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Live coverage: Democrats, Republicans seek to win PR battle in final House impeachment hearing

The House Judiciary Committee on Monday will hold its first hearing since Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced last week that the relevant committees would begin drafting impeachment articles against President Trump.

Democrats are determined to weave the narrative that Trump pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to open two investigations that would benefit him politically, including one into a top 2020 political rival.

Republicans are expected to counter by raising complaints of an unfair process and claiming a lack of direct evidence tying Trump to such allegations.

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The hearing will also be vying for the public’s attention amid the anticipated release of a Justice Department watchdog report examining the FBI’s actions in the early stages of the 2016 Russia investigation.

Follow The Hill’s live coverage below.

Judiciary Democrats’ counsel begins opening arguments

9:47 a.m.  

Barry Berke, the counsel for Democrats on the Judiciary panel, began his 30 minutes of opening arguments by claiming the evidence is “overwhelming” that Trump committed impeachable offenses.

Berke said the U.S. Constitution included the process of impeachment if a leader in the Oval Office abuses his power, arguing that such is the case with Trump, saying he used his office to “in order to further his own reelection prospects.”

“First, the evidence is overwhelming that the president abused his power by pressuring Ukraine to investigate a political opponent,” Berke said, adding that Trump abused his power by using a wanted White House meeting and “needed” military aid as leverage. 

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Berke also argued that it is “clear and overwhelming” that in abusing his power, Trump also compromised the national security of the country and a U.S. election.

— Olivia Beavers 

Collins blasts ‘focus group impeachment’ in opening statement

9:38 a.m.

The committee’s ranking member Doug Collins (R-Ga.) blasted the process as a “focus group impeachment” in his opening statement.

“This may become known as the focus group impeachment because we don’t have a crime, we don’t have anything we can actually pin and nobody understands really what the majority is trying to do except make sure the president can’t win next year if he’s impeached,” Collins said.

“The focus group impeachment takes words and takes them to people and says ‘how can we explain them better’ because we don’t have the facts to match it,” Collins added. “A focus group impeachment says ‘we really aren’t working with good facts but we need a good PR movie’.”

Collins also accused Pelosi of having demonstrated Democrats were determined to impeach regardless of the investigation’s findings.

“Last Wednesday after we had a long day of hearing here, the next morning before anything could get started, the speaker of the house walked up to the podium and said go write articles of impeachment,” Collins said. “She just quit, she just stopped.”

Collins went on to blast House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) for misquoting the call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, which Schiff has defended as “parody.”

“Maybe I might need to just stop commenting on Chairman Schiff… because I may end up on the next phone records subpoena,” Collins said, referencing Schiff obtaining Rep. Devin Nunes’ (R-Calif.) phone records. Schiff has denied the records were subpoenaed.

— Zack Budryk

Nadler says Trump ‘put himself before country’ in opening remarks

9:34 a.m.

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House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) opened the impeachment inquiry on Monday by saying that President Trump had “broken his oath” as president, and accused Trump of “putting himself before country.”

“The evidence shows that Donald J. Trump, the president of the United States, has put himself before country, he has violated his most basic responsibilities to the people, he has broken his oath,” Nadler said during his opening statement. “I will honor mine, if you would honor yours, then I would urge you to do your duty.”

Nadler accused Trump of endangering U.S. elections, pointing to the recent trip by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s lawyer, to Ukraine last week as an example of this.

“The president welcomed foreign interference in 2016, he demanded it in 2020, and then he got caught,” Nadler added.

Nadler also argued that Democrats and Republicans had some “common ground” in the impeachment debate, and said that if “we could drop our blinders for just one moment, I think we could agree on a common set of facts as well.”

— Maggie Miller

Protester interrupts hearing

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9:29 a.m.

A pro-Trump protestor on Monday launched into a demonstration minutes into the House Judiciary Committee’s impeachment hearing, accusing the panel’s chairman of committing treason by trying to remove President Trump from office.

The man, who was in the public seating area, stood up and began yelling that Nadler and other Democrats were trying to change the outcome of the 2016 presidential election by carrying through with impeaching Trump over his contacts with Ukraine.

The demonstrator, who filmed his protest, appeared to be a host on Infowars, a conservative and at times conspiracy-peddling site.

Shortly after he began, multiple police escorts showed up and shuttled him out of the hearing room as he continued yelling.

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— Olivia Beavers

Nadler gavels in impeachment hearing 

9:28 a.m.

Nadler gaveled in the hearing to hear House investigators present their evidence on impeachment, in what might be Democrats’ last public opportunity to lay out their case before introducing articles of impeachment against Trump.

The hearing features Barry Berke, a counsel for the Judiciary Democrats who will present their opening arguments after Nadler and Collins gave their opening statements.

Counsel Steve Castor is representing the Republicans in both the opening arguments and then when House Intelligence counsels present their findings.

A row of House Intelligence Republicans sat behind Castor, including House Intelligence’s ranking member, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), as well as Reps. Brad Wenstrup (Ohio) and Mike Conaway (Texas). 

 

– Olivia Beavers

Judiciary Democrat: Trump himself is ‘smoking gun’ in impeachment case

8:12 a.m.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), a member of the House Judiciary Committee, said early Monday that the impeachment case against President Trump is unique in that the president is the strongest witness to prove the allegations he’s denying.

“This is a fairly clear-cut case where the president himself is the smoking gun,” Jayapal said on CNN’s “New Day.”

“I just want to say that this is an odd situation, where we have the first and best witness very early on, on national television, saying exactly what he wanted from that call with Ukrainian President Zelensky. And that was Donald Trump, when he came out and he said he wanted an investigation into the Bidens,” she added.

Lawmakers prep ahead of impeachment hearing

Republicans and Democrats on Sunday night held prep sessions as they gear up for the House Judiciary Committee’s high-stakes impeachment hearing concerning President Trump’s dealing with Ukraine.

Lawmakers are looking to be as ready as possible ahead of Monday’s hearing, one of the final opportunities for members to publicly make their case for or against impeachment as Democrats charge ahead with hopes to vote on articles before the Christmas holiday.

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