LIVEBLOG: House Lawyers Give Impeachment Presentation For Judiciary Committee

President Donald Trump responds to a question from a reporter at an event for the signing of two executive orders aimed at greater governmental transparency at the White House October 9, 2019. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
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December 9, 2019 8:32 a.m.

WASHINGTON – The impeachment hearing Monday is expected to feature counsel from the House Judiciary Committee and from the House Intelligence Committee presenting evidence related to the impeachment push.

The hearing is the next big step the committee is taking as it prepares to draft articles of impeachment against President Trump, and it will include presentations from both House Intelligence Committee counsel and counsel for the Judiciary Committee itself.

Counsel for both the Democrats and Republicans on each committee are invited to present. The White House declined the opportunity to participate in the hearing.

Presenting for the House Intelligence Committee majority is Daniel Goldman, who is expected to testify about the report the committee issued on Trump’s Ukraine pressure campaign. Stephen Castor, a Republican staff counsel, will present for the House Intel minority as well as the House Judiciary Committee minority.

House Judiciary Committee majority counsel Barry Berke will also present.

The hearing could signal which conduct Democrats will focus on in their articles of impeachment and what high crimes and misdemeanors they will allege.

We’ll be live-blogging the hearing here:

6:41 p.m.: Nearly 10 hours after it began, Nadler gaveled out Monday’s hearing. Collins’ closing statement ran through the litany of complaints Republicans have had about the process, before settling on a final argument that Democrats haven’t made their case. Nadler’s closing statement, meanwhile, emphasized Trump’s conduct was clearly impeachable, and that it presented a danger to democracy.

5:58 p.m.: Things got a little heated between Goldman and Rep. Greg Steube (R-FL), with Steube demanding that Goldman tell him whether he spoke to the whistleblower and whether he knew the whistleblower’s identity. Goldman refused to do either, but noted that the House Intel report is based not on the allegations in the whistleblower complaint but the evidence brought forth by 17 witnesses.

5:50 p.m.: Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO) got Castor to concede that no U.S. intel agencies have publicly said that Ukraine attacked the 2016 election, and that no witnesses testified in favor of that theory. Castor tried to get into his answer that Trump had a “good faith belief” about certain Ukrainian officials before Neguse cut him off.

5:41 p.m.: Castor chalks up the testimony from NSC official Alexander Vindman and other national security experts as them being disappointed that Trump wasn’t following their advice. He described Vindman has being “deflated” that Trump didn’t follow the package Vindman prepared for the July 25 call. Speaking more broadly, Castor said that foreign policy officials were “very sad that the President didn’t revere their policy-making apparatus.”

5:26 p.m.: Goldman, upon questioning from Rep. Lou Correa (D-CA), explains how Bill Taylor’s, Tim Morrison’s and Gordon Sondland’s testimony lines up with regards to Trump’s “no quid pro quo” call line with Sondland. Notably, it sounds like Democrats have concluded that the call happened on Sept. 7, which is what Morrison and Taylor described, rather than Sept. 9, as was Sondland’s belief. Morrison and Taylor had taken contemporaneous notes on their discussions about the call, Morrison noted.

4:40 p.m.: Unlike other Democratic members, Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) is using the opportunity to grill Castor. He asked Castor about whether other countries upped their contributions to Ukraine before Trump lifted a hold, and also asked Castor if he knew how many times Trump met or spoke with Vladimir Putin vs. hosting Zelensky for a White House meeting.

4:25 p.m.: Gaetz turned back to the Dem donor issue. He demanded Goldman tell him how much money he has donated to Democrats and whether it’s in the tens of thousands of dollars. Gaetz suggested Berke donated even more.
Gaetz: “Do you think if you’d given more money you might have been able to ask questions and answer them like Mr. Berke did?”

4:07 p.m.: So far smearing the whistleblower has taken a backseat to Republicans’ whining about the phone records House Intel obtained and published. But Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX) did give some play to the well-tread GOP complaints about the whistleblower, in a line of questioning that suggested the whistleblower misled the IC inspector general. (edited)

3:36 p.m.: Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) speculated that, should Joe Biden be elected president, he could be impeached on the grounds of the bogus Burisma allegations President Trump has pursued. “You have set the bar so low I’m afraid it’s irreparable,” he said. Pondering a potential Biden impeachment, Gohmert said: “We’ve already got the forms. All we have to do is eliminate Donald Trump’s name and put Joe Biden’s name in there, because he’s on video. He and his son. He basically has admitted to the crime that’s being hoisted on the President improperly.”

