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Impeachment Today Podcast: Trump's Senate Trial Is Approaching

In today's episode: House Democrats wrap up the impeachment hearings and get ready to move things over to the Senate.

Posted on December 10, 2019, at 9:46 p.m. ET

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House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) bangs his gavel in an attempt to quiet ranking member Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) on Monday.

It's Tuesday, December 10, 2019, 77 days since House Democrats began impeachment proceedings. Every morning, the Impeachment Today podcast helps you separate what’s real and groundbreaking from what’s just, well, bullshit.

You can listen to today's episode below, or check it out on on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to your favorite shows.

It's Tuesday, December 10, 2019, 77 days since the house opened its impeachment inquiry into president Donald Trump, and this is Impeachment Today. Good morning, I'm Hayes Brown, reporter and editor at BuzzFeed News. Things are hitting warp speed as Democrats get ready to finalize the articles of impeachment against Donald Trump. Today, we're re-capping what may be the last day of witnesses testifying in the House as part of the impeachment process. It was depending on your point of view, a re-hash of what we've learned so far or a preview of what to expect at Trump's eventual trial in the Senate. Either way, it lasted 10 hours so let's dive right in.

Okay. If you were hoping that the two sides of the House would come together once all the facts were laid out and the case for impeachment made, well, A) think again and B) please hook me up with your dealer because wow. Things kicked off bright and early at 9:00 am in the judiciary committee with opening statements from the chair ...

Interruption:

Mr. Chairman, I have a point of order.

HB:

... Opening statements from the chair, Jerry Nadler, and ranking ...

Interruption:

Mr. Chairman, I have a point of order.

HB:

... And ranking member Doug Collins and they were totally ...

Interruption:

Mr. Chairman, I have a point of order.

HB:

Enough. Okay fine, this is what I'm talking about with one side determined to derail the show. Unlike last week's hearing in judiciary, this time around the Republican minority wanted to make things as difficult as possible, and for that they turned to a tool near and dear to my heart, parliamentary procedure. House Republicans forced the committee to take at least four roll call votes, getting the yeas and nays from the entire 41 person committee during the first few hours of the hearing on the most basic things like whether or not to take a quick break.

That kept the flow of the testimony choppy at first, which is exactly what the Republicans wanted. Okay. This hearing was meant to lay out the final cases for and against impeaching the president. Daniel Goldman, who you may remember from the intelligence committee hearings, brought the fire for the Democrats.

Daniel Goldman:

The President's scheme is actually quite simple and the facts are not seriously in dispute, it can be boiled down to four key takeaways. First, that President Trump directed a scheme to pressure Ukraine into opening two investigations that would benefit his 2020 reelection campaign and not the US national interest. Second, President Trump used his official office and the official tools of US foreign policy the withholding of an oval office meeting and $391 million dollars in security assistance to pressure Ukraine into meeting his demands.

Third, everyone was in the loop; his chief of staff, the Secretary of State, and Vice President. Fourth, despite the public discovery of this scheme which prompted the President to release the aid, he has not given up. He and his agents continue to solicit Ukrainian interference in our election causing an imminent threat to our elections and our national security.

HB:

Steve Castor, lawyer for the Republicans, gave the best case he could for defending the President's action, laying out four points of his own.

Steve Castor:

Well, there's four things that will never change and that is, the transcript is complete and accurate, it shows no quid pro quo, no conditionality. That's number one. Number two, there was no pressure, both Zelensky and Trump have said that repeatedly. President Zelensky said that at the United Nations on September 25th, he said it in subsequent news articles on October 6th, and October 10th, and December 1st.

Number three, the Ukrainians and Zelensky did not know about the pause in aid, at the very least, at the time of the call. Number four, no investigations were announced, the aid was released and the White House afforded a meeting and then President Trump met with Zelensky in New York.

HB:

That sounds like a pretty solid list on the surface, especially if you're just tuning into all this, but Democrats had answers for all those points. First, the idea that there was no conditionality on the White House visit and Trump and Ukraine's President Zelensky met in New York eventually anyhow. Well, not so fast.

Question:

Following the call. did President Zelensky come to the White House for a meeting?

Daniel Goldman:

No, he's never come to the White House and several witnesses, multiple witnesses, said that there's a huge distinction between a White House meeting and a meeting on the sidelines of the UN general assembly where they did meet on September 25th.

Question:

Has a White House meeting been scheduled?

Daniel Goldman:

No.

HB:

Then, there's the idea that because Donald Trump said there was no quid pro quo on a phone call, there was no quid pro quo. Here's what Goldman said referring to two witnesses testimony during the public hearings.

Daniel Goldman:

Ambassador Taylor said that Mr. Morrison said something similar. Their understandings of that conversation is that there was a clear directive that there was a quid pro quo factually from the conduct, from the actions. We've talked a lot today about the words and that Zelensky said no pressure and Trump said no pressure and no quid pro quo; but as an investigator, as a prosecutor, you need to look at the actions to understand what those words mean, and that's why this call in particular is so important.

HB:

About that thing that he just said, that Ukraine's President Zelensky said publicly he didn't feel pressured so everything was super chill and friendly, Right? Wrong.

Question:

Did your investigative committees consider those statements by President Zelensky?

Daniel Goldman:

We did and we found that the statements of what is effectively an extortion victim are not particularly relevant to the actual truth of the matter because President Zelensky cannot, in reality, for the same reasons that he interpreted the request to be a demand, he can't go out and say that he did feel pressure because that would potentially upset President Trump and they're so dependent on the relationship with President Trump and the United States.

Question:

One could almost say it's similar to a hostage testifying under duress.

