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:
Top Republican demands witness testimony in impeachment hearing be stricken from the record since it “impugns the motives of the President.” pic.twitter.com/fKpE9iVA1v— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) December 9, 2019
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:
FIVE INDISPUTABLE FACTS:— Stephanie Grisham (@PressSec) December 9, 2019
1. No evidence of wrongdoing by @POTUS
2. Ukraine said there was no pressure
3. Lethal aid to Ukraine wouldn’t exist w/o @realDonaldTrump
4. There’s no obstruction whatsoever
5. This is an unfair & unprecedented impeachment process
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.
Stephen Castor just lied by claiming that Ukraine didn’t know the aid was withheld before it was publicly reported in August.— Ahmed Baba (@AhmedBaba_) December 9, 2019
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Laura Cooper testified that Ukrainians sent emails on July 25, same day as the call, asking about the withheld aid.
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.
Goldman explains Trump’s “CrowdStrike” nonsense, and why it’s mutually exclusive with the mountain of evidence that Russia interfered in the 2016 election. pic.twitter.com/wazVKDiaSk— The Moscow Project (@moscow_project) December 9, 2019
Goldman: Scheme is quite simple.— emptywheel (@emptywheel) December 9, 2019
1) Scheme to pressure Ukraine to opening 2 investigations
2) Used office and tools of foreign policy to withhold assistance
3) Everyone was in the loop
4) He has not given up
They can’t even take a break without it spawning a fight. Gaetz says Dems just want to have a less conference during the break. Dems cast vote to go to 15-minute recess— Manu Raju (@mkraju) December 9, 2019
Chris Wallace on Fox is interestingly pushing back against Ken Starr, arguing that this impeachment is “about a much bigger issue than whether Bill Clinton lied about sex.”— James Poniewozik (@poniewozik) December 9, 2019
Wallace pushes back on Fox contributors Ken Starr and Andy McCarthy: “This seems to me about a much bigger issue … It seems to me about foreign policy, national security, the security of our elections … it’s a much bigger issue than whether or not Bill Clinton lied about sex” pic.twitter.com/po8AADRPLv— Lis Power (@LisPower1) December 9, 2019
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 says there was “no discussion on the call about … security sector assistance to Ukraine.”— The Moscow Project (@moscow_project) December 9, 2019
That’s blatantly false.
It is literally the last thing Zelensky says before Trump asks him to “do us a favor, though.”https://t.co/rAX5cKlqva pic.twitter.com/ZpkChdZ0By
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.
Dear Mr. Castor: Calling Trump a clown is NOT foreign election interference. It is a correct consensus opinion and also an insult to actual clowns.— Preet Bharara (@PreetBharara) December 9, 2019
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.
Steve Castor just invoked the kooky Ken Vogel Politico piece as his “proof” of Ukraine interference. The article is nonsensical, as I explain below, and is basically sourced by one junior State Dept. official…who has been recently meeting with Giuliani https://t.co/djDdInJyP9— Asha Rangappa (@AshaRangappa_) December 9, 2019
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”.
TRUMP, holding a gun to Zelensky’s head: I’d really like your money, but I’m not robbing you— Zack Beauchamp (@zackbeauchamp) December 9, 2019
ZELENSKY, nervously: He’s not robbing me
CASTOR: See? Everyone agrees that there’s no robbery
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.
Berke reads Castor Rudy's guarantee that Biden would be investigated and asks if Castor agrees that's abt the 2020 election.— emptywheel (@emptywheel) December 9, 2019
Castor wants to talk about Volker instead.
BERKE: "The reason we have not heard from all the witnesses or documents is because [Trump] himself has obstructed the investigation. He’s directed his most senior aides…to defy subpoenas. He has told every one of his agencies with records…not to produce those records." pic.twitter.com/vTw48dIn0L— CAP Action (@CAPAction) December 9, 2019
Castor: 6 subpoenas.— emptywheel (@emptywheel) December 9, 2019
2) Igor Fruman
3) Sondland (VZ)
4) AT&T a certain number
5) AT&T a certain number
6) Subscriber numbers
GOPers have just accused Berke of buying their position on this committee bc they noted that Sondland donated $1M.— emptywheel (@emptywheel) December 9, 2019
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?
It's kind of nutty that the defense du jour from the GOP is that Sondland is a bad witness bc last I checked he still held a position of trust in the US government.— emptywheel (@emptywheel) December 9, 2019
Matt Gaetz complaining about partisanship of attorneys. As if Gaetz isn’t.
I think Gaetz just claimed something was in the dossier that wasn't.— emptywheel (@emptywheel) December 9, 2019
Rep. David Cicilline: "Let me begin by dispelling the claim that Mr. Gaetz just made. This has been one of the most productive Congresses in modern history. We've passed nearly 400 pieces of legislation … 80% of those bills are sitting on the Senate Majority Leader's desk."— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) December 9, 2019
SWALWELL: Mr. Goldman, would you welcome the problem of having 8000 documents given to you from the White House?— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) December 9, 2019
GOLDMAN: It would be a wonderful problem to have.
SWALWELL: How many have they given you?
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.)
When House Republicans complain that they haven't heard from "a single fact witness" they don't mean that Congress should've heard from individuals at the heart of the Ukraine scandal like Mulvaney, Pompeo, Giuliani and Bolton.— Kevin M. Kruse (@KevinMKruse) December 9, 2019
No, they're talking about Hunter Biden.