Next phase in Trump impeachment inquiry begins

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10:47 a.m. ET, December 4, 2019

Meanwhile, House Democrats held a secret meeting this morning to discuss impeachment

New Jersey Democrat Bill Pascrell said after a closed-door meeting among Democratic lawmakers this morning that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's unusual steps to keep the discussion secret were taken “because it’s family stuff.”

“Your know, you’ve got your own family, you want to discuss things, you want to throw people out that don’t belong there,” he said. “Nothing serious.” 

Staffers weren’t allowed in the meeting and members weren’t able to bring their cell phones into the room, a break from the normally relaxed atmosphere.

Pascrell said Adam Schiff briefed members on the intelligence panel’s impeachment report, which was released yesterday. He said he didn’t hear any discomfort among his colleagues about the pace of the impeachment inquiry, nor the scope of potential articles of impeachment. 

“We’re going at a great pace. I never thought we’d be this far at this time,” he told reporters. “We’ve done this methodically. I think Adam’s made the right decisions on this, and when you go through things methodically, it’s always slow. Maybe even too slow.”

Asked about next steps, Pascrell predicted: “Well, we’re going to vote to impeach, I would think. If the evidence is there, we will vote.”

“There is no anxiety on this thing, I can tell you that right now,” he added. "We’re not happy we’re at this point or doing this. It’s got to be done, though. That's our oath of office, and we will do it.”

Michigan Rep. Dan Kildee said confidentiality at the meeting was taken so seriously because “we’re at a really critical moment.”

“Obviously the beginning of the Judiciary hearings, the release of the report from the intelligence committee, the fact that the facts stack up so tall against the President and his behavior,” he said, "and we’re going to be very thoughtful about how we move forward.”

He said the meeting was “an opportunity to have a pretty candid conversation. It seems like there’s a lot of unity among the caucus on this point.”

Kildee told reporters he believes there is agreement within the caucus that enough evidence exists at this point to make a decision on impeachment.

"I think it would be a mistake to fall into the trap that the President is trying to set that we should somehow wait and wait for every count in the nation to determine whether or not his obstruction is legitimate,” said Kildee.

10:58 a.m. ET, December 4, 2019

The witnesses were just sworn in

Today's witnesses — four law professors — were just sworn in.

The witnesses are:

  • Noah Feldman of Harvard Law School
  • Pamela S. Karlan of Stanford Law School
  • Michael Gerhardt of the University of North Carolina School of Law
  • Jonathan Turley of the George Washington University Law School

Each will give an opening statement now.

Watch more:

10:37 a.m. ET, December 4, 2019

Top committee members present dueling narratives on the founders

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee committee, Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler, and the ranking member of the committee, Republican Rep. Doug Collins, both appealed to the early leaders of the United States in their opening statements.

Nadler said that President Trump’s conduct — explicitly soliciting foreign interference in American elections, Nadler said — constituted an unprecedented “course of conduct that included all of the acts that most concerned the Framers” of the Constitution.

These Framers, he said, had feared foreign election interference “above all.”

Collins rejected Nadler’s argument that the impeachment push was about foreign interference. Instead, he cast it as a matter of anti-Trump animus.

Collins said Nadler ignored that the founders of the United States were “really, really concerned about political impeachment — because you just don’t like the guy.”

10:50 a.m. ET, December 4, 2019

GOP lawmaker asks for Rep. Schiff to appear before Judiciary Committee

Jacquelyn Martin/AP
Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Rep. Doug Collins, the top Republican on the Judiciary Chair, just wrapped up his opening statement — and then immediately requested that House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff appear before the committee.

Collins made a motion to "require the attendance of chairman Schiff before this committee and translate this letter accordingly."

The motion was tabled — but Collins then asked for a recorded vote. The motion was approved 24-17.

We'll likely see a lot of these motions during today's hearing.

Watch more:

10:32 a.m. ET, December 4, 2019

Nadler's opening statement goes beyond Ukraine scandal. Here's why that's significant.

House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler’s opening statement focused on the Ukraine scandal at the heart of the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry, but it didn’t stick only to that. 

Nadler also referenced special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian election interference in the 2016 election.

Why this is important: That’s significant given that Democrats will need to decide whether any articles of impeachment if they are drafted are based solely on the President’s contacts with Ukraine or if they extend beyond that. The House Judiciary committee would have jurisdiction over drafting any articles.

After discussing the now-famous July 25 phone call between President Trump and the Ukrainian President, Nadler said, "Of course, this is not the first time that President Trump has engaged in this pattern of conduct. In 2016, the Russian government engaged in a sweeping and systematic campaign of interference in our elections. In the words of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, 'the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome.'” 

Nadler went on to say, "The President welcomed that interference. We saw this in real time when President Trump asked Russia to hack his political opponent.”

10:36 a.m. ET, December 4, 2019

Collins: "The clock and the calendar" are driving impeachment — not the facts

Pool
Pool

Rep. Doug Collins said "the clock and the calendar" are driving Democrats' impeachment inquiry — not the facts.

"If you want to know what's really driving this? There's two things: It's called the clock and the calendar," he said in his opening statement. "Most people in life what they truly value you look at their checkbook and their calendar, you know what they value. That what this committee values."

Collins said Democrats are rushing through the impeachment inquiry because they're scared of losing elections in 2020. "So we got to do this now," Collins said.

"The clock and the calendar are what's driving impeachment. Not the facts," he said.

Watch:

10:33 a.m. ET, December 4, 2019

Collins slams impeachment inquiry: "This is nothing new, folks"

Pool
Pool

Rep. Doug Collins, the ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, criticized Democrats and the impeachment inquiry, saying they are rehashing facts that aren't new.

"So don't tell me this is about new evidence and new things and new stuff... This is nothing new, folks," he said.

"This impeachment is not really about facts," Collins added.

The Georgia Republican said Democrats have been trying to impeachment President Trump since he was elected.

Watch more:

10:33 a.m. ET, December 4, 2019

Nadler: We can't wait until the next election to hold Trump accountable for his actions

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler recognized that the 2020 presidential election is "looming" in his opening statement.

"But we cannot wait for the election to address the present crisis," Nadler said. "The integrity of that election the one of the very things at stake."

Nadler said that Trump has shown that if they don't hold him "in check now," then he will try "to solicit interference" in the next election for his "personal political gain." 

On the possibility of introducing articles of impeachment, Nadler said:

"In a few days, we will reconvene and hear from the committees that worked to uncover the facts before us. And when we apply the Constitution to those facts, if it is true that President Trump has committed an impeachable offense—or impeachable offenses—then we must move swiftly to do our duty and charge him accordingly."

Watch:

10:22 a.m. ET, December 4, 2019

Pelosi asked Democrats,"Are you ready?" They shouted that they are.

During today's meeting of House Democrats, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi asked: “Are you ready?”

Democrats responded by shouting out they are, sources tell CNN.

The question was in essence, per two sources: "Are you ready to keep moving forward on impeachment?" The caucus indicated they were. 

Four other sources said that Pelosi told her colleagues in brief remarks to let the process work and did not provide a timeline on impeachment. She also encouraged her colleagues to be disciplined in their messages. She said that everyone’s district is different, so members need to respect that.

All members left their phones in cubbyholes as they entered.