UPDATE, 9:45 AM PT: As Judiciary Committee debated articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) offered up an amendment: Investigate a “well-known corrupt company,” Burisma, and its “corrupt hiring” of Hunter Biden, Vice President Joe Biden’s son.
But in speaking about his amendment, Gaetz went in to Hunter Biden’s history of substance abuse. He brought up one incident, detailed in a New Yorker profile, in which Biden left drugs and paraphernalia in a rental car. Gaetz said it was a “little hard to believe that Burisma hired Hunter Biden to resolve their international disputes when he could not resolve his own dispute with Hertz” over leaving “cocaine and a crack pipe in the car.”
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Gaetz argued that he was “not casting any judgment on any challenges someone goes through in their personal life,” but Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) threw it right back at him. Johnson said, “The pot calling the kettle black is not something we should do. I don’t know what members, if any, have had any problems with substance abuse, been busted in DUI. I don’t know. But if I did, I wouldn’t raise it.” That was an allusion to Gaetz’s 2008 arrest for driving under the influence.
Johnson then turned to the charges against Trump, and he asked Republicans on the committee, is it was ever OK for president to ever invite foreign interference in a presidential election? He waited for 13 seconds of silence before speaking again.
PREVIOUSLY, 8 AM PT: CNN, Fox News and MSNBC each covered Thursday morning’s House Judiciary markup hearing, which is likely headed to a full committee vote on two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump.
Broadcast networks did not cover the proceedings, in which members debated the merits of the case for Trump’s removal from office. Lawmakers are offering amendments to the impeachment resolution, but much of the morning was spent in arguments over whether the president’s conduct toward Ukraine amounted to abuse of power.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) compared the impeachment proceedings to those of Bill Clinton in 1998, when he was impeached for misrepresenting his sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky.
“If it’s lying about sex, we could put Stormy Daniels’ case ahead of us,” she said, before quickly saying that she did not want to do that.
Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-OH), who, like Lofgren, was in Congress during the Clinton impeachment, said that was a clear case of lying under oath.
Republicans spent much of their time arguing that the impeachment process was unfair, but their efforts to secure a day of their own hearings, with their own witnesses, were voted down.
But unlike Wednesday’s proceedings, the debate did delve more heavily into the specific facts of the case.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) dismissed the idea that in their July 25 phone call, Trump was seeking a quid pro quo from Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, because Zelensky later said that he did not feel like he was being pressured.
“You can’t have a shakedown if the person who is allegedly being shaken down doesn’t even know it is a shakedown,” Gaetz said.
In a summary of the July 25 phone call, Trump asks Zelensky to “look into” Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, who was on the board of a Ukrainian gas company when his father was vice president. Trump also brought up a conspiracy theory that Ukrainians, not Russian intelligence sources, were involved in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee computer server in 2016.
During the summer, the Trump administration withheld military aid to Ukraine, and there was some testimony that Zelensky’s team was made aware of the situation in July, even before the Trump-Zelensky call. The aid was released in September.
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) said, “Why was the aid released? Because the president was caught red-handed, trying to pressure a foreign government to pressure a foreign government to target an American citizen.”
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