Schiff opens impeachment hearing, as Nunes blasts ‘scorched earth war’ against Trump

Schiff opens impeachment hearing, as Nunes blasts ‘scorched earth war’ against Trump

The first public impeachment hearing in more than two decades kicked off in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, with House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff questioning whether President Trump’s “abuse of power” in the Ukraine controversy is “compatible with the office of the presidency.”

Schiff, D-Calif., in his opening statement, outlined the parameters of the impeachment inquiry, questioning whether the president sought to condition official acts and “exploit” Ukraine’s “vulnerability” for personal political gain.

“The matter is as simple and as terrible as that,” Schiff said in his opening statement Wednesday. “Our answer to these questions will affect not only the future of this presidency but the future of the presidency itself, and what kind of conduct or misconduct the American people may come to expect from their commander in chief.”

Schiff described the core of the impeachment inquiry, and said: “If this is not impeachable conduct, what is?”

But committee Ranking Member Devin Nunes, R-Calif., staunchly defended the president and his actions, criticizing Democrats for a partisan process, and reminding the public of the Democrats’ actions during the now-closed Russia investigation.

“And yet now we’re supposed to take these people at face value when they trot out a new batch of allegations,” Nunes said. “Anyone familiar with the Democrats’ scorched earth war against President Trump will not be surprised to see all the signs that this is a carefully orchestrated media smear campaign.”

He described the probe as the “low-rent Ukrainian sequel” to the Russia case.

The hearing is the first in the public phase of the impeachment inquiry and features testimony from State Department official George Kent and top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine Bill Taylor.

Both officials have already testified behind closed doors before the House Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs Committees in the run-up to this week.

Schiff and top Republican on the committee, Nunes, R-Calif., will have 45 minutes each for questioning or can designate staff attorneys to do so. Members of the committee will then get five minutes each to ask questions, alternating between Republicans and Democrats.

For the Democrats, Daniel Goldman and Daniel Noble, both counsels for the Intelligence Committee, will likely lead portions of questioning. Fox News has learned that on the Republican side, Steve Castor, whom Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan brought over from the Oversight Committee, will be the counsel to pose questions for the minority.

At the center of the impeachment inquiry, which began in September, is President Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which he pressed him to launch investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden’s dealings in Ukraine and 2016 election meddling—specifically, the younger Biden’s lucrative role on the board of Ukrainian natural gas firm Burisma Holdings, and his father’s role ousting a prosecutor looking into the firm. That phone call prompted a whistleblower complaint to the intelligence community inspector general, and in turn, the impeachment inquiry in the House.

The president’s request came after millions in U.S. military aid to Ukraine had been frozen, which Democrats and some witnesses have cited as a quid pro quo arrangement.

Zelensky, though, has said he felt no pressure during the call. The White House has maintained no wrongdoing, with the president calling the call “perfect” and arguing that it contained “no quid pro quo.”

The whistleblower’s complaint also stated their concerns that Trump was soliciting a foreign power to influence the 2020 presidential election – a concern that Taylor directly testified to privately last month.

Taylor, during his closed-door deposition, testified that he “understood that the reason for investigating Burisma was to cast Vice President Biden in a bad light.” Taylor added that it would benefit “a political campaign for the reelection of President Trump.”

Kent testified during his closed-door deposition that he had concerns regarding Hunter Biden’s role on the board of Burisma—an admission that Republicans are likely to zero in on in their questioning and defense of the president.

Meanwhile, Schiff has already teed up three days of additional public hearings next week which, among other witnesses, includes three sought by Republicans—ex-National Security Council official Tim Morrison, former Ukraine envoy Kurt Volker, and high-ranking State Department official David Hale.

Republican lawmakers have sought a slew of other witnesses, including Hunter Biden and the whistleblower, but it is not yet clear whether any will be permitted to testify by Democrats on the committee as part of the inquiry.

Source : Brooke Singman Link

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