Roughly two dozen Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee, dressed casually for the weekend, gathered in the grand hearing room in the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill Saturday for the first of two days of preparation ahead of a crucial week in impeachment proceedings against the president.
Working over pizza with Democratic lawyers and aides, they prepared for Monday's hearing with majority and minority lawyers who will argue for and against impeachment, using the evidence gathered by the committees.
A Democratic official told reporters on Saturday that Democrats intend to use Monday's hearing to make their "theory of the case" against President Donald Trump and his abuse of power.
The hearing will spotlight both Democratic and Republican attorneys from both the House Intelligence and House Judiciary committees, who will present evidence they gathered during previous public and closed-door hearings. Those hearings have focused on whether Trump withheld military aid and a potential White House meeting to Ukraine in exchange for the launch of an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.
Majority counsel Barry Burke and minority counsel Stephen Castor will appear before the Judiciary Committee, while Castor will again appear, now alongside majority counsel Daniel Goldman, before the Intelligence Committee.
As members gathered for their Saturday prep session, they were joined by committee staff and lawyers, as well as legal expert Laurence Tribe, a constitutional scholar and Harvard Law School professor who has been advising House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democrats. Tribe, according to sources, fielded questions on impeachment before Democrats began their mock hearing session.
Democrats, according to the official, plan to argue on Monday that Trump's use of his office for personal political gain ahead of the election represents the "framers' nightmare," by acting in a way that "betrays our national security and corrupts our elections using a foreign power."
They will argue that Trump's actions were part of a "repeated pattern," and that the Ukraine episode is important because it represents a "future pattern," highlighting the urgency of moving quickly to impeach the president ahead of 2020.
Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., said after Saturday's prep session that they are using it to put "law and facts together to begin to think about the next step."
"Speaker Pelosi has charged us with writing articles of impeachment and we're in the process of exploring every possible dimension of that process," Raskin said.
In terms of what to expect on Monday, Raskin described the process as a "scrupulously equal, fair, open and transparent" process.
Republicans on the committee have argued that Trump’s actions did not constitute a threat to national security or a quid pro quo because, among other things, the president was rightfully concerned about corruption in Ukraine and because Ukrainian officials did not know aid was being withheld.
On Friday night, the House Intelligence Committee formally transmitted its 300-page Ukraine report to the Judiciary Committee for consideration in impeachment proceedings. The Judiciary Committee majority staff also released their own report, "Constitutional Grounds for Presidential Impeachment," updating a similar report from the 1998 Clinton impeachment proceedings on the constitutional grounds for impeachment.
"The Framers worst nightmare is what we are facing in this very moment. President Trump abused his power, betrayed our national security, and corrupted our elections, all for personal gain," Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., said in a statement. "The Constitution details only one remedy for this misconduct: impeachment."
Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., the ranking member on the Judiciary panel, called on Nadler to postpone the hearing after Democrats' "last-minute" transmission of evidence, claiming it showed "just how far Democrats have gone to pervert basic fairness."
No additional hearings are scheduled after Monday, but Democrats are expected to introduce and consider multiple articles charging Trump with abuse of power and obstruction as early as next week -- ahead of a potential vote on the House floor the week before Christmas.