Trump Impeachment Hearing Live Updates: House Judiciary Committee Holds First Hearing After Damning Report

The House Judiciary Committee is hearing from four legal scholars about the constitutional grounds of impeaching a president in its first hearing Wednesday.

It is the next step of the inquiry, coming after dueling impeachment reports were released this week—one by Republicans that defended President Donald Trump's "valid" concerns about Ukraine and another by Democrats who accused the president of "overwhelming" misconduct and of putting personal political interests over those of the nation.

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Three legal scholars say Trump committed impeachable offenses

The first three of the four witnesses were called by Democrats. They testified that Trump has committed impeachable offenses in withholding U.S. military aid from Ukraine while pressuring the foreign entity to investigate a political foe. The last witness, called by Republicans, argued that Trump has not committed impeachable offenses and trying to remove him from office would set a dangerous precedent.

  • Noah Feldman, Harvard Law School: "President Trump has committed impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors by corruptly abusing the office of the presidency."
  • Pamela S. Karlan, Stanford Law School: "If we are to keep faith with the constitution and our republic, President Trump must be held to account."
  • Michael Gerhardt, University of North Carolina Law School: "If what we're talking about is not impeachable, then nothing is impeachable."
  • Jonathan Turley, George Washington Law School: "If you make a high crime and misdemeanor out of going to the courts, it's an abuse of power. It's your abuse of power. You're doing precisely what you're criticizing the president of doing."

More information on the witnesses' testimonies is below. The White House declined to participate by having counsel present to ask questions.

Update 6:30 p.m.: Hearing comes to a close

Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Judiciary chairman, and Doug Collins (R-Ga.), the ranking member, made their closing arguments. Nadler ended the hearing and did not answer reporters' questions afterward about what is to follow in the impeachment inquiry.

Two Democratic lawmakers on the committee, Reps. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Ted Deutch (D-FL), said it was their belief the committee would hold a public hearing next week and hear from the majority and minority counsels from the Intelligence Committee about what respective impeachment reports contain.

Update 4:45 p.m.: GOP witness calls inquiry "legitimate" but again criticizes Dems for fast pace

Turley said that although he viewed the House's investigation into the Ukraine scandal as "legitimate," he reiterated his disagreement with the breakneck pace at which Democrats have operated.

"The investigation of the Ukraine scandal—I think it was a legitimate investigation. What I begrudge is how it was conducted," Turley said. "I'm not suggesting the evidence, if fully investigated, would come out one way or the other... We've burned two months in this House that you could have been in court, seeking a subpoena for these witnesses. It doesn't mean you have to wait forever. But you could have gotten an order by now."

Update 4:00 p.m.: Jim Jordan, Matt Gaetz launch staunch defense of president

First House Judiciary Committee impeachment hearing
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) (R) confers with Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) during a House Judiciary Committee markup, on September 12 in Washington, DC. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty

Reps. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Matt Gaetz (R-FL), political firebrands and two of the committee's most vehement defenders of Trump, railed against Democrats and questioned witnesses' credibility, respectively.

"I would argue this is not a fast impeachment. This is a predetermined impeachment," Jordan said. "Predetermined impeachment done in the most unfair, partisan fashion we've ever seen."

Gaetz cited Karlan's previous donor record to Democratic presidential candidates and quoted her past remarks to the media.

"Excuse me, you don't get to interrupt me on this time," the lawmaker told the professor. "When you invoke the president's son's name, when you try to make a little joke out of referencing Barron Trump, that does not lend you credibility to your argument. It makes you look mean."

"To all of the witnesses," Gaetz continued, "if you have personal knowledge of a single material fact, please raise your hand."

Update 12 p.m.: Democrats signal these articles of impeachment

Democrats have signaled they are likely to move forward with at least three articles of impeachment, each of which they've displayed on large TV screens placed throughout the hearing room.

  • Abuse of power and bribery
  • Obstruction of Congress
  • Obstruction of justice
First House Judiciary Committee impeachment hearing
Impeachable offenses are listed on a monitor as the House Judiciary Committee listens to testimony by constitutional scholars in the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill December 4 in Washington, DC. Photo by Saul Loeb-Pool/Getty

Gerhardt soon thereafter stated that "if what we're talking about is not impeachable, then nothing is impeachable."

Karlan said "the attempt itself" to have Ukraine conduct investigations into one of his opponents "is the impeachable act... Soliciting itself is the impeachable offense."

Update 11:45 a.m.: Republicans delay proceedings with parliamentary inquiries

Several Republican lawmakers made procedural motions known as parliamentary inquiries, futile efforts that were quickly voted down by Democrats, but ate up chunks of time and paused the hearing's proceedings.

The failed inquiries included attempts by Republicans to have the whistleblower subpoenaed, have Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) testify and conduct a "minority hearing day" that would allow GOP lawmakers to call their own panel of witnesses.

Update 11:15 a.m.: Nadler, Collins open with fiery remarks

First House Judiciary Committee impeachment hearing
Committee ranking member Rep. Doug Collins (R) (R-GA) delivers his opening statement as committee chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler (L) (D-NY) listens during an impeachment hearing where constitutional scholars Noah Feldman of Harvard University, Pamela Karlan of Stanford University, Michael Gerhardt of the University of North Carolina, and Jonathan Turley of George Washington University testified before the House Judiciary Committee in the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill December 4 in Washington, DC. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty

Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and ranking member Doug Collins (R-Ga.) used their opening remarks to make their respective cases either for or against impeachment.

Nadler accused Trump of using "his office for personal, political gain" in his Ukraine dealings.

