House Judiciary holds high-stakes impeachment hearing
Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee are signaling they are done holding hearings.
While Chairman Jerry Nadler has not said so officially, that is the expectation among the members.
That means next steps likely are: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will have to give approval to articles of impeachment that Nadler and his staff are drafting. What those articles look like are a closely guarded secret in the Capitol, and the exact timing is uncertain. Only a handful of people know.
When will the committee vote on the articles? Under the rules, Nadler has to give just 24 hours notice before the committee votes. That committee session — known as a markup — could take more than one day, according to committee sources.
At the moment, there are no special Democratic caucus meetings dedicated to talking about the articles. That could change. However there are plenty of opportunities for members to discuss next steps.
What happening tonight: Pelosi meets tonight with her leadership team and a larger group of members in the steering committee, as she does weekly.
The rest of the week: The Democrats’ weekly caucus meeting is at 9 a.m. ET tomorrow. Pelosi has invited the full caucus to a meeting on Wednesday at 9 a.m. ET, according to two sources. She has another meeting on Thursday at 9 a.m. ET with the whip team.
Today's hearing is Democrats' last chance before they consider articles of impeachment to make their case to the public that President Trump should be impeached.
So far, they have used the hearing to weave the hours of witness testimony to illustrate their narrative that the President abused his office.
Meanwhile, Republicans have charged that Democrats are rushing to impeach Trump in order to beat him in the 2020 election.
Today's hearing is likely to be just the opening act of a week's worth of major Judiciary Committee activity on impeachment, as Democrats are expected to bring forward articles of impeachment that will be debated and voted on in the committee later this week.
House GOP counsel Steve Castor was seen arriving for today's hearing carrying materials in a grocery bag.
Many on the internet noticed Castor's alternative briefcase — including the grocery store that makes the bag, The Fresh Market, a specialty retailer based in North Carolina.
The Fresh Market tweeted this afternoon "we are the official briefcase maker of Steve Castor."
"You can fill your briefcase up with files or yummy food (our preference)," the tweet said.
Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, sought to discredit the House Democrats' counsel, Daniel Goldman, by displaying an old tweet he had sent to President Trump.
Gaetz started his line of questioning by asking Goldman if he was partisan. Goldman said he was not.
The Florida Republican then asked Goldman if he has made political donations. Goldman said he thinks it's important to support candidates for office, but he didn't say how much he has given.
Gaetz eventually moved to the question regarding Goldman's tweet. The congressman asked if Goldman had ever tweeted at the President.
Goldman responded, "I have made a number of tweets in my private capacity before I came to this job when I was working in the media, yes."
Gaetz displayed Goldman's 2018 tweet on a large white poster board, and asked if he regretted sending it. Goldman said he would let Gaetz decide if it was partisan or not.
Here's the tweet:
After GOP members complained that the House dropped a tranche of 8,000 documents on the committee over the weekend, Rep. Eric Swalwell asked House Democrats' counsel Daniel Goldman if he would "welcome" receiving thousands of documents from the White House in the impeachment inquiry.
'It would be a wonderful problem to have," Goldman said.
Swalwell followed up, asking Goldman: "How many have they given you?"
"Zero," he said.
During the hearing, Rep. Louie Gohmert claimed that Democrats “toss(ed) treason out in a report, like it’s no big deal” saying that it was “so absurd.”
After Gohmert’s allotted time, Democratic council Daniel Goldman pushed back and argued that, “treason is not in our report.”
Facts First: Gohmert’s claim is misleading. While the Democrat report does not accuse the President of treason, it does mention it in certain contexts.
The word “treason” is mentioned four times in the Democratic report. Three of them are in reference to something the President said, and none of them include accusations against the President. The first mention of the word “treason” is in the definition of impeachable offenses: “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”
The second and third are paraphrases of quotes by President Trump, when he suggested “the whistleblower and those who provided information to the whistleblower… could face the death penalty for treason."
The final mention of the word “treason” is from an exact quote where Trump made the suggestion: “You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart with spies and treason, right?”
Republican Rep. Ken Buck asked the GOP's counsel Steve Castor if to his knowledge he knew if EU ambassador Gordon Sondland had any contact with Democrats on the committee before he amended the statements made during his closed-door deposition.
Castor said he had "no idea."
However, Buck continued to speculate that this may have happened, and Democrats could have influenced Sondland's testimony.
After Buck concluded, House Democrats' counsel Daniel Goldman chimed in, saying, "I would like just to comment to Mr. Buck that the majority staff and no one had any contact with Ambassador Sondland after his deposition."
Rep. Louie Gohmert, a Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, slammed the Democrats' impeachment inquiry, calling it a "kangaroo court."
The Texas lawmaker criticized Democrats for allowing their counsel, Barry Berke, to question the witnesses after Berke had testified before the committee this morning.
"It's not about due process, this is about a kangaroo system, and let me tell you, those that think you've done something special here, you have set the bar so low, I'm afraid it's irreparable," Gohmert said.
He also blasted the witness process, saying the committee has yet to hear from fact witnesses:
"We were told we would hear lawyers present evidence ... Now, what normally happens, I've been in some kangaroo hearings in courts, not my own, but I have been mistreated in hearings before, but I have never seen anything like this, where we don't allow the fact witnesses to come in here, we have the lawyers come in and tell us what we're supposed to know about those witnesses and about their testimony and their impression and what the law is, this is outrageous," Gohmert said.
Reminder: Democratic lawmakers have issued subpoenas to several current and former White House officials, but most of them have skipped out on scheduled depositions. The Justice Department has said attempts by impeachment investigators to compel testimony from executive branch witnesses about President Trump's dealings with Ukraine are "legally invalid" unless they allow for the witnesses to bring a government lawyer.
Asked if the articles of impeachment should include evidence from special counsel Robert Mueller's report, Rep. Karen Bass, a Democratic member on the House Judiciary Committee, said she believes the articles will detail his “pattern of behavior,” which could encompass his efforts to allegedly undercut the Mueller probe.
More on this: In an interview Sunday with CNN's Dana Bash on "State of the Union," Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler would not commit to including the evidence of obstruction of justice outlined in Mueller's report as part of the articles of impeachment.
Nadler said he was confident in Democrats' "solid" case for impeachment, expressing optimism about the matter as the party moves closer to drafting articles. He thinks his party's case "if presented to a jury would be a guilty verdict in about three minutes flat."