The House Judiciary Committee’s second consecutive day of impeachment hearings dragged long into the night Thursday, as lawmakers leveled angry charges up and down the dais over wether or not President Donald Trump abused his office by pressuring Ukraine.
Democrats uniformly tore into Trump while Republicans loyally defended him, in a day-long debate that ultimately would come to sprawl into the 2020 elections, Stormy Daniels, Trump University, Rudy Giuliani, Michael Cohen, Hunter Biden, the Steele dossier, and the energy company Burisma.
By late Thursday, the squabbles had lasted beyond lunch, dinner, and an event for lawmakers at the White House. Some members had had enough.
‘Dare I state the obvious: I have not heard a new point or an original thought from either side in the last three hours,’ said Rep. Tom McClintock, a California Republican.
The debate came on a series of amendments by Republicans, which all were voted down on party-line votes, clearly establishing that the Democrats would prevail on their impeachment articles.
In the most explosive moment of the long day, Republicans turned the second day of Judiciary impeachment hearings into a direct attack on Joe Biden’s son Hunter – citing his cocaine use and ugly public divorce as they tried to amend the Democrats’ articles of impeachment against Donald Trump.
Just minutes after the panel voted down a GOP amendment to strike down an abuse of power article, Donald Trump loyalist Rep. Matt Gaetz introduced a three-line amendment that explicitly mentioned Hunter Biden and the Ukrainian energy firm Burisma.
It would change the articles of impeachment to allege that Trump’s call to Ukraine’s president was seeking information on Hunter Biden, not his father Joe – which would undermine the allegation that it was an abuse of power. It would mention a ‘well-known corrupt company, Burisma, and its corrupt hiring of Hunter Biden.’
‘Hunter Biden and Burisma, that’s an interesting story. And I think just about every American knows there’s something up with that,’ Gaetz said.
‘$86,000 a month, no experience, working for some foreign government while your dad is the Vice President of the United States? Is there anyone who believes this is okay?’
But it was not just the complex Ukraine dealings of the former vice president’s son that Gaetz raised – he immediately referenced Hunter’s struggles with cocaine use, a problem that got him kicked out of the U.S. Navy.
The Florida Republican referenced a New Yorker magazine article that cataloged how a Hertz rental agent had told a reporter of finding drug paraphernalia after a Hunter Biden rental car wreck.
Gaetz, a fierce Trump defender, asked how someone who ‘could not resolve his own dispute with Hertz rental car after leaving cocaine and a crack pipe in the car’ got a lucrative job on the board of an energy firm.
Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, a Donald Trump loyalist, introduced an amendment inserting Hunter Biden’s name into an impeachment article – then brought up his past cocaine use
Republicans introduced an amendment that would name Hunter Biden and Burisma in an impeachment article Democrats brought against President Donald Trump
What happened to Hunter: The police report showing the aftermath of the discovery of drugs paraphernalia in his rental car in Prescott, AZ. The pipe found has been described as both a crack pipe and a meth pipe
Own DUI: Rep. Gaetz was himself arrested for Driving Under the Influence in 2008 when he was leaving a nightclub in Okaloosa Island called the Swamp. Prosecutors ended up dropping charges
Rebuke: Hank Johnson, a Georgia Democrat, told Gaetz: ‘I don’t know what members, if any, have any problem with substance abuse,’ he continued. But he cautioned against ‘character assassination.’ Gaetz was arrested for a DUI but charges were dropped. At the time of the arrest, Gaetz’s father, Don, was a Republican member of the Florida state senate
Gaetz said he was ‘not passing any judgement on the challenges’ that anyone ‘goes through in their personal life.’
He read from the article, which cataloged how Hunter Biden had struggled with drugs, been forced to leave the military, and then had headline-grabbing turns in his romantic life after the death of his brother, Beau.
His dark struggles came during his brother, the vice president’s late son’s, service as attorney general in Delaware.
Gaetz read into the official record of the impeachment articles mark-up: ‘Hunter said that, at that point, he had not slept for several days.
‘Driving east on Interstate 10, just beyond Palm Springs, he lost control of his car, which jumped the median and skidded to a stop on the shoulder of the westbound side. He called Hertz, which came to collect the damaged car and gave him a second rental.’