"We are all aware that the next election is looming—but we cannot wait for the election to address the present crisis. The integrity of that election is the very thing at stake," he said. "The president has shown us his pattern of conduct. If we do not act to hold him in check—now—President Trump will almost certainly try again to solicit interference in the election for his personal, political benefit."

The chairman offered some insight into what will come after Wednesday's hearing. Nadler said that "in a few days," members of his committee will reconvene with the committees that spearheaded the impeachment inquiry.

"And when we apply the Constitution to those facts, if it is true that President Trump has committed an impeachable offense—or impeachable offenses," he continued, "then we must move swiftly to do our duty and charge him accordingly."

Collins, on the other hand, accused his Democratic colleagues of conducting a "political impeachment" and for calling academics rather than fact witnesses.

"If you want to know what is really driving this: it's called the clock and the calendar. They want to do it before the end of the year," Collins said, citing the 2020 election. "We can be theoretical all we want, but the American people are going to look at this and say, 'huh?'"

Karlan was quick to fire back at that criticism, saying in her opening remarks that she read each witness' testimony transcript from last month's impeachment hearings. "I'm insulted by the suggestion that as a law professor, I don't care about those facts," she said.

The Founders would be "horrified": Democratic witnesses say Trump's misconduct is perhaps the worst in history and deserves impeachment. GOP witness states otherwise.

First House Judiciary Committee impeachment hearing
Constitutional scholars Noah Feldman of Harvard University, Pamela Karlan of Stanford University, Michael Gerhardt of the University of North Carolina, and Jonathan Turley of George Washington University are sworn in to testify before the House Judiciary Committee in the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill December 4 in Washington, DC. This is the first hearing held by the Judiciary Committee in the impeachment inquiry against U.S. President Donald Trump, whom House Democrats say held back military aid for Ukraine while demanding it investigates his political rivals. The Judiciary Committee will decide whether to draft official articles of impeachment against President Trump to be voted on by the full House of Representatives. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty

In their opening remarks, the three scholars summoned by Democrats painted a damning portrait of a president who abused his powers and tried to bribe a foreign country to interfere in a domestic election.

Feldman: "On the basis of the testimony and evidence before the House, President Trump has committed impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors by corruptly abusing the office of the presidency. Specifically, President Trump abused his office by corruptly soliciting President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to announce investigations of his political rivals in order to gain personal advantage, including in the 2020 presidential election."

Karlan: "Based on the evidentiary record, what has happened in the case before you is something that I do not think we have ever seen before: a president who has doubled down on violating his oath to faithfully execute the laws and to protect and defend the constitution. The evidence reveals a president who used the powers of his office to demand that a foreign government participate in undermining a competing candidate for the presidency."

She added that the Founding Fathers would be "horrified" by "the very idea that a president might seek the aid of a foreign government in his reelection campaign."

Gerhardt: "The president's serious misconduct, including bribery, soliciting a personal favor from a foreign leader in exchange for his exercise of power, and obstructing justice and Congress are worse than the misconduct of any prior president, including what previous presidents who faced impeachment have done or been accused of doing."

The lone Republican witness, however, said it would set a dangerous precedent to impeach a president based on the evidence gathered thus far.

Turley: "I am concerned about lowering impeachment standards to fit a paucity of evidence and an abundance of anger. If the House proceeds solely on the Ukrainian allegations, this impeachment would stand out among modern impeachments as the shortest proceeding, with the thinnest evidentiary record, and the narrowest grounds ever used to impeach a president."

Notably, when Turley was testifying before Congress in 1998 during the impeachment of former President Bill Clinton, the legal scholar's view of impeachment was far different. "If you decide that certain acts do not rise to impeachable offenses, you will expand the space for executive conduct," he said at the time.

First House Judiciary Committee impeachment hearing
A congressional staffer puts up signs prior to testimony by constitutional scholars before the House Judiciary Committee in the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill December 4 in Washington, D.C. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty

What to expect from the hearing

During the hearing, expect Democrats to outline why they believe Trump's dealings with Ukraine amount to a quid pro quo and are impeachable offenses. They've argued he attempted to interfere in the 2020 election by pressuring a foreign country to mount investigations that would benefit him politically while withholding U.S. military aid.

"What does this mean for Americans? Why should they care about what the president did vis-a-vis Ukraine? First of all, this is not about Ukraine," House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) told reporters Tuesday after the release of their impeachment report. "This is about our democracy, this is about our national security, this is about whether the American people have a right to expect that the president of the United States is going to act in their interests with their security in mind and not for some illicit personal or political reason. Americans should care deeply whether the president of the United States is betraying their trust in him."

Republicans, meanwhile, are expected to deploy a staunch defense strategy that includes objections to the committee's procedures that could throw the hearing off-kilter and become confusing to follow for those watching from home.

The panel consists of several GOP firebrands and Trump allies, such as Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Jim Jordan (R-OH), Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), Doug Collins (R-Ga.), John Ratcliffe (R-Texas), Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.) and Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.). Jordan and Ratcliffe played prominent roles during the Intelligence Committee's public hearings, Biggs is the leader of the conservative House Freedom Caucus and Gaetz helped lead a group of Republicans in storming a secure room where an impeachment deposition was underway, resulting in a delay.

"The president's not sending a counsel tomorrow, and he shouldn't because there's nothing for them to ask. Why would they want to sit back through a constitutional law class, which most of them had to sit suffer through in law school?" Collins, the top Republican on Judiciary, told reporters Tuesday. "[The hearing] provides nothing except a dreary-eyed, drowsy proposal for this country to watch as the impeachment process slowly drags on with no direction, no focus, because [Democrats] are having one big problem: the president did nothing wrong and they can't prove it."