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Judiciary fireworks: GOP accuses Democratic counsel of impugning Trump’s motives

Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee accused a Democratic counsel offering impeachment evidence of impugning the motives of President Trump, the latest round of fireworks in a testy and contentious hearing.

The Judiciary hearing began to go off the rails almost immediately after it began as GOP members began making points of order demanding a minority hearing.

A little more than an hour into the hearing, Republicans expressed outrage at Democratic counsel Barry Berke’s evidence, as Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) accused him of impugning Trump.

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Johnson interrupted Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) as he attempted to recognize Republican counsel Stephen Castor, with Johnson accusing Berke of violating Rule 17 of the House of Representatives, which deals with decorum and debate.

“The witness has used language which impugns the motives of the president and suggests that he’s disloyal to his country, and those words should be stricken from the record and taken down,” Johnson said.

Nadler refused to hear Johnson’s point of order on Berke, and told Johnson that “the topic of the hearing is the president’s misconduct, so none of us should find it surprising that we are hearing testimony that is critical of the president.”

When Johnson objected to Nadler not recognizing his motion, Nadler noted that “the rules of decorum apply to members of the House, not to witnesses.”

Following this, multiple committee members asked for a recorded vote on a motion to table to request on Berke, which was agreed to by a party-line vote of 24-15. 

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About 20 minutes after the first vote, Republicans committee members again forced a vote on Berke’s comments, with Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) arguing that Nadler classified Berke as a staffer instead of a witness, meaning the rules of decorum applied.
 
The committee again voted to table the motion by a party-line vote. 

The Republican pushback on Berke’s comments marked the third interruption in the hearing, with Republicans also urging Nadler to schedule a “minority day of hearings” earlier in the day. 

A pro-Trump protester also interrupted Nadler’s opening comments at the beginning of the hearing, with the protester escorted out of the room as he screamed at Nadler and committee Democrats that “Americans are sick of your impeachment sham, they’re sick of the Democrat treason.”

Republicans have sought to shift attention from Trump’s actions to the Democratic impeachment effort itself, which they argue is an attempt to remove a president that Democrats cannot defeat in an election.

Democrats are arguing that Trump abused his power by pressuring a foreign government to investigate a political rival — former Vice President Joe Biden — in order to help him win the 2020 election.

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