3:30 p.m.: Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH) began and ended his questioning by telling Chairman Nadler “you’re investigating the wrong guy.” He rehashed President Donald Trump’s bogus allegations of corruption against the Bidens over Burisma and played a clip from a recent ABC News interview with Hunter Biden.

3:11 p.m.: Recess is over. Sensenbrenner is up. He is talking about the phone records, and Intel’s move to “match” and publish the numbers. “That is the beginning of a surveillance state,” Sensenbrenner said, later adding that it made “Joe McCarthy look like a piker.”

2:43 p.m.: A recess was called for 15 minutes.

2:35 p.m.: Collins is still harping on the records and said that the committee’s move to put those records in the report was a “was a drive by, a gratuitous drive by.” Collins suggested that the report should have referred to those records as Congressperson-1 instead.

2:30 p.m.: Nadler is up and gives Goldman time to explain the phone records the committee obtained. Goldman said that the committee did not seek to investigate a member of Congress or their staff. “It just happened to be that they were in communication with people involved in the president’s scheme,” Goldman said.

2:25 p.m.: The GOP’s 45-minute question period ended with a long line of inquiry focused on questioning Sondland’s credibility.

2:15 p.m.: Castor, given the opportunity by Callen, has spent several minutes critiquing Democrats’ decision not to go to court or otherwise force witnesses to testify in the impeachment inquiry.

2:09 p.m.: Callen turns her questions towards complaints that the inquiry has been “partisan, biased, unfair.”

2:04 p.m.: Callen’s questions for Castor appear headed towards the alternative explanations for Trump’s conduct. “The President is very skeptical of foreign aid, is that correct?” she asked.

2:00 p.m.: Callen, the GOP staff counsel, has taken over questioning, and the temperature has cooled a bit. She is letting Castor to go on quite a bit between her questions.

1:53 p.m.: Collins brought up Goldman’s testimony that Sondland donated $1 million to President Trump. “You and Mr. Berke are heavy donors to the Democratic Party,” Collins said. Goldman asked Collins what he was trying to say.
“The implication is we want Schiff in that chair and now you!” Gaetz jumped in to yell.

1:50 p.m: Goldman: “The reason [the calls were] included in the report is because the calls were surrounding” important evidence in our investigation.

1:45 p.m.: Collins is leading the GOP 45-minute question period, and is grilling Goldman about the subpoenas issued in their probe. Goldman made clear that the committee did not subpoena members of Congress, their staff or journalists.
Collins: Who ordered the match game between the members of Congress and the press?

1:41 p.m.: The Democrats’ 45-minute question period is up. While they gave Goldman plenty of opportunities to reiterate the main points they have wanted to push in the inquiry, it appears they also wanted to use Monday’s hearing — and Castor’s presence in the hot seat — to dismantle the GOP talking points in particular. Castor’s refusal to say that Biden was a legitimate 2020 challenger to Trump at the time of the call, and his denial that Trump was requesting an investigation into Biden on the July 25 call with Zelensky stood out in this effort.

1:38 p.m.: Berke asked Goldman to weigh in on Castor’s claim that Trump had no reason to be less than candid in the conversations where he denied a quid pro quo. Berke referenced reports and tweets at the time indicating an interest in investigating Trump’s Ukraine conduct. “President Trump had every reason to” to put out the no quid pro quo message, Goldman said.

1:25 p.m.: Berke: You agree that before July 25 call Giuliani was pushing the Ukrainians to investigate Joe Biden?”
Castor: “The record is somewhat spotty” with Giuliani.
Berke cut him off to read from a May New York Times story about Giuliani traveling to Ukraine to press for Biden investigations.

1:19 p.m.: Berke: Was it U.S. policy on July 25 to request Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden?
Castor: “I don’t think the President requested an investigation into Joe Biden.”

1:10 p.m.: Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) accused Berke of “badgering” Castor.

1:09 p.m.: Berke pointed Castor to a line in the minority Ukraine report about the testimony of Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence. The report describes Williams testifying that the July 25 call was unusual, but didn’t mention her testimony that it was inappropriate.
“It wasn’t a block quote,” Castor, defending the omission.

1:03 p.m.: Berke pressed Castor on whether Trump raised the Biden-Ukraine issue in 2017 or 2018. Castor said he hasn’t looked into it.
Berke: You have no evidence that he did?
Castor: No, but I have no evidence that he didn’t.

