House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), the committee’s Democratic counsel Barry Berke and House Intelligence Committee Democratic counsel Daniel Goldman made a powerful case for impeaching the president as they opened the second House hearing on impeachment Monday.

In his opening statement, Nadler explained, “If the President puts himself before the country, he violates a President’s most basic responsibility. He breaks his oath to the American people. If he puts himself before the country in a manner that threatens our democracy, then our oath — our promise to the American people — requires us to come to the defense of the nation.” He noted that the critical facts are not in dispute:

On July 25, President Trump called President Zelensky of Ukraine and asked him for a favor.
That call was part of a concerted effort by President Trump to compel the government of Ukraine to announce an investigation—not an investigation of corruption writ large, but an investigation of President Trump’s political rivals, and only his political rivals.
President Trump put himself before country.
The record shows that President Trump withheld military aid, allocated by the United States Congress, from Ukraine. It also shows that he withheld a White House meeting from President Zelensky.
Multiple witnesses—including respected diplomats, national security professionals, and decorated war veterans—all testified to the same basic fact: President Trump withheld the aid and the meeting in order to pressure a foreign government to do him that favor.
President Trump put himself before country.

When Trump got caught, he issued a blanket directive to withhold testimony and documents. That was obstruction.

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In short, the most critical evidence comes from the president: his request (“favor”) that a foreign nation meddle in our election by investigating a political rival. The Judiciary Committee’s Republican counsel Steve Castor argued there was no pressure or extortion in this call, but that defense fails. When the president asks for something, the pressure is implicit, and, more important, the quid pro quo, the bribery and the extortion are not essential to the underlying charge: Trump solicited foreign assistance.

Goldman made the same tight argument, stressing that the case turned on four things: 1) a pressure campaign to open investigations that helped Trump, not the United States; 2) the hold on aid that had to have come from Trump; 3) the fact that numerous officials were in the loop (i.e. there was a conspiracy) and 4) that there was a coverup and that to this day Trump’s lawyer is out soliciting Ukrainian cooperation to provide ammunition against former vice president Joe Biden. Goldman told the assembled congressmen, “[Trump] applied this pressure himself and through his agents within and outside of the U.S. government by conditioning a desperately-sought Oval Office meeting and $391 million in taxpayer-funded, congressionally-appropriated military assistance — vital to Ukraine’s ability to fend off Russian aggression — on the announcement of political investigations helpful to his personal interests.”

It’s worth noting that the words “quid pro quo” and “bribery” do not feature in these remarks. That might be because the House is considering the tightest possible case, the most straightforward accusation of abuse of office. The threat to cut off aid, the solicitation of a bribe (Ukraine would get its aid when it announced an investigation) provide detail and context, but the central misdeed is provable from Trump’s own words.

The GOP’s arguments are odd and contradictory. Republicans must wait until courts force Trump to cooperate with legal subpoenas before they move on obstruction, Castor argued. It’s all moving too fast, he insisted. The Mueller report was baloney. The Ukraine scheme relies on hearsay. None of these really held together, but then again, the purpose was not to persuade. It was to give fodder to Trump and his right-wing media allies and get the case out of the House as quickly as possible.

It does not seem so far as if articles of impeachment will be based on facts extraneous to the Ukraine investigation, even if such facts provide a continuous narrative to explain Trump’s conduct. It does not sound as if Donald McGahn’s testimony or John Bolton’s testimony will be needed to make a razor-sharp case nor that bribery per se will be an article of impeachment. We are, however, headed for at least two articles: one for abuse of power and the other for obstruction with plenty of illuminating detail. Needless to say, this could all change quickly based on new evidence or testimony. Still, the House appears to have found a clear and concise basis for proceeding.

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