing concerns from other senior administrations who were troubled by Trump’s request that Zelensky investigate a Ukrainian energy company tied to former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter. She also said the call appeared to be “political” in nature.
During her Nov. 7 deposition, Williams testified that on the Sept. 18 call, Pence was simply following up to a Sept. 1 meeting with Zelensky and in advance of a meeting between Trump and Zelensky at the United Nations in New York scheduled for the following week. She described it as a “very positive call” and said there was no mention of any of the investigations that Trump had been asking Zelensky to pursue.