House judiciary chairman delivers impeachment opening statement

Rep. Jerry Nadler stressed the Founding Fathers’ concerns about foreign interference in elections and the president's lack of cooperation with congressional investigations.
10:39 | 12/04/19

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Transcript for House judiciary chairman delivers impeachment opening statement
This is the first hearing. This is the first hearing we are conducting pursuant to house resolution 660. And did you special Judiciary Committee procedures that are described in section four A of that resolution. Here is said the committee will proceed for this hearing. I will make an opening statement. And then our recognize the ranking member of for an opening statement. Each witness who had ten minutes to make their statements. And then we will proceed to questions. Oh now recognize myself for an opening statement was chairman parliamentary inquiry. The tournament I have I have the time for an opening statement parliamentary and agrees not in order at this time the facts before us. Are undisputed. On July 25. President trump quote the president's Lewinsky of Ukraine. And in president trumps words and asked him for a favor. That close part of a concerted effort by the president and his men. To solicit a personal advantage in the next election. This time in the form of investigation of his political adversaries. By a foreign government. To obtain that private political advantage president trump with held. Both an official White House meeting from the newly elected president of a fragile democracy. And withheld vital military aid from a vulnerable allies. When congress found that about this scheme and began to investigate. President trump took extraordinary and unprecedented steps to cover up his efforts and to withhold evidence from the investigators. And when witnesses disobeyed him. When career perfect came forward and told us the truth. He attacked them and viciously. Calling them traitors and liars. Promising that they will quote goes through some things close quote. Of course this is not the first time that president trump has engaged in this pattern of conduct. In 2016. The Russian government engaged in a sweeping and systematic campaign of interference. In our elections. In the words a special counsel Robert Mueller. Quote the Russian government received it would benefit from a trump presidency. And worked to secure that out come close quote. The president welcomed that interference. We saw this in real time when president trump asked Russia to hack his political opponents. The very next day a Russian military intelligence unit attempted to act that political opponent. When his own Justice Department tried to uncover the extent to which a foreign government had broken our laws. President trump took extraordinary and unprecedented steps to obstruct the investigation. Including ignoring subpoenas. Ordering the creation of false records. And publicly attacking and intimidating witnesses. Then as now this administration is level of obstruction. Is without precedent. No other president. Has vowed to quote fight all of the subpoenas and quote this president trump promised. In the 1974. Impeachment proceedings. President Nixon produced dozens of recordings. In 1990 day 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. Impeachment inquiry is moved back to the House Judiciary Committee and as we begin a review of these facts. The president's pattern of behavior. Becomes clear. President trump welcomed foreign interference. In the 2016 election. He demanded it for the 2020. Election. In both cases he got caught. And in both cases he did everything in his power to prevent the American people from learning the truth about his conduct. A July 24 the special counsel testified before this committee. He implored us to see the nature of the threat to our country. Quote over the course of my career I've seen a number of challenges to our democracy. The Russian government's efforts to interfere in our elections is among the most serious. This deserves the attention of every American close quote. Ignoring that warning president truckload Ukrainian president the very next day. Ask him to investigate the president's political opponents. As we exercise our responsibility to determine whether this pattern of behavior constitutes. Impeachable offense. It is important to place president trumps conduct into historical context. Since the founding of our country. House of Representatives has impeach to only two presidents. A third was on his way to impeachment when he resigned. This committee as it voted to impeach two presidents. For obstructing justice. We are voted to impeach what president for obstructing a congressional investigation. To the extent that president terms conduct fits these categories. There is precedent for recommending impeachment here. But never before in the history of the republic. Have we been forced to consider the conduct of a president who appears to have solicited personal political favors from a foreign government. Never before as the president engage in the course of conduct. That included all of the acts that most concerned the framers. The patriots who founded our country we're not fearful men. They fought a war. He 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. It just oppose a tyrant. They were deeply worried that we would lose their newfound liberties not through a war if a foreign army were to invade we would see that coming but through corruption from within. And in the early years of the republic they asked us each of us to be vigilant to that threat. Washington warned us. Quote to be constantly awake since history and experience proved that foreign influences them is one of the most painful foes of the public and government. Adams wrote to Jefferson quote as often as elections happen the danger of foreign influence repairs. Tablets is warning was more specific and more dire. In the Federalist papers he wrote that the quote most deadly adversaries of Republican government and quote would almost certainly attempt. To quote raise a creature of their own to the chief magistrate C a of the union. In short. The founders warned us that we should expect our foreign adversaries to target our elections. That we will find ourselves in grave danger if the president willingly opens the door to their influence. What kind of president would do that. How will we know if the president has betrayed his country in this matter. How will we know if he has betrayed his country in this manner for petty personal game. Hamilton editors had a response to that as well he wrote. Where demand unprincipled and private life. Desperate it is fortune. Both in his temper of possessed of considerable talents. Don't just drop in private at the principles of liberty. With such a man is seen to mount the hobby horse of popularity. To join the cry of danger to liberty to take every opportunity of embarrassing the general government and bringing it under suspicion. It may justly be suspected. That his object is to throw things into confusion. That he may write this storm and direct the whirlwind. Ladies and gentlemen. The stormy which we find ourselves today. Was set in motion by president trump. I do not wish this moment on the country. It is not a pleasant task that we undertake today though we have each taken an oath to protect the constitution. The facts before us are clear. President trump did not really seek to benefit from foreign interference in our elections. He directly and explicitly invited foreign interference in our elections. He used the powers of his office to try to make it happen he sent his agents to make clear that this is what he wanted and demanded. He was willing to compromise our security and his office for personal political. Gain. It does not matter that president trump got caught up and ultimately released the funds that Ukraine so desperately needed. It matters AV eight that he enlisted a foreign government to intervene in our elections in the first place. It does not matter. The president trump felt that these investigations. Were unfair to him. It matters that he is his office not merely to defend himself but to obstruct investigators. At every turn. 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 one of the very things at stake. The president has showed us his pattern of conduct. If we do not act to hold him in checked now president trump below will certainly try again. To solicit interference in the election for his personal political game. Today we'll begin our conversation where we should with the text of the constitution. We are empowered to recommend the impeachment of president trump to the house. If we find that he is committed treason. Bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors. Our witness panel will help us to guide that conversation. In a few days we will reconvene. And hear from the committees that worked to uncover the facts before us. And when we apply the constitution to those facts. If it is true that president trump has committed an impeachable offense. Or multiple a peach an impeachable offenses. Then we must move swiftly to do our duty and charged him according. I thank the witnesses for being here today.

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

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