It’s a little hard to believe that Burisma would hire Hunter Biden to resolve their international disputes when he could not resolve his own dispute with Hertz rental car over leaving cocaine and a crack pipe in the car
Florida Republican Matt Gaetz
The congressman continued: ‘The Hertz rental officer ‘told me that he found a crack pipe in the car and, on one of the consoles, a line of white-powder residue. Beau Biden’s attorney-general badge was on the dashboard.’
‘Hertz called the Prescott police department, and officers there filed a ‘narcotics offense’ report, listing the items seized from the car, including a plastic baggie containing a ‘white powdery substance,’ a Secret Service business card, credit cards, and Hunter’s Biden’s driver’s license.
‘It’s a little hard to believe that Burisma would hire Hunter Biden to resolve their international disputes when he could not resolve his own dispute with Hertz rental car over leaving cocaine and a crack pipe in the car,’ said Gaetz.
After Gaetz spoke, Democratic Rep. Hank Johnson of Georgia condemned the effort.
‘Pot calling the kettle black is not something that should do,’ Johnson said.
‘I don’t know what members, if any, have any problem with substance abuse,’ he He continued. But he cautioned against ‘character assassination.’
Gaetz was himself arrested for Driving Under the Influence in 2008 when he was 26 years old. According to the Tampa Bay Times, Gaetz admitted drinking two beers, refused a field sobriety test. However the charges were dropped. At the time his father Don was a Republican state senator in Florida.
Kathleen Biden leveled allegations at Hunter during an angry divorce
Hunter married Melissa Cohen in Los Angeles in May just six days after they met
During a break in the action, Johnson wouldn’t respond directly to a question by DailyMail.com whether he knew about Gaetz’ past arrest.
‘I’m not going to comment on that. My message was that we should keep our proceedings on a high level and people who are in glass houses – you can’t throw rocks in a glass house,’ he said. ‘They’re trying to much up Vice President Biden. They’re using his son as Exhibit A. It’s not fair to President Biden and it’s certainly not fair to Hunter Biden,’ Johnson added.
Gaetz declined an opportunity to talk when asked for comment.
Later, Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California, a senior member, urged restraint. ‘The behavior of Vice President Biden’s son and frankly the behavior of President Trump’s two sons and daughter may be discussed in the election,’ she said.
Pot calling the kettle black is not something that should do. I don’t know what members, if any, have any any problem with substance abuse.
Georgia Democrat Hank Johnson
‘But here we are talking about the abuse presidential authority. The president must take care that the laws be faithfully executed.’
But Gaetz did not let up on the public attack on Hunter Biden there.
He also quoted from the allegations leveled at him by his former wife Kathleen during their ugly public divorce.
She alleged in court documents that he had received a ‘large diamond’ and Scotch worth ‘thousands of dollars’ from a Chinese businessman.
The full-frontal attack on Hunter Biden came as House Republicans repeatedly sought to undermine the Democratic effort to impeach Trump by mocking the charges leveled against him and denying he tried to foist a ‘quid pro quo’ on the president of Ukraine.
As the debate wore on into the evening Thursday, Democrats seemed almost certain to prevail in passing both articles in committee, where their community members were unanimous in defending them and Republicans were united in bashing the effort. The Judiciary panel is stacked with partisan warriors on both sides, and when Democrats pushed through procedures on impeachment, only two party members defected.
The angry televised fireworks came as the Democratic-run committee plodded ahead in its impeachment effort – which could have the House voting on impeachment articles as early as next week to set up a dramatic trial in the Senate.
Democrats said the attack on Hunter Biden exposed veracity of their charge that Trump was abusing his office by demanding Ukraine probe his rival.
‘The Republicans have said no it was about corruption … But listen to what they’ve talked about today,’ said Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.). ‘All they’ve talked about is the Bidens. Hunter Biden’s automobile accident. Hunter Biden’s this, Hunter Biden’s that. Hunter Biden’s salary,’ he said.
‘Their defense speaks to the truth of the allegations in this article that it was all about the Bidens. They’re all about the Bidens and that’s what it’s about.’
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) told Republicans: ‘Instead of defending the substance of the allegation, you want to attack Joe Biden and his family.’ He referenced the late Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland and said: ‘We are better than this. We are proceeding in a serious solemn and sober fashion because the allegations are deadly serious.’
After a long debate, the committee voted down the Hunter Biden amendment on a party-line vote of 17 for and 23 against. That was the same ratio that brought down another amendment, to strike down the first impeachment article. Republicans also tried and failed to strike the entire second impeachment article. Rep. Jim Jordan, an Ohio Republican, also offered an amendment that cut the langauge out of both articles that said Trump should be impeached.
