House read­ies for­mal charges

Democrats lay out case for Trump im­peach­ment

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Lisa Mas­caro and Mary Clare Jalonick

WASHINGTON >> Top House lawyers sparred heat­edly with law­mak­ers and each other over the im­peach­ment case against Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Mon­day in an ac­ri­mo­nious hear­ing as Democrats pre­pare for­mal charges.

Democrats in­sisted that Trump’s push to have Ukraine in­ves­ti­gate ri­val Joe Bi­den while at the same time with­hold­ing U.S. mil­i­tary aid ran counter to U.S. pol­icy and ben­e­fited Rus­sia as well as him­self. But in one testy ex­change, Repub­li­can at­tor­ney Stephen Cas­tor dis­missed the tran­script of Trump’s cru­cial call with Ukraine as “eight am­bigu­ous lines” that did not amount to the pres­i­dent seek­ing a per­sonal po­lit­i­cal fa­vor.

Democrats ar­gued vig­or­ously that Trump’s

mean­ing could not have been clearer in seek­ing po­lit­i­cal dirt on Bi­den, his pos­si­ble op­po­nent in the 2020 elec­tion.

The chief Demo­cratic in­ves­ti­ga­tor, Dan Gold­man, asked for his view, tes­ti­fied, “I don’t think there’s any other wáy to read the words on the page.” Gold­man is the top Demo­cratic coun­sel on the In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee.

The Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee is re­view­ing the find­ings of the In­tel­li­gence panel’s 300-page re­port ahead of a vote, pos­si­bly as soon as this week, on two or more ar­ti­cles of im­peach­ment on charges of abuse of power, bribery and ob­struc­tion against the Repub­li­can pres­i­dent. A vote in the full House could come be­fore Christ­mas.

From the White House, Trump tweeted re­peat­edly, as­sail­ing the “Witch Hunt!” and “Do Noth­ing Democrats.”

The top Repub­li­can on the “Ju­di­ciary panel, Rep. Doug Collins of Ge­or­gia, de­manded to hear from Rep. Adam Schiff, the chair­man of the In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, whosere­port pro­vides the foun­da­tion for ar­ti­cles of im­peach­ment. Schiff de­clined to ap­pear, send­ing the panel’s chief coun­sel to ar­gue the case.

“He don’t even stand be­hind his re­port,” Collins said.

The hear­ing sets of f a piv­otal week as Democrats march to­ward a full House vote ex­pected by Christ­mas. In draft­ing the ar­ti­cles of im­peach­ment, Speaker Nancy Pelosi is fac­ing a le­gal and po­lit­i­cal chal­lenge of balancing the views of her ma­jor­ity while hit­ting the Con­sti­tu­tion’s bar of “trea­son, bribery or other high crimes and mis­de­meanors.”

Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee Chair­man Jer­rold Nadler was blunt as he opened the hear­ing, say­ing, “Pres­i­dent Trump put him­self be­fore coun­try.”

Collins said Democrats are rac­ing to jam im­peach­ment through on a “clock and a cal­en­dar” ahead of the 2020 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

“They can’t get over the fact that Don­ald Trump is the pres­i­dent of the United States and they don’t have a can­di­date that can beat him,” Collins said.

Nadler said the case against Trump is clear af­ter “mul­ti­ple of­fi­cials tes­ti­fied that the pres­i­dent’s de­mand for an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into his ri­vals was a part of his per­sonal, po­lit­i­cal agenda, and not re­lated to the for­eign pol­icy ob­jec­tives of the United States.

“The in­tegrity of our next elec­tion is at stake.”

The Repub­li­cans tried nu­mer­ous times to halt or slow the pro­ceed­ings, for­mally ob­ject­ing sev­eral times that the com­mit­tee’s Demo­cratic coun­sel was im­pugn­ing Trump as he spelled out po­ten­tial charges. Nadler re­sponded that neg­a­tive com­ments about Trump might well be ex­pected in list­ing rea­sons to im­peach him. The Repub­li­cans de­manded roll call votes sev­eral times, in­clud­ing on “tak­ing down” the neg­a­tive com­ments, all de­feated on party-line votes.

The hear­ing was briefly in­ter­rupted by a pro­tester shout­ing “We voted for Don­ald Trump!” and de­cry­ing Democrats as the ones com­mit­ting “trea­son.” The pro­tester was es­corted from the House hear­ing room by Capi­tol Po­lice.

