(WASHINGTON) — The investigation into President Donald Trump enters a historic next phase on Wednesday as the House Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on the constitutional grounds for drafting articles of impeachment.The process of drawing up any articles, now becoming increasingly likely, could begin shortly after members question legal experts about the “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors” the Constitution requires.Among the key questions: Are Trump’s actions the danger the Founders warned about? Is impeachment the remedy they envisioned?Much of the focus now will be on the Judiciary Committee’s Democratic chairman, Jerry Nadler, and whether he can control Republican objections and maintain the momentum of the Democrats’ impeachment drive — an effort that Trump on Tuesday once again called a “hoax.”This is how the hearing is unfolding. Please refresh for updates.10:58 a.m.Stanford law professor Pamela Karlan speaks next — firing an opening shot at the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, GOP Rep. Doug Collins, after he suggested in his opening statement that the legal experts hadn’t had time to digest the 300-page report released by Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee.”Mr. Collins, I would like to say to you, sir, that I read transcripts of every one of the witnesses who appeared in the live hearing because I would not speak about these things without reviewing the facts. So, I’m insulted by the suggestion that as a law professor I don’t care about those facts, but everything I read on those occasions tells me that when President Trump invited, indeed, demanded foreign involvement in our upcoming election,” she says.”He struck at the very heart of what makes this a republic to which we pledge allegiance, that demand as Professor Feldman just explained, constituted an abuse of power. I want to explain in my testimony, drawing a foreign government into our elections is an especially serious abuse of power because it undermines democracy itself.””The very idea that a president might seek the aid of a foreign government in his re-election campaign would have horrified [the Founders], but based on the evidentiary record, that is what President Trump has done,” Karlan says.10:45 a.m.Noah Feldman, the Harvard Law School law professor, testifies his analysis is that President Trump’s actions fit the constitutional definition of “high crimes and misdemeanors.”“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,” Feldman said, specifically citing Trump’s request for Ukrainian President Voldymyr Zelenskiy to pursue investigations into the Bidens and purported Ukraine interference in the 2016 election.10:32 a.m.ABC News’ congressional reporter Benjamin Siegel reports from the hearing room:Republicans are already trying to knock Chairman Jerry Nadler off of his game, interjecting multiple times on procedural matters. It won’t be the last time they try to use the tools of the minority to air their concerns with what they argue is an unfair process against Trump.Noteworthy that, on obstruction, Nadler made this comparison to President Bill Clinton’s impeachment: “In 1998, President Clinton physically gave his blood. President Trump, by contrast, has refused to produce a single document, and directed every witness not to testify. Those are the facts before us.”Republicans just forced a vote to shelve their request to compel Adam Schiff to testify before the committee. The motion to table passed (24-17) along party lines.Republicans are afforded this ability under the impeachment inquiry resolution that laid out the parameters of the inquiry. They could, theoretically, continue forcing votes to bring other witnesses (the whistleblower, Hunter Biden, etc.) forward for the rest of the morning.For now, they have decided to continue pelting Nadler with inquiries about the rules governing the hearing. After a few minutes of back-and-forth, Nadler is trying to get the witnesses to give their opening statements.10: 20 a.m.“What’s not new is the facts,” Ranking Members Doug Collins says in his opening statement. “It’s the same sad story,” he says.He argues the Founders were concerned about political impeachment “because you just don’t like the guy.” he says.”You know what’s driving this? ” Collins says. “Two things, it’s called the clock and the calendar, the clock and the calendar, most people in life what they truly value you look at their checkbook and their calendar, you know what they value. That’s what this committee values. Time. They want to do it before the end of the year. Why? Because the chairman said it a few seconds ago, because we’re scared of the elections last year that we’ll lose again. So we got to do this now. The clock and the calendar are what’s driving impeachment. Not the facts,””This is not an impeachment. This is just a simple railroad job, and today’s [hearing] is a waste of time,” Collins continues.”It didn’t start with Mueller, it didn’t’ start with a phone call … it started with tears in Brooklyn in November 2016,” he says.10:06 a.m.Chairman Jerry Nadler gavels the hearing open.”The facts before are us are undisputed,” the New York Democrat says, adding that President Trump has attacked witnesses who’ve testified previously.”He did everything in his power to prevent the American people from learning about his conduct,” he said.Nadler stressed the Founders’ concerns about foreign interference in elections and the president’s lack of cooperation with congressional investigations.”Never before has a president engaged in a course of conduct that included all of the acts that most concerned the Framers. The patriots who founded our country were not fearful men. They fought a war. They witnessed terrible violence. They overthrew a king. But as they met to frame our Constitution, those patriots still feared one threat above all—foreign interference in our elections,” Nadler said in his opening statement.”The storm in in which we find ourselves today was set in motion by President Trump,” Nadler said in his opening statement.”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 gain,” he added.9:58 a.m.Members and witnesses are starting to take their seats in the hearing room.President Donald Trump has cancelled his conference in London scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Washington time, shortly after the hearing was supposed to get underway.A GOP member of the Judiciary Committee and vocal critic of the impeachment inquiry, Rep. Matt Gaetz. told ABC News Senior Washington Reporter on ABC News Live that Republicans will continue to push to call their own witnesses to defend Trump, but said he sees the result of the House impeachment inquiry as a “foregone conclusion.”As for Wednesday’s hearing, Gaetz said Republicans don’t have anything to prove and that Democrats think the testimony from “liberal law professors” will support their conclusions. “Today will largely be legal analysis that I think will bore the country to death,” he said.9:35 a.m.Three witnesses have been called by Democrats: Noah Feldman of Harvard Law School, Pamela Karlan of Stanford Law School, and Michael Gerhardt of the University of North Carolina School of Law.Testifying for Republicans will be Jonathan Turley of The George Washington University Law School.Their opening statements have been made public.Feldman says his analysis is that President Trump’s actions fit the constitutional definition of “high crimes and misdemeanors.”“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,” Feldman said in his prepared remarks, specifically citing his request for Ukrainian President Voldymyr Zelenskiy to announce investigations into the Bidens and the 2016 election.Feldman said the idea of impeachment is critical to the basis of American democracy, specifically the idea that unlike a king, the president is not above the law and there should be checks on a president.“The framers believed that elections were not a sufficient check on the possibility of a president who abused his power by acting in a corrupt way. They were especially worried that a president might use the power of his office to influence the electoral process in his own favor. They concluded that the Constitution must provide for the impeachment of the president to assure that no one would be above the law,” he said.Gerhardt compared Trump’s behavior to former President Richard Nixon, who famously resigned as Congress was considering whether to impeach him.He says the president’s actions correspond which each of the three articles of impeachment against Nixon – obstruction of justice, abuse of power, and failure to comply with legislative subpoenas. “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,” he said in his opening statement, adding that even Nixon cooperated with congressional investigations.Karlan speaks of the constitutional threshold.”The list of impeachable offenses the Framers included in the Constitution shows that the essence of an impeachable offense is a president’s decision to sacrifice the national interest for his own private ends. “Treason” lay in an individual’s giving aid to foreign enemies—that is, putting a foreign adversary’s interests above the United States’. “Bribery” occurred when an official solicited, received, or offered a personal favor or benefit to influence official action—that is, putting his private welfare above the national interest. And “high Crimes and Misdemeanors” captured the other ways in which a high official might, as Justice Joseph Story explained, “disregard . . . public interests, in the discharge of the duties of political office,” she says in her prepared remarks.
Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.