Transcript for Sparks fly during top intel official's testimony on whistleblower complaint
Reporter: Technically this just a hearing of the house intelligence committee. But for all practical purposes this might well be the opening gavel of president trump's impeachment process. The president of the united States has betrayed his oath of office, betrayed his oath to defend our national security, and betrayed his oath to defend our constitution. Reporter: An historic moment, however it ends. The president, accused of using the power of his office to enlist a foreign government to dig up dirt on a political rival. Today, watching from a distance, he was seething. I just watched a little bit on television. It's a disgrace to our country its another witch hunt here we go again. Reporter: The sole witness today, the nation's top intelligence official. Reporter: Acting director of national intelligence Joseph Maguire, summoned to capitol hill to answer questions about an unprecedented whistleblower complaint against the president. A complaint the administration initially refused to hand over to congress. Would you agree that the whistle-blower complaint alleges serious wrongdoing by the president of the United States? The whistle-blower complaint involved the allegation of that. It is not for me and the intelligence community to decide how the president conducts foreign policy or his interaction with leaders of other countries, sir. Reporter: The big problem, who can make that judgement? On what grounds? And subject to what review? Trust is gone here, this is going to be vicious and for people who want to reach a fair judgement on what happened here that's going to be really hard. Reporter: The trump administration finally handed over the whistleblower's report. A 9-page document with a bombshell accusation. "The president of the united States is using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. Election" in his July 25th phone call with the newly elected president of Ukraine. My call was perfect. The president yesterday of Ukraine said there was no pressure put on him whatsoever, none whatsoever. Reporter: The whistleblower was not on the call, but relied on reports from "Multiple white house officials with direct knowledge." The whistleblower alleges that senior white house officials "Understood the gravity of what had transpired in the call" and proceeded "To 'lock down' all records of the phone call," including the transcript. It outlines a concerted effort by white house officials to conceal the contents of that transcript of that phone call in a way that was unprecedented. By one way of looking at that, that is a cover up beginning right after the phone call. That is evidence of consciousness of the president's guilt that he had done something wrong on the phone call that they right away wanted to shift to another place where it might be harder to find. Reporter: The whistleblower calls the president's lawyer Rudy Giuliani a central figure in the alleged plot to influence the election with more than 30 references to him in the complaint. And concluded that attorney general William Barr appears to be involved as well. The inspector general for the director of national intelligence found the whistleblower's allegations to be credible and of urgent concern. I want to stress that I believe that the whistle-blower and the inspector general have acted in good faith throughout. I have every reason to believe that they have done everything by the book and followed the law. Reporter: Today at a closed door event, trump reportedly attacked both the whistleblower and the white house staffers who cooperated calling the leaker almost a spy. The "La times" obtained audio. You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart, right? With spies and treason? We used to handle it a little differently than we do now. Reporter: In the committee room -- I want to congratulate the Democrats on the rollout of their latest information warfare operation against the president. Reporter: The president's Republican allies, like congressman Devin nunes, blasted back. A cabal of leakers are ginning up a fake story with no regard to the monumental damage they're causing to our public institutions and to trust in government. Reporter: During the committee hearing today, his line of questioning and his opening statement were more in line with conspiracy theories on the internet than they were with the facts and the fact pattern of the case. What was really noticeable inside this hearing room is that a lot of Republicans, while they were trying to poke holes in the complaint, raising questions about the process, accusing Democrats of being political, they were not rushing to defend the president's actions. Based on the new information that we got today both from the whistleblowers report and from the testimony that we heard. Have we reached the point of high crimes and misdemeanors? Look this is no question. The worst day thus far for the president. You don't just have the phone call and the whistleblowers report which seems to back up some of what's on the call, but you then have the inspector general an independent voice reviewing the whistleblower and saying I found it credible and I did my own review and then you got the director of national intelligence saying I think they both did the right thing. Reporter: More than guilt or innocence its about fitness for office Impeachment is about restoring honor and integrity to the office. Reporter: That's senator Lindsay graham back in 1999, making the case for bill Clinton's impeachment. You don't even have to be convicted of a crime to lose your job in this constitutional republic. If this body determines that your conduct as a public official is clearly out of bounds in your role. Reporter: Here's Lindsay graham today. The president was between a rock and a hard place. I think he did the right thing. You know, I'll make my own opinions up and I have, and I'm really clear about this. This phone call is a nothing burger in terms of a quid pro quo. Reporter: But, as speaker Nancy Pelosi made clear today -- This is a cover-up. This is a cover-up. Reporter: It's already bigger than that phone call. Use any metaphor you want, crossing the rubicon, a new day has dawned, any analogy. We are at a different level of lawlessness that is self-evident to the American people. Reporter: President trump insists he has nothing to fear. What these guys are doing, Democrats, are doing to this country is a disgrace and shouldn't be allowed. There should be a way of stopping it, maybe legally through the courts, but they're going to tie up our country. Reporter: Whether it's in the courts, or the hearing room, the
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