Trump impeachment hearings
December 4, 2019

Rep. Matt Gaetz's (R-Fla.) five minutes of questioning are apparently for him to talk and for witnesses to listen.

On Wednesday, legal experts gathered before the House Judiciary Committee for an impeachment hearing, during which Gaetz didn't do much hearing at all. Instead, he used most of his questioning opportunity to bring up the witnesses' apparent liberal bias, and then devolved into a one-sided shouting match once they started to answer his question.

Gaetz first tried to trap Harvard Law Professor Noah Feldman into adhering to an anti-impeachment article he wrote before President Trump's infamous phone call with Ukraine's president. "Until this call on July 25, I was an impeachment skeptic," Feldman snuck in before Gaetz pivoted to Stanford University Professor Pamela Karlan. Gaetz questioned Karlan on her donations to past Democratic candidates, and then accused her of having "contempt" for conservatives because on a podcast, she'd said "conservatives ... tend to spread out more, perhaps because they don't even want to be around themselves."

But before she could clarify that statement, Gaetz unloaded on Karlan. "You may not see this from the ivory towers of your law school, but it makes actual people in this country..." Gaetz said before Karlan tried to respond. "Excuse me, you don't get to interrupt me on this time," Gaetz said over her, and brought up an earlier play on words Karlan made regarding Trump's 13-year-old son Barron. "When you invoke the president's son's name here ... that does not lend credibility to your argument. It makes you look mean," Gaetz went on. Watch the whole exchange below. Kathryn Krawczyk

December 4, 2019

We regret to inform you that January has been cancelled.

That's at least true in the Senate, which released its calendar for 2020 with a conspicuous gap early in the year. The calendar for January is completely missing, NBC News' Frank Thorp noted, because it's likely setting much of the month aside for an impeachment trial.

"Unfortunately due to uncertainty on the floor schedule for start of the year, the Senate is unable to establish a schedule for January at this time," a senior Senate aide said in a statement that accompanied the release. A few senators later confirmed the uncertainty stemmed from impeachment, as the House will likely vote to send impeachment to the Senate before December ends, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has indicated he'd let a trial proceed.

An impeachment trial could keep senators in session six days a week under Senate rules, and could eat up their usual weeklong President's Day break. That would be especially problematic for the five Democratic senators still in the running for president, and especially for Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) who are on the Judiciary Committee. Kathryn Krawczyk

December 4, 2019

This was most certainly not a good idea.

Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor turned lawyer to President Trump turned linchpin of this whole impeachment situation, is back in Ukraine while the House debates the impeachment of his boss. And not only that, but he's there to talk to multiple former Ukrainian prosecutors who sparked a lot of his problems in the first place, people familiar with his efforts tell The New York Times.

As the House continues its investigation of Trump, Giuliani, and their dealings with Ukraine, Giuliani has been overseas in an effort to "shift the focus to purported wrongdoing by President Trump’s political rivals," the Times writes. On Tuesday, he reportedly met with former Ukrainian prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko in Budapest. Lutsenko is one of the prosecutors accused of ignoring corruption in Ukraine's government and had once been skeptical of the Bidens' dealings in Ukraine before recanting his suspicions. Trump seemed to praise Lutsenko as a "very good prosecutor" during his July 25 call with Ukraine's president, who had dismissed Lutsenko.

Then on Wednesday, as the House Judiciary Committee began its impeachment hearings with legal experts, Giuliani reportedly headed to Kyiv in Ukraine to meet other ex-prosecutors who targeted the Bidens. They included Viktor Shokin, who was pushed out of his position amid criticism from then-Vice President Joe Biden, and Kostiantyn Kulyk, who led the investigation into Burisma.

All of the information Giuliani gathers is apparently going into "episodes of a documentary series for a conservative television outlet promoting his pro-Trump, anti-impeachment narrative," the Times continues. Read more about Giuliani's inconveniently timed trip at The New York Times. Kathryn Krawczyk

December 4, 2019

Professor Michael Gerhardt argued during Wednesday's House Judiciary Committee impeachment hearing that if President Trump's actions aren't impeachable, then "nothing is impeachable."