12:58 p.m.: Berke made Castor go through line by line parts of the July 25 rough transcript referring to Joe Biden.
Berke: Was President Trump was asking President Zelensky to have Ukrainian officials to look into Joe Biden?
Castor: “I don’t think the record supports that….I think it’s ambiguous.”

12:53 p.m.: It didn’t take long for Republicans to get riled up about Berke’s questioning. They’ve interrupted the question period to complain that he was also a witness for the hearing.

12:51 p.m.: Berke is up now with questions for Castor. He asked Castor about the view that Joe Biden is a legitimate contender in 2020. “It’s too early,” Castor said. Berke pressed him on Trump’s tweets and rally remarks on Biden.

12:46 p.m.: With Castor wrapped up, Republicans take another swing at Berke, with Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) complaining that Berke is serving both as a witness and a “judge,” because he’ll apparently ask questions alongside Nadler.

12:42 p.m.: With a few minutes left, Castor addressed the claims of Trump obstruction of the investigation. He said that it was actually Democrats who “delegitimized” the inquiry by how they handled it.

12:40 p.m.: Castor devoted some time to defending Trump’s move to recall U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. Her ouster got only a passing reference in Goldman’s presentation, but was discussed in bulk during the House Intelligence hearings.

12:32 p.m.: Castor stressed that Trump never explicitly told any of the witnesses that the military assistance was linked to the investigation demands. He doesn’t mention that the White House was aware of the whistleblower complaint by the time at least some of the Trump conversations referenced occurred.

12:26 p.m.: Castor focused on the testimony of the U.S. Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland, and picked apart what he said were discrepancies between Sondland’s private deposition and public testimony.

12:17 p.m.: Castor has a counter-explanation for the claim that Trump leveraged a White House meeting for a Ukraine investigation announcement. He suggested that Trump never wanted to have a meeting with Zelensky in in the first place and that’s why it kept getting delayed.

12:12 p.m.: Castor now justifying Trump’s request for a Ukraine 2016 interference investigation. “I am not saying it was Ukraine, and not Russia” that meddled, Castor, but that “some” Ukrainian officials opposed Trump’s election.

12:10 p.m.: The next section of Castor’s presentation is a defense of Trump’s interest in investigating Hunter Biden and Burisma.

12:09 p.m.: Castor stressed Zelensky’s public denials of a quid pro quo. “He is in fact the supposed victim here,” Castor said.

12:04 p.m.: Castor tackling the July 25 call summary first. He said there was “no pressure or conditionality” in the rough transcript.

11:59 a.m.: Recess is over, and Castor has begun his rebuttal to the House Intel majority’s presentation. Republicans also changed up the signage behind them during the recess.

11:30 a.m.: Democrats move to recess after Goldman finished his presentation. Republicans are clearly not happy. “This is so they can have a press conference,” Gaetz yells as they’re voting whether to recess. Nadler said the recess will last 15 minutes.

11:19 a.m.: Moving on to Trump’s hold on military aid, Goldman said that even though there’s evidence Ukraine knew about the freeze as early as late July, there was an incentive for Ukraine to keep that knowledge quiet, because Ukraine would not have wanted to tip off Russia that there was an issue.

11:18 a.m.: Goldman noted the emphasis that the investigations be announced publicly. The goal was not the investigations themselves or uncovering corruption, “but the political benefit that President Trump would enjoy” from the announcement of an investigation into his rival, Goldman said.

11:13 a.m.: Goldman recapped the finagling done in Ukraine to get President Zelensky to convince Trump he’d do the investigations, so that Zelensky would get a White House visit. But, “this was not a rogue operation,” he said.

11:07 a.m.: Here are Goldman’s full prepared remarks.

10:57 a.m.: Goldman’s presentation included a close read of the transcript from the July 25 call, and Trump’s line that he would like Ukraine to do him “a favor.” Trump’s requests for those two investigations had nothing to do with U.S. foreign policy, Goldman said.

10:53 a.m.: Goldman said that there were four “critical findings” of the House Intel Ukraine probe. Here is what they are (via his prepared remarks).

10:47 a.m.: Like Berke before him, Goldman pointed to Trump’s Ukraine comments made since the investigation was started. Goldman referenced specifically Trump’s state hope that Rudy Giuliani would produce for the Justice Department a report on the Ukraine allegations the President has been pushing.

