House Committee Holds Impeachment Hearings And Democrats Are Laying Out All Of Their Evidence
This past Wednesday, the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump moved into the public spotlight when the House Intelligence Committee opened hearings in the Capitol. The day was marked with back and forths between members of the committee, both Democrats and Republicans, that further displayed the political divide in this country. The issue at hand is whether Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate his political rival, Joe Biden, by freezing U.S. military aid.
One of the key figures in leading the proceedings is Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who has been a frequent target of President Trump. The congressman is heading the Democrats’ investigation into whether Trump abused his presidential powers for political gain and against national security interests. The proceedings are expected to last at least 10 days and will be a showcase of what many Democrats believe is an opportunity to show the American public why Trump needs to be removed from office.
“Our job is to shape public opinion, not just follow public opinion,” Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee told Vox. “It’s to do what we think is right, for our country, for our national security, and to persuade people of that.”
One of the biggest moments on the first day of the impeachment hearings came from Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) who made the argument that Trump’s actions were “criminal.”
Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX), who is the chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the chairman of his brother Julián Castro’s presidential bid, had one of the most notable moments on Wednesday. In speaking to Bill Taylor, the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Castro tried to make the case for President Trump’s actions as criminal. Taylor is a key figure in the proceedings as he was the top U.S. official in Ukraine as the scandal was unfolding.
In a tense moment between the two, Castro asked Taylor if he considered President Trump’s actions worthy as being labeled as “criminal.” Castro didn’t back down as he made the comparisons to Trump’s actions to other criminal offenses.
“So ambassadors, is attempted murder a crime?” Castro asked, repeating his question. “Is attempted murder a crime?”
“Attempted murder is a crime,” Taylor said.
“Is attempted robbery a crime?” he asked.
“Neither of us is a lawyer,” Taylor began before Castro interrupted.
“I think anyone in this room could answer that question,” he said.
“I’ll go out on a limb and say yes it is,” Taylor said.
“Is attempted extortion and bribery a crime?” Castro responded.
“I don’t know sir,” Taylor said.
The moment resonated with many people on social media who agreed with Castro’s reasoning.
Castro’s questioning prompted varied responses from people online that agreed with that Trump had indeed committed a crime by withholding money from Ukraine. One of those people included U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) that echoed similar thoughts to that of many Democrats.
“This is what I have been saying over and over again. Attempting a crime is a CRIME. #ImpeachmentTrumpNow,” Talib tweeted.
In an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer later Wednesday afternoon, Castro reaffirmed his position on his questioning with Taylor. “Based on the evidence that I’ve seen, the President… either he committed extortion and bribery of a foreign official or he committed attempted extortion and bribery of a foreign official… it’s still a crime.” Castro said.
This moment is huge for Castro outside of just the hearings as he pursues to challenge U.S. Senator John Cornyn, (R-Texas). Many are looking at Castro’s role in the hearings as an opportunity to make his name known in the Democratic party.
“It’s an opportunity in the national spotlight,” Mark Jones, a Rice University political science professor, told The Statesman. It’s a chance “to reemerge on the national scene and bolster his overall relevance in the Democratic Party.”
This was one of many big moments on the first day of these impeachment hearings.
If these public hearings are anything like the first day, there will be a lot of action on both sides of the political aisle. Wednesday showed proof that Democrats will pull out all the stops in presenting their case for impeachment to the American people.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) has been one of the most staunch opponents of the Democrats’ attempts to impeach President Trump. During the hearing, Jordan said that the whistleblower was “the reason we’re all sitting here today” and that they should testify before the impeachment inquiry. The goal in doing so would be to discredit the whistleblower’s credibility.
But Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vermont) quickly responded to Jordan’s claims by naming the actual person who started the entire Ukraine scandal.
“I’d be glad to have the person who started it all,” Welch said. “President Trump is welcome to come in and sit down right there.”
The quick exchange produced laughter and applause from some in the room. Even Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez chimed in on the moment. “Don’t sleep on Peter Welch!” she wrote on Twitter. “He’s great.”
If Wednesday is anything like the rest of these hearings we are all in for a real treat for the next few weeks.