Trump spent the morn­ing tweet­ing against the pro­ceed­ings. He and and his al­lies ac­knowl­edge he likely will be im­peached in the Demo­cratic-con­trolled House, but they also ex­pect ac­quit­tal next year in the Se­nate, where Repub­li­cans have the ma­jor­ity. Trump’s team is turn­ing at­ten­tion else­where, in­clud­ing Mon­day’s re­lease of a long-awaited Jus­tice Depart­ment re­port into the 2016 Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

That watch­dog re­port found that the FBI was jus­ti­fied in open­ing its in­ves­ti­ga­tion into ties be­tween the Trump pres­i­den­tial cam­paign and Rus­sia and that the FBI did not act with po­lit­i­cal bias, de­spite “se­ri­ous per­for­mance fail­ures” up the bu­reau’s chain of com­mand.

Those find­ings un­der­cut Trump’s claim that he was the tar­get of a “witch hunt,” re­ject­ing the­o­ries and crit­i­cism spread by Trump and his sup­port­ers. Yet it found er­rors and mis­judg­ments likely to be ex­ploited by Repub­li­can al­lies as the pres­i­dent faces prob­a­ble im­peach­ment.

The White House is re­fus­ing to par­tic­i­pate in the im­peach­ment process, and Rep. Collins asked to post­pone Mon­day’s hear­ing, crit­i­ciz­ing Democrats for mov­ing too swiftly. One le­gal scholar tes­ti­fied last week it would be the quick­est im­peach­ment in mod­ern his­tory.

Trump, mean­while, is head­ing out for cam­paign ral­lies shift­ing at­ten­tion away from the House. Over the week­end, he was fo­cused on a re­lated mat­ter, the Jus­tice Depart­ment in­spec­tor gen­eral’s find­ings on the FBI’s decisions to in­ves­ti­gate Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the 2016 elec­tion. The pres­i­dent has long called spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s Rus­sia probe a “witch hunt,” but the in­spec­tor gen­eral’s re­port is ex­pected to re­ject the claim that it was il­le­git­i­mate, ac­cord­ing to peo­ple fa­mil­iar with its find­ings.

Trump tweeted Sun­day, “I.G. re­port out to­mor­row. That will be the big story!”

Democrats say Trump abused his power in a July 25 phone call when he asked Ukrainian Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Ze­len­skiy for a fa­vor in in­ves­ti­gat­ing Democrats. That was bribery, they say, since Trump was with­hold­ing nearly $400 mil­lion in mil­i­tary aide that Ukraine de­pended on to counter Rus­sian ag­gres­sion.

Trump said over the week­end that his per­sonal at­tor­ney Rudy Gi­u­liani wants to take the in­for­ma­tion gath­ered from Gi­u­liani’s

in­ves­ti­ga­tions and a re­cent trip to Ukraine to the U.S. at­tor­ney gen­eral and to Congress.

Trump and his aides have made clear that they now see his im­peach­ment in the House as in­evitable and have shifted their fo­cus. A vote to con­vict re­quires a two-thirds vote of the Se­nate, where Repub­li­cans hold 53 of 100 seats. It is un­likely that Repub­li­can sen­a­tors would cross party lines and vote to re­move Trump from of­fice.

As Democrats draft the ar­ti­cles, Pelosi’s chal­lenge will be to go broad enough to ap­pease her lib­eral flank, which prefers a more ro­bust ac­count­ing of Trump’s ac­tions reach­ing back to Mueller’s find­ings. At the same time, cen­trist law­mak­ers pre­fer charges more tai­lored to Ukraine. Demo­cratic lead­ers were to meet Mon­day evening.

Nadler, in tele­vi­sion in­ter­views, de­clined to say ul­ti­mately how many ar­ti­cles of im­peach­ment Democrats will present but said they will in­volve “cer­tainly abuse of power” and likely “ob­struc­tion of Congress.”

He pointed to a “pat­tern” of con­duct by Trump in seek­ing for­eign in­ter­fer­ence in elec­tions but would not com­mit to in­clud­ing the ev­i­dence of ob­struc­tion of jus­tice in spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion as part of the ar­ti­cles of im­peach­ment.

In his re­port, Mueller said he could not de­ter­mine that Trump’s cam­paign con­spired or co­or­di­nated with Rus­sia in the 2016 elec­tion. But Mueller said he could not ex­on­er­ate Trump of ob­struct­ing jus­tice in the probe and left it for Congress to de­ter­mine.

ALEX BRAN­DON — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee Chair­man Rep. Jer­rold Nadler, D-N.Y., left, lis­tens to rank­ing mem­ber Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., af­ter the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee hear­ing on the con­sti­tu­tional grounds for the im­peach­ment of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, on Capi­tol Hill in Washington, Wed­nes­day

J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee Chair­man Jer­rold Nadler, D-N.Y., looks over not­ers at the Capi­tol in Washington.

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