Dem attorney delivers opening statement at impeachment hearing

Barry Berke, the majority counsel for the House Judiciary Committee, argued the evidence collected in the impeachment inquiry shows President Trump's behavior constitutes an impeachable offense.
30:04 | 12/09/19

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Transcript for Dem attorney delivers opening statement at impeachment hearing
Before I had the great honor of being a council for this committee. My young son asked me a question. He said dad. Does the president have to be a good person. Like many questions. By young children at a certain clarity. But it was hard to answer. I said son. It is not a requirement that the president be a good person but that is the hope. And it is not a requirement that the president be a good person that is not why we are here today that is not the issue. But the very document that created the awesome presidency in its powers that we have made clear. It is a requirement. That the president be a per cent who does not abuse his power it is a requirement. That the president be a person. Who not what does not risk and national security of this nation. And the integrity of our elections in order to further his own reelection prospects it is a requirement. That the president not be a person. Who acts as though he is above the law in putting his personal. And political interest. Above the nation's interest that is the lesson of the constitution. That is the lesson of the founders they were concerned. That someone would be elected president who would use. All the power of that office to serve his own personal interest at the expense of the people who elected him. They decided there needed to be a remedy because they had suffered the abuses of king George where they had no remedy. No remedy they they imposed was that if a president. Commits a grave offense. A high crime or misdemeanor. This body has the power to impeach. That president. They wanted to ensure. That a president could not serve his own interest over that. Of the nation. It flows from the very oath that all members of this body must take. To support and defend the constitution. And bear true faith and a legion to the same. That is why we are here today. And it is unfortunate occasion. That these proceedings are necessary. But the president's actions. Have left no choice the founders were very clear in spelling out what they saw the be the greatest abuses. That would raise. The most concerns for our nation. They spelled them out as a warning signals that if a president. Violated when we're committed one of these that would be a reason to potentially impeach that president. They were abuse of power be trail of the national interest corruption of elections. And what is so extraordinary is the conduct we're going to be talking about today. Of president trump didn't violate one of these but all three. First. The evidence is overwhelming that the president abused his power by pressured it by pressuring Ukraine and its new president. To investigate. A political opponent the evidence is overwhelming. That the president abused his power. By ramping up that pressure by conditioning. A one it. White House meeting any needed. Military aid that had been approved in order to get that president to investigate a political rival it is clear and overwhelming then and abusing that power. The president betrayed the national interest by putting his own political prospects. Over the national security of our country. It is clear that the president risk corrupted our elections by inviting foreign interference to knock out an adversary to help his prospects in reelection. It is why in debating the constitution James Madison warned. That because the presidency was to be administered by a single man his corruption might be fatal to the republic. In the scheme by president trump was so brazen. So clear. Supported by documents actions sworn testimony. Un contradicted. Contemporaneous. Records. That is hard to imagine that anybody could dispute those acts. Let alone argue that that conduct does not constitute an impeachable offense or offenses. This is a big deal. President trump. Did it what a president of our nation is not allowed to do. It is why last week the constitutional scholar professor Michael gare Hart said. If what were talking about is not impeachable. Then nothing. Is impeachable. President Trump's actions are impeachable offenses. They threaten our rule of law. They threaten our institutions. And as James Madison warned us they threaten our republic. Let me begin where we must with the facts and evidence first it's important to understand why. Ukraine was so important to our national security Ukraine was under attack by its. Aggressive and hostile neighbor Russia they had already encroached on its territories. The Ukraine. Was at great risk that Russia would again. Take further territory or try. Europe had a stake in this and so did we I'm gonna turn to an expert on this ambassador Taylor who was one of the most highly decorated diplomats and recognize diplomats for over forty years he served. Our country honorably and he was appointed by president trump himself to be in charge of the US embassy in Ukraine. The Russians. Are violating. All of the rules. Treaties understandings. That they committed to that actually kept the peace in Europe. For nearly seventy years. Back. Rule of law that. Order it kept the peace in Europe and allowed for prosperity. As well as peace in Europe was violated by the Russians and it affects the world that we live in that our children will grow up end and our grandchildren. This affects the kind of world that we walked two to recede world. That is ambassador Taylor explaining why. Ukraine was so bored and explaining why the president's actions so significantly risk hurting our national security our national defense policy and our national interest. Now you've already heard there is significant proof. That president trump himself. Told the new president of Ukraine president to Lynn ski that he wanted him to investigate a political rival former vice president Joseph Biden. You hear a lot about that today but that proof is only the tip of the iceberg. There are so many more events and meetings in contemporaneous. Text messages emails. Other documents that show this happened and happened exactly as it is alleged. It is clear that in this scheme to pressure Ukraine to investigate a political rival. The person at the center of that scheme was president Donald Trump. The facts. Cannot