10:44 a.m.: After another procedural vote, Goldman can finally begin his presentation. Goldman said that Trump abused the presidency in a “months long campaign to solicit foreign help” with his 2020 reelection effort.

10:39 a.m.: An oath is administered to Goldman, the House Intelligence counsel, and to Castor, before they begin their presentations on behalf of the House Intelligence Committee majority and minority.

10:37 a.m.: Republicans have another procedural complaint to throw sand in the gears of Monday’s hearing. They’re asking Nadler why he didn’t administer an oath to Castor and Burke ahead of their presentations.

10:28 a.m.: The first half of Castor’s initial presentation was more focused on Democrats’ investigative tactics rather than Trump’s Ukraine conduct. He only got into defending Trump’s conduct itself until he had about 13 minutes left on the clock.

10:22 a.m.: As he mocked Democrats’ efforts to investigate Trump, Castor went after their move to get the testimony of a convicted liar, Michael Cohen. He didn’t mention that Cohen was Trump’s longtime lawyer and fixer.

10:15 a.m.: Castor said that this impeachment proceeding comes down “eight lines in a call transcript.” Overturning an election based on those lines is “baloney,” Castor said.

10:13 a.m.: Republicans want to strike from the record portions of Berke’s presentation that “impugn” the motives of the President. They claimed that Berke’s comments were “unparliamentary,” referring to House rules that bar certain language about the President. Nadler suggested that those rules don’t apply to a witness and that this whole hearing is about misconduct by the President. There was a vote to table the motion.

10:05 a.m.: Berke’s presentation is making use of Trump’s own words by playing clips of the President bragging about the power he has, asking Russia for its assistance in the 2016 campaign and his doubling down on his plea for Ukraine to open Biden probes.

9:50 a.m.: Berke previewed the major pieces of evidence he planned to dig into. Berke’s presentation sounds a lot like the opening statement you’d hear a prosecutor make in front of a jury. Berke himself is a white collar criminal defense attorney who cut his teeth at the federal defender’s office in the Southern District of New York.

9:49 a.m.: Berke: “The person at the center [of the Ukraine] scheme was President Donald Trump.” To make these points, Berke is referring to witness testimony that is being played on TVs within the hearing room.

9:43 a.m.: Berke’s presentation is underway: “The evidence is overwhelming that the president abused his power”

9:39 a.m.: Procedural antics delay the presentations by staff counsel. At one point, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) raised his voice to whine about how staff counsel were going to be leading the news part of the hearing.

9:38 a.m.: Collins’ opening statement hits many of the major points of Republicans’ defense of Trump. There are complaints about the process and about the supposed lack of fact witnesses, while Collins also accuses Democrats of having been hellbent on impeaching Trump from the moment he was inaugurated.

9:30 a.m.: In the seats right behind the witness table — typically reserved for a witness’ lawyers or aides — are HPSCI Republicans Devin Nunes, Mike Conaway and Brad Wenstrup

9:25 a.m.: Collins predicts that the memorable line from this impeachment proceeding will be, “where is the impeachable offense?”

9:24 a.m.: Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler’s opening statement wrapped up without a mention of special counsel Robert Mueller or Russia’s 2016 interference. There has been a debate among Democrats whether to include Trump conduct related to that investigation in their articles of impeachment. Nadler’s opening statement focused on the main points of the Ukraine matter and on pre-butting GOP complaints about the impeachment proceedings.

9:18 a.m.: With Castor at the witness table, at Judiciary Ranking Member Doug Collins’ side on the dais is Ashley Callen, a member of Republican Judiciary Committee staff, according to CNN.

9:15 a.m.: The heckler appears to have been Owen Shroyer, a host on the conspiracy website InfoWars. Shroyer posted a livestream of himself heckling the hearing on his Twitter page.

9:14 a.m.: We have our first major interruption to the proceedings — this one coming from a pro-Trump protester who was seated in the public seating.

8:59 a.m.: As we wait for this to get rolling, here is what we’re expecting the format to be, as reported by Politico. After the chair and ranking member make opening statements, Berke and Castor will each give 30-minute presentations. Then Goldman has 45 minutes to present the House Intel Ukraine report, to be followed by a 45-minute response by Castor. After that, we will move to the 45-minute periods for each side, led by either the chair or ranking member or a staff lawyer, to question the counsel who are presenting. Finally, there will be the 5-minute question periods for each member of the committee.

Corrected: This story has been corrected to reflect that Ashley Callen is a member of the GOP Judiciary staff, not Oversight.

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