The latest on the Trump impeachment inquiry
Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, a Republican from Wisconsin, blasted the Democrat-led impeachment inquiry tonight, calling it the "weakest case in history."
"When we're debating here, in my opinion, is the weakest case in history, and yet the Democrats have decided to go full speed ahead again, because of the clock and the calendar with an incomplete record simply by using hearsay evidence and trashing the rules of the House every time they can in order to speed things up, with a pre-ordained conclusion and that is a partisan vote for impeachment," he said in his opening statement.
Sensenbrenner went on to say the process could have been bipartisan, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler "blew their opportunity."
"If they could have made it bipartisan, they blew their opportunity very early on with their trashing of the rules and the trashing of what is in the history of this committee," he said.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a Democrat from California, did not mince words with her opening statement tonight on Capitol Hill, claiming the House Judiciary Committee has received "direct evidence about the President's actions to threaten our national security, undermine the integrity of the next election and is a violation of his oath."
"This is a serious moment for our country. I've worked on presidential impeachments as part of this committee twice before, and a third time brings me no joy. Members of the Congress all take an oath to uphold the Constitution when a president violates a constitutional order we have an obligation to live up to our oath of office to deal with that. Last week the committee got direct evidence about the President's actions to threaten our national security, undermine the integrity of the next election and is a violation of his oath," Lofgren said.
Lofgren went on to add: "President Trump has not only abused his power for the upcoming election, he used a foreign power to do it. George Washington would likely be astonished since he warned against the insidious wiles of foreign influence."
Rep. Doug Collins, a Republican from Georgia, took aim at House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff and the obstruction of Congress article brought forward in the House against President Trump.
"The only obstruction we've seen here is obstruction of chairman Schiff of this investigation. He did not turn over the documents as he was supposed to. We get those last Saturday in a massive document after we already had a hearing and after we were getting ready for another hearing in which we were supposed to lay out the report and tonight — tonight he sends a letter of classified information that has been classified over to us tonight. Don't think for a second, American public, that this majority wants you to find the truth," Collins said tonight on the Hill.
Schiff was further critical of how fast the impeachment inquiry has developed.
Republicans have several props in the House Judiciary Committee meeting room tonight, including three signs that go after Democrats for the impeachment inquiry.
One says "44% of House Democrats already voted to impeach President Trump. The outcome is predetermined."
Another says "Coastal Impeachment Squad" with a photo of several House Democrats.
Rep. Doug Collins, the ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, criticized the impeachment inquiry in his opening statement tonight, calling it "nothing new" and a path the Democrats have been on "since November 2016."
"The only thing that has changed is the opportunity from last November when you became the majority. The only thing that changed in your desire to impeach this President was that you became the majority, and we have spent all year in this committee trying to impeach the President," Collins said.
Collins was also critical of how partisan the House has become and how it has prevented bills from getting passed.
Rep. Jerry Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, explained why House Democrats were moving forward with impeachment against President Trump.
"Some ask, why not take more time? Why is this necessary now? Why not let the next election handle it?" Nadler said. "This brings us to the third and final question: what is the risk if we do not act?"
Nadler went on to say of Congress does not act, Trump will continue to abuse his power.
"Over the past 94 days since the House investigation began — indeed, over the past three years—one indisputable truth has emerged: if we do not respond to President Trump’s abuses of power, the abuses will continue," the New York Democrat said. "We cannot rely on an election to solve our problems when the President threatens the very integrity of that election. Nor can we sit on our hands while the President undermines our national security — and while he allows his personal interests and the interests of our adversary Russia to advance."
He continued: "President Trump’s continuing abuses of power jeopardize our security and our elections. The threat is urgent. If we do not act—now—what happens next will be our responsibility as well as his."
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler laid out some historical context for President Trump's impeachment and how his obstruction of the inquiry compares to those into President Nixon and President Clinton.
"When the House of Representatives opened an inquiry into the President’s actions, President Trump did everything in his power to obstruct the investigation. He declared across-the-board resistance. He ordered every official in the federal government to defy all subpoenas related to the inquiry. At his command, the Administration also refused to produce a single document related to the inquiry. Not one," Nadler said tonight during his opening remarks. "To put this obstruction into context, during the Watergate hearings, President Nixon turned over recordings of his conversations in the Oval Office; later, President Clinton would hand over his DNA."
Nadler went on to call Trump's obstruction "absolute."
"Those are the facts. They are overwhelming. There is no denying them," Nadler said. "The President faces a second article of impeachment for his ongoing efforts to obstruct a lawful investigation of his conduct. We have never, in the history of our nation, seen a President categorically defy Congress in this manner."
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler opened the debate tonight by reading out the articles of impeachment against President Trump.
"The first article charges that the President used the powers of his public office to demand that a foreign government attack his political rivals," Nadler said according to his statement. "The second article charges that the President obstructed the congressional investigation into his conduct. Other Presidents have resisted congressional oversight, but President Trump’s stonewall was complete, absolute, and without precedent in American history."
Nadler went on to add: "Taken together, the two articles charge President Trump with placing his private, political interests above our national security, above our free and fair elections, and above our ability to hold public officials accountable. This Committee now owes it to the American people to give these articles close attention, and to describe their factual basis, meaning, and importance."
The House Judiciary Committee has started its debate on the articles of impeachment against President Trump.
The committee meeting kicks off a lengthy talk-a-thon: every lawmaker on the 41-member Judiciary Committee will have the chance to give an opening statement to kick off the debate.