Democrats says Donald Trump abused power, Republicans call it ‘baloney’
The hearing held by the Democratic-led House judiciary committee was a major step in the drafting of the articles of impeachment against Trump.Updated: Dec 10, 2019 07:18 IST
A US congressional committee on Monday heard lawyers for Democrats and Republicans present evidence for and against impeaching President Donald Trump for abusing his power by pressing Ukraine to probe his political rivals and then obstructing a congressional investigation.
The hearing held by the Democratic-led House judiciary committee was a major step in the drafting of the articles of impeachment against Trump. Democrats plan to move swiftly towards a vote before Christmas to impeach the president, setting up a trial by the Republican-led senate, next January.
“It is not a requirement that the President be a good person,” Barry H Berke, counsel for the House judicial committee, said opening the hearing. “But the very document that created the awesome presidency and its powers that we have, made it clear it is a requirement that that the President be a person who does not abuse his power.”
At the heart of the case argued by Berke and later by Daniel Goldman, counsel for the House intelligence committee, is the effort by President Trump to compel Ukraine to investigate former vice-president Joe Biden, who is seeking the Democratic nomination to challenge Trump in 2020, by withholding $391 million in military aid and a status-boosting White House meeting for the newly elected President Volodymyr Zelensky.
“We are here today because Donald J. Trump, the 45th President of the United States, abused the power of his office—the American presidency—for his personal political benefit,” said Goldman opening his statement.
The Republicans have broadly argued that no crime was committed, that the aid was withheld because Trump is loathe to give aid to foreign countries and had withheld the aid earmarked for Ukraine because he had concerns about the high levels of corruption in that country, and that it was released subsequently. And that Democrats’s impeachment inquiry was an attempt to remove from office a duly elected president and also prevent him from winning a second term.
“To impeach a president who 63 million people voted for over eight lines in a call transcript is baloney,” Steve Castor, counsel for the Republicans of the House intelligence and judiciary committees.
Republicans, and President Trump, have slammed the proceedings as unfair and a witch-hunt. But the White House has refused to participate in the two two hearings held by the judiciary committee, including the one on Monday.
President Trump seemed to have been tuned into the livestream of the hearing from the White House. “Read the transcripts,” he tweeted midway through Goldman’s opening remarks, referring to the summaries of his two phone calls with President Zelensky; one in April and the other, and the more damaging of the two, in July.
In the second call, which was used by Democrats to launch the impeachment inquiry in September, Trump asked Zelensky for a “favor” and investigate Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, for latter’s links to a Ukrainian energy firm. There is no mention of a quid pro quo, which, however, was implied as has been affirmed by multiple officials in testimonies to the House intelligence committee, including Gordon Sondland, the Trump-appointed ambassador to the EU and one of the lead men for the Ukraine efforts.