Daniel Goldman:

It is certainly a ... Duress would be a good word.

HB:

The Ukrainians didn't know the aid was held. Got an answer for that one.

Question:

Colleagues have suggested that the Ukrainians did not even know about the military aid being withheld. Is that true?

Daniel Goldman:

No. There was significant evidence that even as early as July 25th at the time of this call that Ukrainian officials had suspected that the aid was being withheld. There was a New York Times article actually last week that wasn't included in our report but from the former deputy foreign minister who said that Ukraine, President Zelensky's office received a diplomatic cable from the embassy here the week of July 25th saying that the aid had been held.

HB:

Then there was this gem from the Republicans' lawyer, Castor, under questioning.

Question:

What are some of the examples of the hearsay being relied on by the majority to make their case?

Steve Castor:

One of the, a lot of the information, for example, that Ambassador Taylor was communicating, he very diligently recorded notes about what some of the various officials told him but it was about, it was one and two steps removed from the actual fact. That's the problem with hearsay is that it's a whisper down the lane situation and if some of the people that are doing the whispering are predisposed to not like President Trump then what they're whispering down the lane becomes even more distorted.

HB:

As we have noted, most of what we don't know is because the White House has ordered the entire executive branch not to testify or turn over any documents. For more on that, go listen to our episode from December 6 titled, if you don't have anything nice to say. Okay, so in the search for a defense something we heard a lot of from both the GOP's lawyers and members was that Ukraine's attempts to influence the 2016 election where a totally legit reason for Trump to be suspicious of that country. Here's Castor making that claim.

Steve Castor:

Let me say very, very clearly that election interference is not binary. I'm not saying that it was Ukraine and not Russia, I'm saying that both countries can work to influence an election. A systemic coordinated Russian interference effort does not mean that some Ukrainian officials, some Ukrainian officials, did not work to oppose President Trump's candidacy, did not make statements against President Trump during the election.

HB:

Um.

Steve Castor:

This record, I do not believe that one could conclude that President Trump had no legitimate basis to raise a concern about efforts by Ukrainians to influence the 2016 election.

HB:

Um, okay. For I'm sure not the last time, a few op-eds and Facebook posts from Ukrainian officials willing to put their names to their thoughts are not the same as a secret Russian military operation to influence the election via hacking and propaganda, which is the comparison that is trying to be made when bringing up Ukraine and the 2016 election, not to mention the many conspiracy theories about CrowdStrike and the server that went unsaid during that statement.

HB:

Okay, that's the news but there was a lot of noise during this hearing. One moment that stood out for sheer dumbnitude was when Florida representative, Matt Gaetz, tried to nail the Democrats' lawyer, Goldman, for a past tweet of his.

Matt Gaetz

As we sit here today where you've, I guess, got a tweet mentioning a pee tape presenting yourself not as a partisan, hired by the Democrats to pursue the president, do you regret this tweet?

Daniel Goldman:

Sir, I would be happy to put this investigation up with any of the nonpartisan investigations.

Matt Gaetz:

I just want to know if you regret the tweet, Mr. Goldman.

Daniel Goldman:

In my 10 years as a federal prosecutor ...

Matt Gaetz

Do you regret it?

Daniel Goldman:

I hope you read the evidence and I think you can judge for yourself whether it's partisan or not.

Matt Gaetz: You either regret it or you don't regret it. I guess you don't want to answer the question. You don't ...

HB:

I need a nap. That was it for the hearing and, with that, the judiciary committee express is pulling out of the station, next up, articles of impeachment. Toot-toot. Now onto our daily Nixometer reading.

Zero. Normal day, normal White House. 10. Nixon hands in his resignation letter to the Secretary of State and takes a helicopter ride in Marine One. This morning we're at a 7.5. If we're going to do an extended metaphor, the mold is almost set for the dye to be cast. Nothing in the judiciary committee's hearing made it sound like the Democrats are having any doubts about impeachment nor though did it sound like any Republicans are going to be coming around anytime soon so now it's just a matter of time.

Okay, we're going to take a quick break and then when we come back, Buzzfeed News congressional reporter, Addy Baird, will have a vibe check for us from the Hill, stick around.

Okay, welcome back. It was a long ass Monday in the Capitol building so we're counting on Buzzfeed News, congressional reporter, Addy Baird, to let us know what the scene was like as the hearing concluded.

Addy Baird:

Hello Hayes, this is Addy live from the Hill with your vibe check. It was another really long day on the Hill. One interesting thing that I noticed today that maybe people couldn't catch on TV was how sparse the public audience was. There were fewer people there publicly than I've seen at any of the other hearings. Especially near the end of the hearing, the members started to really seem to lose their attention spans.

Some of them were talking to each other, some of them were on their phones. I saw a member, while another member was questioning, literally answer his cell phone. At one point Nadler left, many Republicans left, and by the end of it I think everyone was just exhausted and they refused to talk about any additional scheduling despite pushes from Republicans to do so. For now, this is the last thing on the schedule and I think everyone is pretty relieved.

HB:

Thanks Addie. For more coverage about this hearing and everything else impeachment, be sure to head over to buzzfeednews.com, the internet website with news.

Okay, that is it for today. Tomorrow we'll have more for you as we inch closer to a historic vote in the judiciary committee. Just to be clear, that will be only the fourth time since the US' founding that the judiciary committee has approved articles of impeachment. Aren't we lucky to be living history? Aren't we? Be sure to subscribe to Impeachment Today on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to your favorite shows β€” and maybe leave us a rating and review. Also, tell your friends about the show as we all figure this out together.

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