be disputed president trump used the powers of government for a domestic. Political area to put his political interest above that of the -- someone turned to another expert. But turns and missed feel doctor Jonah Hill the National Security Council senior director in the trump administration. And she's go to explain what happened. But it struck me one yes today when you cut up on the screen Mombasa to some letters emails. On hand was on these emails and he said these people need to doubt that it is absolutely right. Because he was being involved in a domestic political haven't. And wheat were being involved in national security foreign policy. Those two things that just affects. And that. Tells you what the evidence shows the president put his own. Domestic political interest over the nation's national security and foreign policy. A president cannot abuse its power to secure an election. He cannot do that. At the expense of the American people that. Is impeachable offense. The president has tried to make excuses for his conduct wipes out wrongful. Or corrupt or an abuse of power. But the truth holds together it makes sense is consistent with the evidence. When someone is offering excuse that is not true it is not consistent with the evidence it does not make sense. It cannot be squared when what the facts show and you'll see these excuses do not make sense. The facts are clear that president trump put his own political and personal interest over the nation's interest. Like to go through what you're gonna see about the president's team and you're to hear about today from the facts that we have. First. You're gonna hear that. President Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani pushed Ukraine to open an investigation of his political rival mr. Giuliani. Prior to the July 25 call he made public statements that Ukraine should investigate. Vice former vice president Joseph Biden. He'd that you went to Ukraine and later when again. With the assist and direction of US officials who were told to eight the president's personal lawyer all on the president's behalf. You'll hear that president trump. Told his. Aides that he was relying on for Ukraine. That he wanted them to quote talked to Rudy. What you're gonna hear. Is that. His close advisors had just gotten back on May 23 from the inauguration of the new president presents a Lansky they told president trouble. We were impressed. He was elected on an anti corruption platform a reform platform you should schedule a White House meeting it's very important this is very good for the United States. And the president's response was. Talk to Rudy. Who'd been out there claiming with the Ukraine. Ukrainian president had to do was investigate his political rival. You'll hear that. Presidents trumps advisors told presidential Wednesday that president trump would not schedule the one in White House meeting. Unless he announced eight Ukrainian investigation of former Vice President Biden. There are documents they're sworn testimony this happened and there is no question from the evidence that the president did this. And presents a list he desperately needed a White House meeting. Both the show Russia that the US was still supporting Ukraine and for his own credibility as a new. President you'll hear them. To ramp up the press the pressure what president trump did is he told. His agencies to withhold military and security aid. That had been approved and was supposed to be released to Ukraine hundreds of millions of dollars in order to put more pressure on Ukraine. All the agencies involved. State Department Defense Department National Security Council said it should be released that have been approved it was going to be released until president trump personally. Stopped it. And again contemporaneous evidence and documents show it and proven. People said that they were shot. Ambassador Taylor said he was an astonishment. It witness said that it was ill logical to do this and the president never offered an explanation. But ultimately it was discovered why he did it. Then on the July 25 call president troubles explicitly told them you wanna to conduct he wanted him to do to Ukrainian investigations. One of the US citizen and as political rival. And the other about the origins of the interference in the 2016 elections some conspiracy theory that Russia who all the intelligence agencies agreed interfered with its when he sixteen election that may be was Ukraine again. Another investigation intended to help the president politically. That is it. And you know the president cared about. The investigations. That would help him politically and not Ukraine and not the national security interest. You don't have to take my word I'm gonna play so be from David Holmes who had worked in the US embassy in Ukraine and was speaking to ambassador son Lynn. Who include fellow president trouble pointed. Ambassador summit had just come to the Ukraine 126 he met with presidential Hinske he went to a restaurant with mr. Holmes the US political affairs council in Ukraine couldn't and witty called president trouble on his cellphone mr. Holmes could hear that call and that he spoke to mr. Simon. Let's see what happened on July 26 the day after that call. I heard ambassador song and greet the president text when he was calling from Steve I heard president trump and clarify that ambassador someone was in Ukraine. Messer Salah replied yes he was in Ukraine and went onstage. The president's a Lansky quote low address. I better president trump asks so is gonna do the investigation. Master Simon replied that he's gonna do it adding it presents a Lansky will do anything you ask him to do. That is sworn testimony. By David Holmes who heard it. From the president himself. And it was clear to everyone the most experienced. People in government who Donald Trump himself a point in their positions. They knew what was going on let's look at a text message from ambassador Taylor. Round this time on September 9. He said. As I said on the phone all I think it's crazy to withhold security assistance for help with the political campaign. Again. That is president trump. Putting his own political and personal interest. Over the nation's interest to hold a desperately needed by Ukraine in order to. Combat Russia and show the support he did it to help his own campaign. Doubt there are many excuses offered by the president would like to briefly talk about those excuses. The first excuse offered by president trump is that the aimed at. Was Altima every group