Trump impeachment: 'World of facts' about to collide with 'world of conspiracy'

Democrats and Republicans 'existing in two different worlds' as inquiry into president's actions goes to next stage

Andrew Feinberg
Washington DC
Sunday 08 December 2019 15:11
Nancy Pelosi: 'Today I am asking our chairmen to proceed with Articles of Impeachment'

Monday's impeachment hearing before the House Judiciary Committee will be where Democrats' "world of facts" collides with Republicans' "world of conspiracy theories", a staffer working on the impeachment inquiry has said.

"Some commentators have said that Republicans and Democrats seem to be existing in two different worlds -- Democrats in the world of facts and Republicans in the world of conspiracy theories, many of which were pushed initially by Russia -- this is the hearing where those worlds will collide and we expect to knock down those false narratives," said the staffer during a background call with reporters.

That collision of worlds will come in the form of the sort of televised hearing Americans have seen only twice before, during the impeachment inquiries into Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.

Under rules set out in the House resolution authorising the impeachment inquiry, Monday's hearing will differ from all the previous hearings held by the Intelligence and Judiciary Committees because it is where top attorneys for both committees will present the case that has been compiled against Mr Trump.

A source close to the investigation explained that the hearing will be the closest thing to a trial that has taken place so far, and will begin with 30-minute "opening statements" from Democratic Counsel Barry Berke and his Republican counterpart, Steve Castor.

Mr Berke, a partner in the New York law firm of Kramer Levin, is a consultant to the committee who gained a measure of celebrity in September, when his calm, coherent questioning of ex-Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski at an early attempt at impeachment hearings served as a counterpoint to the hearing's chaotic beginnings, which saw Mr Lewandowski mock Democrats without consequence.

That disastrous September hearing was widely judged to be the fault of Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler, and was thought by many observers to be the reason why House Speaker Nancy Pelosi placed the investigative phase of the current inquiry in the hands of Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff.

Following the 30-minute opening statements, majority and minority counsel for the Intelligence Committee will each have 45 minutes to present the findings of the investigation into whether Mr Trump acted improperly by ordering that $391 million in military aid to Ukraine and a White House meeting with its president be withheld until Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky agreed to announce investigations into several conspiracy theories concerning the 2016 election and former Vice President Joe Biden.

The responsibility for presenting Democrats' findings will fall to Daniel Goldman, the former federal prosecutor and TV legal analyst who Schiff brought on as his director of investigations in March.

The GOP's response will once again come from Mr Castor, who is on loan from the House Oversight Committee, where he has worked since 2004.

Following presentations, Mr Nadler and Ranking Member Doug Collins will each have 45 minutes for themselves or their counsel – GOP staffer Paul Taylor or Democratic consultant (and ex-Obama White House "ethics czar") Norm Eisen – to question Goldman and Castor.

But Democrats don't expect Mr Castor or Republicans on the committee to have much in the way of substance in response to their case, which the staffer said "establishes that the president solicited a foreign government to provide him with a personal political benefit – an investigation or the announcement of investigations – that constitute a benefit in an American election, and that there is a pattern of doing this."

Republicans, the staffer said, "sacrificed the sanctity of our democracy to a cult of personality" for Mr Trump, and as such, Democrats expect them to respond to the "overwhelming factual record" by floating "baseless conspiracy theories".

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"They do not have a good response on the facts or on the law," the staffer said before explaining that Democrats' presentation of the case for impeaching and removing Mr Trump from office will centre around arguments that his attempt to force Ukraine to open sham investigations into a baseless conspiracy and one of his top political rivals "suggests a future pattern and a continuing risk" to the integrity of American democracy.

Democrats "cannot afford to wait" to hold Mr Trump accountable for his actions, the staffer said, because they represent "impeachable conduct of the most serious kind our nation has ever seen" and "a clear and present danger to the 2020 election".

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