Gerhardt, a law professor at the University of North Carolina, was one of the witnesses called by Democrats for Wednesday's hearing in the impeachment inquiry, which is focusing on whether Trump abused the power of the presidency by pushing Ukraine to announce investigations that might help him politically. Gerhardt testified that Trump committed impeachable offenses and that there's "more than enough" evidence that he obstructed justice.

"If what we're talking about is not impeachable, then nothing is impeachable," he said. "This is precisely the misconduct that the framers created a Constitution, including impeachment, to protect against."

Gerhardt went on to say that if Congress gives Trump a "pass," then "every other president will say, 'okay, then I can do the same thing,' and the boundaries will just evaporate ... and that is a danger to all of us." Brendan Morrow

December 4, 2019

Impeachment witness Pamela Karlan, a Stanford University law professor, believes President Trump should be impeached, but her reasoning points to something that's often been left unsaid.

Karlan said during Wednesday's initial House Judiciary Committee impeachment hearing that the "most chilling" aspect from previous testimony before the House Intelligence Committee was when U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky needed only to announce, but not necessarily execute, anti-corruption investigations.

In Karlan's eyes that debunks the idea that Trump and his allies like Rudy Giuliani were legitimately concerned about corruption in Ukraine and were only focused on going after the president's domestic political rivals, including former Vice President Joe Biden. Tim O'Donnell

December 4, 2019

One of America's top legal scholars has no time for another legal expert testifying for Congress.

While four constitutional experts spoke to the House Judiciary Committee in its impeachment inquiry on Wednesday, Laurence Tribe, a Harvard Law professor focused on constitutional studies, wasn't happy with what he saw. Specifically, Tribe called out the anti-impeachment witness Republicans had called to the floor for being "an utter waste of time."

Jonathan Turley, the George Washington University Professor who argued against impeaching President Trump, "gave no reason at all" that listeners should disregard Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff's (D-Calif.) investigation, Tribe said in a tweet. He then went on to praise Stanford University Law professor Pamela Karlan, who gave a vigorous case for Trump's impeachment.

The line of criticism isn't unexpected for Tribe, who first called for an impeachment investigation of Trump more than two years ago. But being called a "waste of time" is still a particularly harsh burn. Kathryn Krawczyk

December 4, 2019

Impeachment witness Pamela Karlan unloaded on Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) during Wednesday's House Judiciary Committee hearing, telling him she was "insulted" by his opening statement.

Collins at the top of the hearing had suggested the impeachment witnesses including Karlan would be testifying on things that they may not be fully knowledgeable about, implying they might not have watched all of the public impeachment hearings and "couldn't have possibly actually digested the Adam Schiff report from yesterday or the Republican response in any real way."

Karlan, a Stanford Law School professor, shot back in her opening statement, telling Collins directly, "I would like to say to you, sir, that I read transcripts of every one of the witnesses who appeared in the live hearing because I would not speak about these things without reviewing the facts, so I'm insulted by the suggestion that as a law professor, I don't care about those facts."

Karlan went on to say in her opening statement that President Trump by pushing for Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden "struck at the very heart of what makes this a republic to which we pledge allegiance" and that inviting foreign interference in an election "undermines democracy itself." Brendan Morrow

December 4, 2019

The impeachment hearing opening statements from House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and the panel's top-ranking Republican, Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), were predictably quite different.

In an attempt to highlight the seriousness of the events involving President Trump and Ukraine, Nadler, who is leading the charge for impeachment, invoked America's founding fathers' fears of foreign influence in U.S. elections. The congressman said we "will find ourselves in grave danger" if the president "opens the door" to foreign influence, which is what Trump is accused of doing.

Nadler's words did not, however, inspire Collins, who looked like he was about ready to leave the hearing before it even really got going.

When it was his turn to speak, Collins shocked absolutely no one by referring to the impeachment process as a "sham," and questioned the usefulness of the witnesses. Tim O'Donnell

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