ultimately released and president trump met with mr. Lansky we heard it today. The challenge with that though as an excuse is the aim was only released after president trump got caught doing this game. On September 9. The committees of this house started their investigation and announced they were investigating his conduct with regard to Ukraine two days later was when he released the eight. And he also there also was a news article which will talk about the moment of the Washington Post on September 5 exposing his scheme. And it was only after that that he met with mr. with presents a Lansky not in the White House but in New York. Another excuse offered the president was motivated by general corruption. Concerns. And again the evidence shows that is not true that that's what caused in the with hold the eight presidents Lewinsky effect was elected on an anti corruption platform he was a reform candidate. His own people told him again and again prisons Lewinsky is a hope he's doing it the right way they urged him just be supportive. All on his call with presidents let's get on July. 25 president trump ignore the talking points over prepared to talk about corruption he only wanted to talk about two things. The two investigations that helped him politically. Every intelligence agency unanimously supported releasing the aid to Ukraine that was appropriate they did a study out corruption say they said release said. The White House. Never provided an explanation. Eat it already been approved. An it was not for any corruption issues the president trump withheld the next as Ukraine was not pressured. And the argument about that as well today. There they they haven't said there were pressure will Ukraine was pressured then and still is pressured their desperately in need of the of the United States support as they battle. The threat of Russia. So of course they have to be careful what they said but contemporaneous. Documents emails text from the Ukrainian officials themselves show the pressure they felt showed they knew what the president trouble doing showed what they had to do. This is one from. Bill Taylor to again ambassador Gordon Solomon incurred an ambassador Kurt Volker. Borden one thing current and I talked about yesterday was Sasha Don that a senior aide of president as a Lynn ski. Point that presidents the Lynn ski is sensitive about Ukraine being taken seriously not Miree merely an instrument in Washington domestic reelection politics. They Donnelly felt the pressure they got the message. They were not gonna get a White House meeting. They were all plea not to get military aid unless they furthered president trumps reelection. Efforts. That is a corrupt abuse of power. Another argument that's made is the trump ever said quid pro quo. And what you're getting here is on a call with ambassador solemnly in. After a Washington Post article came out on September 5 which we will look at. After that there was a Washington Post article that came out that again exposed the Ukrainian scheme. Days after that prison troubles on a phone call with ambassador Sama and without prompting said there was no quid pro quo. Is he got caught so he's offering his defense. But even ambassador someone in his sworn testimony didn't buy it. Because ultimately then president trump. Not only was not dissuaded he again described what he wanted. He didn't want. You pray to actually conduct these investigations he went into one good to announce that investigations of his political rival to help him politically. He continued and it and you'll hear more about that. Wrong again none of these excuses hold any water and they are refuted by. Testimony contemporaneous records. And more. Now some have suggested. That we should wait to proceed with these impeachment proceedings because we've not heard from all the witnesses or obtained all the documents. But the reason we have not heard from all the witnesses or documents is because president trump himself has obstructed the investigation he's directed his most senior aides. We're involved in some of these events not to come testified. To defy subpoenas he is told every one of its agencies with records and could be relevant. Not to produce those records to us to try to obstruct our investigation. Now. This is evidence that president trump is re playing. The playbook used in the prior Department of Justice investigation. In that investigation he directed his White House counsel to create a false phony record and document and lie. Denying that president trumpets Holden to fire the special counsel. He did many other things the try to interfere with that investigation. He attacked the investigators and good witnesses and called them horrible names. Just as he is done here. And president trump thought he got away with that. On July 24. Was the day that special counsel the special counsel testified. Before this committee of the House Intelligence Committee. The 24. It was exactly the following day the 25 that president trump spoke. The president to Lynn ski in furtherance of his Ukrainian scheme he thought he got away with that not only that he thought he could use his powers to interfere with that investigation. So he can do what he wanted he could act. Act like he was above the law and if he got caught. He would again use his powers to try to obstruct the investigation and prevent the facts from coming out and that's exactly what he did. But fortunately. Fortunately. Because of the true American patriots. Who came forward to testify despite the threats. By president against the people who worked at his own administration. They told the story. They on their own produce documents. That provide on Contra verdict. Clear and overwhelming evidence. That president trump did this scheme. He put his political. Reelection. Interest over the nation's national security and the integrity of its elections. He did it intentionally did it corruptly he abused his powers in ways that the founders feared the most. No person in the bit in this country has the ability to prevent investigations. And neither does the president our constitution does not allow it. No one is above the law. Not even the president. And one of their. Concerns and requirements. Of finding an impeachable offense is there an urgency. Is there a sense that you have to move because it could be repeated. Well again first. All the constitutional experts. Who testified recognize that obstructing an investigation is an impeachable offense but here the offense we're talking about that's being