Live House Judiciary Committee Hearings

Ken AshfordL'Affaire Ukraine, Trump & Administration, Trump ImpeachmentLeave a Comment

The House Judiciary Committee is hearing presentations by Democratic and Republican lawyers on the evidence for and against impeaching President Trump.

It is a bit of a circus already, as this clip shows:

The Republicans have a “Where’s Adam?” poster, to dramatize their argument that Adam Schiff, the House Intel Committee chairman, should submit to questions here in Judiciary today. He’s not.

Here’s the WH press secretary:

ALL those statements are disputed.

There’s a protester accusing Nadler of treason right now. “We voted for Donald Trump and they’re trying to remove him because they don’t like him!” the man yells.

UPDATE: It was Infowars’ Owen Shroyer.

Stephen Castor, the lawyer representing Republicans on the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees, is devoting the majority of his prepared testimony to how the Democrats have conducted their inquiry and, in his view, distorted the facts to fit their preconceived narrative.

“This unfair process reflects the degree to which Democrats are obsessed with impeaching President Trump by any means necessary. . . The Democrats went searching for a set of facts on which to impeach the president — the emoluments clause, the president’s business and financial records, the Mueller report and allegations of obstruction there — before settling on Ukraine.”

Castor is literally offering no substantive defense of the conduct at issue. He is also a snoozefest.

Democratic counsel Dan Goldman notes that the investigating committees received zero documents from the Trump administration in response to its subpoenas. Those who testified did so despite orders from the administration not to.

I am struck, listening to Goldman here, how over two-plus months of inquiry, the Democrats’ case of what happened between Trump and Ukraine has remained remarkably consistent. Witnesses and some documents they got from them have added details, color and new facts. But the broad outlines are the same that we heard Speaker Pelosi give when she launched the inquiry in late September.

Goldman is now defending his investigation from Republican critiques. “This investigation moved swiftly and intensively — as all good investigations should,” he says. “To the extent that other witnesses would be able to provide more context and detail about this scheme, their failure to testify is due solely to the fact that President Trump obstructed the inquiry and refused to make them available.“

An important point for Democrats, from Goldman: the July 25 call “was neither the start nor the end” of the Trump-led pressure campaign.

We’re back. With Castor again. He’s basically saying the Democratic case is full of “hearsay, presumptions and speculations”. That’s really the heart of the Republican legal strategy here. They want to raise doubts about the evidence that the Democrats have compiled.

Castor is laying out the grounds for why Republicans think Hunter Biden is fair game for investigation. The objective would be to justify the president’s interest in a Burisma inquiry.

For what it’s worth, there appears to be limited interest over among Senate Republicans in investigating the Hunter Biden angle. Lindsey Graham has asked the State Department for documents related to the Bidens and other Obama administration officials’ dealings with Ukrainians in 2016. But when my fellow Hill colleagues asked another Trump defender in the Senate, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, if he wanted to see Hunter testify in the Senate trial, he literally shrugged.

Castor is talking about how some Ukrainians publicly criticized Trump during the campaign. It’s good to remember that the reason some Ukrainian officials did that was because Trump said he’d be open to Russia keeping the Crimea after they took it in an invasion.

Now Castor noting that saying Ukrainians tried to interfere in 2016 election doesn’t mean that Russia did not. But experts have said the difference in the degree of interference is enormous, with the Russian interference a government-backed operation personally sanctioned by Putin. It’s also not clear how criticizing the president is grounds for an investigation.

GOP argument is that Trump was “skeptical” of meeting with Ukrainian president Zelensky because of Ukraine’s history of corruption but he’s more than happy to meet with and befriend:


Is it possible that the GOP argument is total and complete bullshit?

Castor is drawing on testimony from many of the witnesses, including Taylor, Kent, Williams, Sondland, Morrison. But I haven’t heard him bring up anything from Yovanovitch. Of course, the lack of exculpatory Republican witnesses and documents would be nice to point to, if the White House had provided any.

When Castor finishes, the plan is for 90 minutes in which lawyers on the Judiciary Committee will ask Castor and Goldman – two other lawyers – questions about the things that they have been talking about all morning. So get ready for more of the same. I doubt there will be “cross-examinations”.

Castor says politicians with ties to corrupt oligarchs should be presumed to be corrupt, which is an interesting defense of an oligarch whose business has a record of facilitating money laundering.

Big problem. Castor just now said Ukraine had met some new anti corruption standards when the aid was released, offering no evidence. WHAT is he referring to? Numerous Ukraine experts say no facts on the ground changed from May, when DoD approved the aid.

Castor closes with an attack on the whistleblower. And he’s done.

Now GOPers are angry that they used Castor for both opening statements.

GOP objection just now is first that actually has some merit. It seems super weird for Berke to be a witness and then run behind the dais to question his fellow witness. Why not just have a different lawyer (like Norm Eisen) be witness and have Berke be questioner from get-go?

We now have counsel for Dems, Barry Berke, asking questions of counsel for Reps, Stephen Castor. I see why the Republicans are freaking out. He’s also asking questions of Dem counsel, Dan Goldman.

Castor says that “he thinks the transcript is ambiguous.” No GOPers complain that he’s offering his opinion. Goldman says there’s no other way to understand that transcript.

Berke: Is it your experience that schemer would admit he’s doing something wrongful and corrupt to people not in scheme. Castor agrees.

Berke: Trump didn’t raise Biden or Hunter until 2019. Not in 2017 or 2018.
Castor; President saw this video and it coalesced in his mind

Berke is ripping Castor a new one. Berke establishes that Castor failed to mention that Williams said the call was inappropriate.

GOP counsel counsel Callen: “Trump and everybody in his administration are all completely awesome, isn’t that correct?”
Castor: “Yes, and they are all above reproach.”

(Not really, but that’s kind of what it is like)

30 minute break

We’re back and GOP is railing again that Nunes’ name shows up in the House Intel Report. Shorter Sensenbrenner: How dare you reveal that our members are in close tough with indicted fraudsters?

Matt Gaetz complaining about partisanship of attorneys. As if Gaetz isn’t.

McClintock claims that the only evidence of Trump’s corrupt intent is the word of his accusers. That’s not true. Trump himself went out and confirmed that he wanted Zelensky to investigate the Bidens. (Oh, and Mulvaney confirmed it, too.)