Credit: Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) — Congressional lawyers made their case to lawmakers Monday on the impeachment of President Donald Trump, presenting the final testimony in a weeks-long effort that has divided the nation.
The next step will be consideration of articles of impeachment by the House Judiciary Committee as early as Wednesday.
Here’s what to know:
No new evidence, but heavy on political spin
The hearing provided little new insight into Trump’s actions in Ukraine and plodded along at times. But it enabled both sides to present their findings to the American public through a political lens one final time before lawmakers vote on articles of impeachment.
Democratic counsel Dan Goldman said Trump was engaged in a “persistent and continuing effort” to coerce a foreign government to “help him cheat to win an election,” making him a “clear and present danger” to U.S. elections and national security.
Republican counsel Stephen Castor said nothing the president has done rises to the level of impeachment and accused Democrats of “searching for a set of facts” they could use to discredit the president since he was elected.
The hearing grew testy as opposing legal counsel were allowed to question one another, and Republicans repeatedly interjected with procedural objections.
In one particularly heated exchange, Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, demanded details from Democratic counsel Goldman about the Democrats’ subpoena of phone records.
“Who ordered it? Was it you?” said Collins, questioning whether the records were added to the final impeachment report for “smear purposes.”
Goldman replied that his question would be better directed at Trump allies involved in the “scheme” to pressure Ukraine.
“I am going to go on record and tell you I’m not going to reveal how we conducted this investigation,” he said.
Goldman did acknowledge though that the committee issued “at least four” subpoenas to Verizon and AT&T, but said none of them specifically targeted members of Congress.
Republican counsel Castor testified that he was aware of six subpoenas issued by the Democrats that targeted Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani; an associate of Giuliani’s, Igor Fruman, who faces campaign finance charges; and Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the European Union.
Included in the phone log is a call between Rep. Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, and Lev Parnas, who also faces federal charges on campaign violations. Nunes told Fox News earlier this month that he’s never met Parnas and couldn’t recall talking with him on the phone.
A good question raised: What will the American public remember about the Ukraine affair?
For President Richard Nixon and Watergate, the million dollar question was “What did the president know and when did he know it?” And President Bill Clinton’s impeachment is mostly remembered for Clinton’s famous denial of an extra-marital affair with a White House intern: “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.”
Collins tried to make the point that there was so little evidence of Trump’s wrongdoing that Americans wouldn’t able to come away with a single, memorable line for Trump’s impeachment inquiry. He said perhaps the only big takeaway line is “where is the impeachable offense?”
Pennsylvania Democratic Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon later told reporters she thought Americans would remember Trump’s words to Ukraine’s president in his July 25 phone call: “I would like you to do us a favor though.” Trump used the phrase in response to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy thanking Trump for U.S. military support and asking about “next steps.”
“I don’t think there’s any question,” Scanlon said of Americans remembering the line, which was repeatedly referenced by Democrats throughout the hearing.
White House lawyers weren’t present, but Trump was tweeting.
The White House decided against cooperating with the inquiry, repeatedly calling it a sham and refusing to provide documents or testimony.
Late Friday afternoon, White House counsel Pat Cipollone signaled that Trump wouldn’t be sending legal representation on Monday, quoting Trump on the effort: “If you’re going to impeach me, do it now, fast, so we can have a fair trial in the Senate, and so that our Country can get back to business.”
But the refusal to cooperate also limited the GOP ability to directly tackle the Democratic argument that Trump was engaged in historic stonewalling of Congress and should face impeachment articles on obstruction.
President Donald Trump tweeted and retweeted repeatedly, touting the economy, calling the inquiry a “Witch Hunt!” and urging his supporters to “Read the Transcripts!”
Trump later told reporters that he did watch some of the hearing.
“Very little. It’s a disgrace. It’s a disgrace to our country. It’s a hoax, and it should never, ever be allowed to happen again,” he said.
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