interfered obstructed with is interfering with his very election that's coming up. And I submit to you given what had with the department of justice's investigation given what's happening here. If in fact president trump can get away with what he did again. Our imagination is the only limit to what president trump may do next. Oh what a future president may do next to try to abuse his or her power to serve his own personal interest over the nation's interest. I'd like to turn back to what the founders most cared about when to about the ABC's amount of potential presidential abuses. It is extraordinary that the president's conduct was a trifecta checking all three boxes let's begin with abuse of power. What that means. It's to use the power the office to obtain an improper personal benefit while ignoring her injuring the national interest. Or act in ways they are grossly inconsistent with an undermine the separation of powers that is the foundation. Of our democratic system. Now these this question of whether president engaged in abuse of power came up before. When this congress considered the impeachment. Of President Nixon. An after action was taken President Nixon famously said if the president doesn't it is not illegal. This body rejected that because that's not so let go directly contrary to what the founders set but president trump. As said the same thing. In responding to though prior investigation by department of justice and defending his conduct here's what he said. And I have an article to. We're at the right to do whatever I want as president. That he has the right to do what ever he wants as president. That is as wrong. As when President Nixon said a similar thing. That is not what the constitution provides. That is not what the country demands he does not have the right to do whatever he wants. Turning to the second abuse of power mostly concerned. Be trail the nation among foreign powers. The American people have suffered. That foreign influence when president trump. Treated. Military aid that had been approved. Taxpayer dollars and decided to treated as his own checkbook to try to further his own reelection chances. That. Reflects with the founders were concerned about. And finally corruption of our elections. The framers knew that corrupt leaders. We're leaders acted corruptly concentrate their powers. To manipulate elections. And undercut adversaries. They talked about it frequently that is why the framers. Thought electoral treasury particularly involving foreign powers was a critical abuse at him and who that could support a lead to impeachment. Now the American people learned last election held dangerous. Foreign intervention or elections can be. We showed another clip from president from Kennedy trump on the on the campaign trail. Russia if you're listening. I hope you're able to find that 30000. Emails. That are missing. I think you'll probably be rewarded mightily by our press. And Russia was listening. Within approximately five hours. Five hours. Of president Trump's invitation. To Russia. To interfere in our election. By trying to hack in obtained the emails of his political opponent Russia in fact tried to do that for the first time. The very officers who are then indicted by the Department of Justice for that conduct. They took candidate Trump's invitation. Now. The American people learned a lesson president trouble unfortunately apparently learned at different lesson. Let's look. Well I would think that if they work. Honest about it did start a major investigation at the divide. The very simple land. They didn't investigate the side. So this is president trump answered a question about what did he want prisons Lansky to do. So even after he got caught. He is saying again. As vulnerable nation. Dependent on US support militarily. And otherwise again he's telling them what to do and unlike in what he sixteen when he only had a campaign platform. Which to extend the invitation to a foreign power now he has the levers of government. In his control to not only requested an invited Mike to pressure that country to do it. And that's exactly what he did it you'll hear more about that in the presentation of the House Intelligence Committee. And what's most striking as we come back to this issue that the framers were concerned about is there are continuing wrist of wrongdoing. The fact that president trump did this. After he was caught shows the risk. Shows the risk. But what will happen. This body doesn't act he really doesn't believe he can act as though he were above the law he really does believe as evidenced by this conduct. That he can put his personal. And political interest. Over the nation's interest over the nation's national security interest over the nation's. Integrity and of its elections. So of course we do have an election coming up. That's not a reason to postpone this discussion that's a reason we must have this discussion to make sure it is not interfered with the to make sure this president doesn't do it to make sure future presidents. Do not do it. It is the hope. That in these discussions. Can put aside. Political Rinker. This agreement. And have a fair discussion about the facts in this conduct. Not just as a relates the president trump. But as to the presidency itself in future presidents. My son our children our grandchildren. They will study this moment in history. They will read all of your remarks they'll alert about all of your actions. And that is not a reason. To vote for or against impeachment for that of course you must vote your conscience. But that is a reason. For us to have a fair. Debate. About what. The undisputed facts show. To recognize that it is wrong it is very wrong in and cannot happen again with this president or any president. It is a reason to talk about whether we want our children and grandchildren to live in a country. Where the president elected by the people. Can put his own personal and political interest over the interest of the people who elected them. It is a reason for these debates took again fairly focus. On the facts and to make sure the presentations we're gonna hear. Will not distort the record focus on process points. Raise extraneous matters that really are intended to distract. Rather than focus on what the conduct was at issue here. It is a reason. The focus on the facts. And what is in the country's best interest. History. Future generations. Will be the judge.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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