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Takeaways from the House's impeachment hearing

Posted December 9, 2019 10:55 a.m. EST

— The House Judiciary Committee convened its second impeachment hearing into President Donald Trump, with lawyers for Democrats and Republicans making the cases for and against whether the pressure campaign conducted by the White House is an impeachable act.

My rolling takeaways from the ongoing hearing -- which is expected to consume the entirety of Monday -- are below.

This is all very hard to watch

Within the first hour of the hearing, Democratic House Judiciary Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler, Republican ranking member Rep. Doug Collins and, among others, Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz and Louisiana Republican Rep. Mike Johnson, repeatedly clashed over a) the very idea that the hearing was being held b) whether House minority rights were being violated and c) other legislative arcana that literally no one outside that committee room even understood.

Gaetz, a major Trump supporter who has shown a knack for the spotlight, was, at one point, simply shouting at Nadler for holding the hearing at all -- and blasting the fact that staffers for both sides would be doing a lot of the talking during it. Nadler was clearly flustered on more than one occasion by the delay and stalling tactics used by Collins and others.

The whole thing -- even for someone like me who gets paid to watch this stuff -- was, well, unwatchable. A bunch of adults yelling at one another over matters that almost no one watching understood or cares about. It's hard to see how either side benefits from any of this display. And here's the thing folks: All of this ugliness happened within the first hour of the hearings. Buckle up.

Democrat portrays Trump as an active threat to democracy

Nadler used his opening statement to justify the tight time frame in which these impeachment hearings are being held. (Votes could come on the articles of impeachment as soon as later this week.) The New York Democrat's argument -- as he also argued in the first Judiciary Committee hearing on impeachment -- is that the country can't afford to wait until after the next election to look into what Trump did in regard to Ukraine, because his track record suggests that he may well continue to seek foreign influence in the coming 2020 election.

Nadler pointed out that while the Trump campaign did not collude with the Russians, the campaign was aware of the efforts and didn't discourage them. He also noted that Trump's efforts in Ukraine -- pushing for an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden -- amounted to Trump seeking to put his thumb on the scale against his best-polling Democratic opponent in 2020.

"The integrity of our elections is at stake," Nadler said.

Republicans asked "Where's Adam?"

In keeping with their broader attacks on the process and their rights in the minority, Republicans -- led by Collins of Georgia -- focused heavily on the fact that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff refused to appear as a witness. Sitting in front of a "Where's Adam?" sign, Collins dedicated a large chunk of his opening statement to cast Schiff as a coward -- afraid to appear before his colleagues and defend the report that will be the basis of the articles of impeachment that are in the process of being written by the Judiciary Committee now.

The goal here is simple: Use Schiff's absence as a telling sign that Democrats don't even really believe in what they are going to impeach the President on. Schiff won't even appear to defend himself!

Schiff told CNN last month that there was "nothing" for him to testify about, adding that the Republican calls for him to do so mean "they are not serious about what they are doing."

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