REPUBLICANS AND DEMOCRATS GO HEAD-TO-HEAD ON IMPEACHMENT ARTICLES
Democrats and Republicans traded angry charges over Trump’s conduct, his administration’s refusal to respond to congressional subpoenas, and the impeachment probe itself.
Rep. Hank Johnson of Georgia during one of speeches accused the Trump White House of ‘giving Congress the finger as it seeks to exercise its authority as a coequal branch of government is not a core value.’
‘There is overwhelming evidence of the existence of a scheme led by the president, led by his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to corrupt the American elections, to continue to withhold military aid until such time as a public announcement was made that would smear the president’s chief political rival,’ said Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.).
Rep. Doug Collins said the fights over documents and information was a matter of Congress ‘being petulant.’
‘Rules have just been thrown out the window in this process,’ fumed GOP Rep. Debbie Lesko of Arizona. ‘It continues to amaze me how corrupt, how unfair this process has been from the start.’
Democrats began their historic Judiciary Committee hearing Thursday by having a clerk read through two articles of impeachment word-for-word – allowing gathered members and TV viewers to hear each charge they are leveling against Donald Trump.
Republicans on the panel immediately began their day’s mission – savaging the Democratic impeachment effort on technical and substantive grounds – by introducing an amendment striking Article 1 of the impeachment articles, the one accusing Trump of abuse of power in his dealings with Ukraine.
Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio introduced an amendment striking down the first of two impeachment articles – the one charging Trump with abuse of power through his interactions with Ukraine.
Grand setting: The House Judiciary Committee gathers for the impeachment hearing
Clash at the top: Jerry Nadler, the Democratic chairman, and Doug Collins, the ranking Republican, are at odds over basic procedures of the committee
Leading Republican attack: Donald Trump defender Jim Jordan demanded that Article One of the articles of impeachment be removed, which charges the president with abuse of power
Setting: The House Judiciary Committee debates the articles of impeachment in a process known as mark-up
Ready for action: The House Judiciary Committee gets read to be gaveled in
The amendment ‘strikes article one because article one ignores the truth,’ Jordan said in a brief speech.
‘It ignores the facts, it ignores what happened and what has been laid out for the American people over the last three weeks. So I hope this committee will come to its senses, it’ll adopt the amendment and strike article one from the resolution,’ inveighed Jordan, who also brought his pugnacious brand of politics to the House Intelligence Committee during its impeachment inquiry.
Republicans also managed to stall proceedings while seeking to derail the focus on the president’s conduct with procedural complaints.
‘It continues to amaze me how corrupt, how unfair this process has been from the start,’ fumed Republican Rep. Debbie Lesko of Arizona. I believe the president of the United States is right. This is a sham impeachment,’ she said.
BILL CLINTON’S IMPEACHMENT TAKES CENTER STAGE AT DONALD TRUMP’S
Rep. James Sensenbrenner, who was also a leading voice in the Clinton impeachment, complained that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff conducted his inquiry in the ‘basement of the Capitol hearing room’ where not every lawmaker could take part.
He contrasted that inquiry to former Independent Counsel Ken Starr. ‘Both sides were allowed to present whatever witnesses they wanted to. Kenneth Starr did all the grunt work in terms of putting together the facts … That’s not happened here,’ said Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Republican.
The retiring member also defended Trump’s conduct toward Ukraine, where the impeachment articles accuse him of a pressure campaign to get probes of political rival Joe Biden.
‘There was no quid pro quo offered. There was no pressure that was put on the Ukrainians. I don’t know how many times President Zelenksy has had to say that,’ said Sensenbrenner. ‘There was no impeachable offense here,’ he said.
Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee of Texas followed with her own comments about distinctions with the Clinton impeachment. ‘The president abuses power and is a continuing threat not only to democracy but to our national security,’ she said.
‘It is not frivolous and without facts that we proceed. We proceed with facts, and we take this in a very somber manner,’ she added.
‘While this aid was being held, people died,’ added Lofgren, pointing to $391 million in U.S. aid to Ukraine that was being held up while Trump interacted with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Republican Steve Chabot of Indiana, yet another veteran of the Clinton impeachment, contrasted the current matter to impeachments of Clinton and Richard Nixon.
‘President Clinton committed a crime – perjury. This president isn’t even accused of committing a crime,’ said Chabot.
