Republican, Democratic Counsels Outline Arguments For And Against Impeachment Of Trump

Dec 9, 2019
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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

To another investigation now - the impeachment inquiry of President Trump. Today, the House Judiciary Committee questioned Democratic and Republican lawyers about the findings of their months-long investigations into Trump's dealings with Ukraine. From the get-go, the hearing was peppered with the tense exchanges and procedural interruptions that we've seen throughout the public phase of the inquiry. Here's one eight seconds in between ranking member Doug Collins and Chairman Jerry Nadler.

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JERRY NADLER: The House Committee on the Judiciary will come to order. Without objection, the chair is authorized to declare recesses of the committee to...

DOUG COLLINS: I object.

CORNISH: But over the course of the day, each side did manage to lay out its case, and the hearing sets the stage for Democrats to potentially unveil articles of impeachment later this week. NPR political reporter Tim Mak was watching.

Welcome back to the studio.

TIM MAK, BYLINE: Thank you.

CORNISH: What were the main arguments for and also against impeachment?

MAK: Well, so Democratic counsel Daniel Goldman said that the president's actions were so alarming that they require a swift impeachment. Take a listen.

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DANIEL GOLDMAN: President Trump's persistent and continuing effort to coerce a foreign country to help him cheat to win an election is a clear and present danger to our free and fair elections and to our national security.

MAK: So you hear them - so you hear him there trying to make this case that this needs to be done quickly. Goldman said that the president abused his office and sought investigations into the Bidens, conditioning a White House visit and nearly $400 million in military aid to pressure the Ukrainian government to start those investigations. The Democratic lawyer further argued that Trump has since obstructed Congress' investigation into the matter.

Republicans have a different view. They argue that the Democrats' case is too thin and that the now famous July 25 phone call between President Trump and the Ukrainian president is ambiguous. Here's Republican counsel Steve Castor.

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STEVE CASTOR: The record in the Democrats' impeachment inquiry does not show that President Trump abused the power of his office or obstructed Congress. To impeach a president who 63 million people voted for over eight lines in a call transcript is baloney.

MAK: Republicans say that the president did not pressure the Ukrainian government and that he was skeptical of Ukrainian corruption writ large, that there was no quid pro quo requested or received.

CORNISH: Throughout these hearings, Republicans have objected to the way Democrats have run the inquiry. Was there more of that today?

MAK: Yeah, I want to give a sense of just how bitter and partisan the proceedings have become. We heard a little bit of that a few minutes ago. But they can't even take a 15-minute bathroom break without objections and a formal recorded vote. Republicans have routinely interrupted the proceedings with points of orders, parliamentary inquiries.

And Hill Republicans are also raising questions about the propriety of the impeachment investigation itself. One example - the Democratic report includes records showing that House Intelligence Committee ranking member Devin Nunes, who is a Republican, has spoken on the phone numerous times with Lev Parnas. He's a Rudy Giuliani associate who has since been indicted. Republican Congressman Doug Collins fiercely criticized the House Intelligence Committee for this.

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COLLINS: So I go back to my question - are you going to go on record in front of everybody here today and say that you will not tell who ordered this, you or Mr. Goldman - Mr. Goldman, you or Mr. Schiff?

GOLDMAN: I am going to go on record and tell you that I'm not going to reveal how we conducted this investigation.

MAK: So Republicans have long argued that the process is not legitimate.

CORNISH: What articles of impeachment are Democrats actually considering at this point?

MAK: Well, that's the real action behind the scenes right now, as House Democrats decide how to shape their coming articles of impeachment. Should it be broad or narrow? Are the articles focused only on this alleged Ukraine scheme, or does it include also articles related to the findings of the Mueller report? Several committee Democrats are arguing that including the Mueller findings are important to show a pattern of misconduct over time. And we'll get the answer to that - their decision on articles as early as this week.

CORNISH: That's NPR political reporter Tim Mak.

Tim, thank you.

MAK: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.