- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 13, 2019

The House’s first public hearing on impeaching President Trump opened Wednesday with dueling views of the effort, which was described as either a search for truth or an “orchestrated media smear campaign.”

Rep. Adam B. Schiff began the hearing by laying out Democrats’ case that the president abused his office for personal political gain.

Mr. Schiff, chairman of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence that is conducting the probe, framed the case as a question they sought to answer.


SEE ALSO: Schiff, Dems take impeachment push public: ‘The process will be fair to the president’


“The questions presented by this impeachment inquiry are whether President Trump sought to exploit that ally’s vulnerability and invite Ukraine’s interference in our elections? Whether President Trump sought to condition official acts, such as a White House meeting or U.S. military assistance, on Ukraine’s willingness to assist with two political investigations that would help his reelection campaign? And if President Trump did either, whether such an abuse of his power is compatible with the office of the presidency?” said Mr. Schiff, California Democrat.

“The matter is as simple and as terrible as that,” he said. “Our answer to these questions will affect not only the future of this presidency, but the future of the presidency itself, and what kind of conduct or misconduct the American people may come to expect from their commander-in-chief.”



Rep. Devin Nunes, the ranking Republican on the committee, countered that Democrats were staging “a carefully orchestrated media smear campaign.”


SEE ALSO: Whistleblower’s identity looms large at House impeachment hearing


He noted that Democrats have been pursuing impeachment against Mr. Trump since he took office, turning to the Ukraine scandal only after a more than two-year investigation into Trump-Russia collusion fizzled.

“Here we are we are [and] supposed to take these people at face value when they trot out these new allegations,” he said.

The president wasn’t watching the televised hearings as they began, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said.

“He’s in the Oval [Office] in meetings. Not watching. He’s working,” she told a pool reporter, adding that Mr. Trump had been in his office since about 8 a.m.

The impeachment inquiry stems from a July 25 phone call in which Mr. Trump pressed Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky for a “favor” in investigating Mr. Biden and other corruption allegations. A whistleblower believed to be a CIA official assigned to the White House accused the president of abusing his power for personal gain, including withholding U.S. military aid from Ukraine to force the investigation.

A rough transcript of the call did not show a quid pro quo with the investigation request, but Democrats argue the threat was understood and part of an ongoing pressure campaign of “shadow” foreign policy conducted by Mr. Trump’s private lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani.

The testimony provided so far, which has been gleaned from leaked copies of prepared opening remarks and accounts by congressional staff in the room, has largely centered on people’s opinions about what the president was doing when pressing for an investigation.

Mr. Trump wanted an investigation into allegations of corruption involving Mr. Biden and his son Hunter, who got a high-paying job on the board of Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian natural gas company, while his father was the point man for Obama White House policy in the country, which is notorious for corruption, especially in the energy industry.

Mr. Trump also wanted Ukraine to look into a missing Democratic National Committee server that was hacked by Russia during the 2016 presidential campaigns. An American cybersecurity company called CrowdStrike examined the server to probe the hack but it disappeared before it could be handed over to the FBI.

Mr. Trump subscribes to an unsubstantiated theory that the server ended up in Ukraine.

Democratic leaders had until this week resisted putting the impeachment inquiry to a vote, saying the complaints about the process masked Republicans’ inability to defend Mr. Trump’s action, which they describe as an abuse of his office for personal political gain.

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