He said in both those prior impeachments, the ‘abuse of power’ charge was ‘tacked on’ to other charges.
What’s under debate: The printed form of the impeachment resolution
Chairman Jerry Nadler (3rd L) and Ranking Member Doug Collins (2nd R) begin the second day of the House Judiciary Committee’s markup of House Resolution 755, Articles of Impeachment Against President Donald Trump. Republicans immediately sought to delay proceedings and rip out the heart of the Demorats’ impeachment articles
Culture war: Republicans are painting impeachment as an attempt by coastal elites to overturn the will of the heartland
Supporters: Donald Trump had two backers in the audience for the hearing
Getting ready: Clerks lay out copies of the impeachment resolution before the debate
‘Here, it’s the main thrust of the House Democrats’ entire case. The entire argument for impeachment in this case is based on a charge that is not a crime, much less a high crime.’
TRUMP DEFENDS HIMSELF IN REAL TIME AS HE WATCHES FROM THE WHITE HOUSE
Even with party members making his case in the hearing room, Trump defended himself in real-time on Twitter.
‘Dems Veronica Escobar and Jackson Lee purposely misquoted my call. I said I want you to do us (our Country!) a favor, not me a favor. They know that but decided to LIE in order to make a fraudulent point! Very sad,’ Trump wrote.
He was going after Rep. Veronica Escobar and Sheila Jackson-Lee, in reference to the call where he told President Zelensky: ‘I would like you to do us a favor though,’ according to a transcript released by the White House. Trump made the remark after Zelensky mentioned Javelin missiles, and Trump mentioned a probe of the Bidens and his search for Democratic campaign server.
While the lawmakers argued, Trump also tweeted: ‘I also have constantly asked, ‘Why aren’t Germany, France and other European countries helping Ukraine more? They are the biggest beneficiaries. Why is it always the good ol’ United States?’ The Radical Left, Do Nothing Democrats, never mention this at their phony hearing!’
Watching: Donald Trump tweeted a live series of reactions to the impeachment hearing, suggesting he was watching in the White House, although he also went to a summit on child care in another part of the White House complex
Trump and GOP allies says millions in U.S. aid got withheld due to Trump’s concerns about burden sharing – not as a pressure tactic, although numerous witnesses testified they had no idea why it was being held up, amid universal support among national security advisors.
Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell of California, a former prosecutor, responded to the characterization. ‘How about the highest crime that one who holds public office could commit? A crime against our Constitution,’ he said.
‘Every other law… derives from the Constitution. Not the other way around. The president committed the highest crime against the constitution by abusing his office. Cheating in an election, inviting foreign interference, pureley for personal gain’
Lofgren took a leading role in the hearing, even as Nadler spent considerable time in the background.
STORM OVER STORMY DANIELS AS DEMOCRATS MOCK TRUMP’S ‘LIES’
She also managed to introduce a controversy that did not draw a Democratic charge – the $130,000 payoff to porn start Stormy Daniels, who claims she had an affair with Trump.
Longtime Trump lawyer Michael Cohen is currently in jail on charges including a campaign finance violation related to the payoff.
Lofgren contrasted the Bill Clinton impeachment, which she boiled down to lying about sex, to Trump’s.
‘Somehow lying about a sexual affair is an abuse of presidential power, but the misuse of presidential power you get a benefit somehow. If it’s lying about sex, we could put Stormy Daniels case ahead of us,’ she said. ‘We don’t believe it’s a high crime and misdemeanor. Because it’s not before us and it should not be before us –because it’s not an abuse of presidential power,’ she said.
Gaetz of Florida, a Trump loyalist, called the matter ‘a sincere policy disagreement about how to make the Ukraine Great Again.’
‘They’re alleging a shakedown,’ he mocked. ‘You cannot have a shake down if the person allegedly being shook down doesn’t’ know about the shake down.’
After the hearing’s solemn beginning, Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler of New York introduced a surprise ‘substitute’ amendment, making a technical change that may matter for parliamentary reasons, or at least for the history books.
Nadler introduced new legislation impeaching ‘Donald John Trump’ rather than Donald J. Trump. That fits with the formal charges brought against William Jefferson Clinton in 1998.
The change ‘just simply shows the frankly absurdity of where we’re at’ barked ranking Republican Rep. Doug Collins, who immediately sought to derail the proceedings by launching a procedural objection.
The articles say the president ‘abused the power of his office’ and obstructed Congress in its inquiry.
