WASHINGTON — The House Judiciary Committee opened its first public impeachment hearing Wednesday following a report on the investigation into President Donald Trump that detailed alleged abuse of office in seeking foreign interference in the upcoming presidential election.
Trump and White House counsel Pat Cipollone have declined to attend or participate in the hearing Cipollone termed a “partisan inquiry” in a letter sent to the committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y.
Nadler gaveled the hearing in session saying President Trump “welcomed foreign interference in the 2016 election. He demanded it for the 2020 election.
“In both cases he got caught, and in both cases he did everything in his power to keep the American people from learning the truth,” Nadler said.
The ranking Republican on the committee, Doug Collins of Georgia, called the hearing a partisan “railroad job.”
“You don’t like the guy. You haven’t liked the guy since November ‘16,” Collins said.
The Judiciary Committee, which has been the arbiter of impeachment proceedings in the past, will hear from scholars as it explores the “constitutional grounds for presidential impeachment.”
An investigation by the Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees resulted in a monthslong investigation and a report released this week that accused Trump of pressuring Ukraine to announce an investigation into political rival Joe Biden.
The Trump administration withheld nearly $400 million in military aid at the same time as the president asked Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy for “a favor” — to investigate Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, who was on the board of the Ukrainian gas company Burisma, the report says.
The Intelligence Committee forwarded the report to the Judiciary Committee, which is authorized to draft articles of impeachment against the president and present them to the House for a vote.
A House impeachment would lead to a Senate trial on the charges, and possibly removal of office.
Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., who as a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee took part in the inquiry and signed the report, said the evidence shows Trump abused his office for “personal gain.”
“I support the next phase in this inquiry as we continue to make the strongest possible case to the Senate and the American people,” Titus said.
Republicans have dismissed the hearings as an attempt by Democrats to overturn the result of the 2016 election.
Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., the ranking Republican on the Intelligence Committee, called the impeachment inquiry a “hoax.”
Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif, said Republicans have not seriously contested the conclusions of the report that the president abused his office at the expense of the nation and for personal gain.
“The president’s actions have damaged our national security, undermined the integrity of the next election, and violated his oath of office,” Schiff said in a statement released with the report.
The White House dismissed the report outright.
“Chairman Schiff’s report reads like the ramblings of a basement blogger straining to prove something when there is evidence of nothing,” said White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham.
The Judiciary Committee has held impeachment hearings into a sitting president only three times in history, with investigations into Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton. Johnson and Clinton were acquitted by the Senate. Nixon resigned before the full House voted on articles of impeachment.
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