House Judiciary Committee markup of the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, on Capitol Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019, in Washington.
Scenes outside: Anti-impeachment protesters were in the hall outside the hearing when members left to go to a vote
Protests: Police stood guard as Jerry Nadler left the hearing followed by pro-Trump protesters
As the clerk began reading the articles at the top of the hearing, a Republican objected – seeking to waive the reading. That routinely happens on less consequential matters.
But Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California, who participated during the Clinton impeachment, objected.
The angry exchanges were carried live on CNN, MSNBC, FOX, and C-SPAN as the hearing began – but not on broadcast networks.
‘Resolved, That Donald J. Trump, President of the United States, is impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors and that the following articles of impeachment be exhibited to the United States Senate,’ the clerk read.
‘Donald J. Trump has abused the powers of the Presidency,’ according to the text of the 12-page articles.
Ranking Republican Doug Collins of Georgia raised an immediate objection, saying the minority had not yet had the chance to hold hearing it had requested.
GOP FIREBRAND NAMES ALLEGED WHISTLEBLOWER TO DEMOCRATIC FURY
In an open impeachment hearing Wednesday night, a Republican member of Congress spoke the name of a man widely thought to be the whistle-blower whose complaint about Donald Trump‘s famous phone call with Ukraine‘s president sparked this fall’s impeachment saga.
Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert was complaining during a hearing about two articles of impeachment that Democrats have blocked attempts to call fact witnesses who didn’t support their arguments.
Gohmert called ‘abuse of power [and] obstruction of Congress the very things the majority has done in preventing us from having the witnesses that could shed light on this.’
‘We needed to hear from those witnesses, people like Sean Misko, Abigail Grace, [name redacted], Devin Archer, Joe Biden, Nellie Ohr, Alexandra Chalupa and so many others,’ he said.
DailyMail.com has not published the name of the man, who is a Russia and Eurasia expert for the CIA, tasked to the National Intelligence Council and reporting to the director of national intelligence.
Texas Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert vented about witnesses Democrats blocked them from calling, including a man whose identity as the whistle-blower one GOP aide says is ‘the worst-kept secret in town’
After a Politico reporter tweeted that Gohmert had outed the whistle-blower, Virginia Democratic Rep. Don Beyer called the move ‘incredible and outrageous’
Democrats are steamrolling toward impeaching Donald Trump for abuse of power and contempt of Congress; Trump is pictured Wednesday night showing an executive order combating anti-semitism during a Hanukkah reception in the East Room of the White House
Virginia Democratic congressman Don Beyer reacted with fury on Twitter.
‘House Republicans just committed an incredible and outrageous breach,’ Rep. Beyer wrote.
‘The President threatened the whistleblower with violence, and whether the person just named is the whistleblower or not they were just put in real danger. This is unacceptable and there should be consequences.’
Beyer was responding to one of several reporters who tweeted that Gohmert had named the person thought to be the whistle-blower.
Gohmert didn’t describe the person in any way, other than saying he thought the man should testify before lawmakers made up their mind about impeaching Trump.
Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Maryland Democrat, told DailyMail.com after the hearing that he didn’t know the whistle-blower’s identity, but called Gohmert’s pivotal moment ‘an irrelevant distraction from the real evidence in the case.’
‘It’s sort of like Richard Nixon blaming his own criminal conduct in Watergate on Deep Throat. It just doesn’t make any sense. It’s incoherent,’ said Raskin.
The CIA analyst’s name has floated around Washington, D.C. for months. A federal whistle-blower protection law forbids the Justice Department inspector general from revealing his name, but doesn’t bar elected officials or private citizens from doing so.
Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul did it in November during a radio interview in Washington, a few weeks after urging reporters during a Trump rally to ‘do your job and print his name!’
Asked on WMAL radio about that moment, he mentioned the man by name as a ‘person of interest’ and said he ‘needs to be pulled in for testimony,’
The alleged whistle-blower’s name does appear in a transcript of a closed-door interview of a diplomat that the House Intelligence Committee’s Democratic chairman Adam Schiff released last month.
A House Republican aide said Wednesday night that the whistle-blower’s name is ‘the worst-kept secret in town,’ and added that ‘we should all start putting on our big boy pants, name the guy, and tell him to back up his allegations against Trump.’
The whistle-blower’s account of the July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was undercut by a summary transcript of the call the White House released later.
Democrats contend it has been largely confirmed.