The final stretch of House Democrats’ impeachment drive against President Donald Trump kicked into high gear Wednesday evening, with the House Judiciary Committee launching a 2-day debate ahead of its official impeachment vote.
And during the nearly 4-hour-long first half of the debate, exceedingly tough words were lobbed from both sides of the political aisle.
From the left came accusations that President Donald Trump will become a “dictator” if he isn’t impeached, while from the right came accusations that the entire impeachment effort is predicated on a “big lie,” as ranking member Doug Collins put it.
Committee chair Jerry Nadler threw out the first accusations, claiming in his opening statement that the president has corrupted America’s elections via his “abuse of power,” warning that a failure to impeach would turn him into a dictator and begging Republicans to continue being “good and public servants” by bowing to the Democrat Party’s faltering agenda.
“If the President can first abuse his power and then stonewall all congressional requests for information, Congress cannot fulfill its duty to act as a check and balance against the executive — and the president becomes a dictator,” he claimed.
Given a chance to speak, ranking member Collins offered a stark counter-narrative by framing the Democrats’ impeachment drive as the real abuse of power — one predicated on the Democrats’ inability to accept the results of the 2016 election.
“You know what this is really about?” he asked rhetorically. “It’s not about so-called abuse of power, or so-called obstruction of Congress. It’s about what I like to call the Big Lie. What’s the Big Lie? It’s the one Democrats have told the American people for the last three years.”
By February 2017, a month into the president’s tenure, a 58 percent majority of Democrats were already onboard with the idea of impeaching him.
Three months later, in May of 2017, the Department of Justice launched a special counsel investigation against the president on the since-debunked basis that he’d colluded with Russian operatives to affect the outcome of the 2016 election.
Congressional Democrats promptly seized on this narrative and used it to argue for Trump’s impeachment. And had they been in control of the House at the time, chances are they would have indeed launched their impeachment then and there.
“The Big Lie is that the ends justify the means,” Collins continued. “The Big Lie is that a sham impeachment is okay because the threat is so great. The Big Lie is that political expedience is honorable and justifiable. History has shown that to be untrue and dangerous.”
“The Big Lie is that [House Intelligence Committee chair] Adam Schiff had evidence ‘in plain sight’ that President Trump colluded with Russia. Special Counsel Mueller’s report debunked that lie, but Democrats continue spreading this lie.”
Except that the “lie” has changed. While originally centered on allegations of collusion (and then allegations of obstruction of justice), it now revolves around accusations of abuse of power concerning the president’s allegedly sinister interactions over the summer with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. But just like the original collusion allegations, these too are just as thin and spurious.
“The Big Lie is that the evidence for impeachment is ‘overwhelming and uncontested,’ and ‘the facts are undisputed,’ ignoring the fact that nearly every elected Republican, and millions of Americans, dispute Schiff’s ‘findings,'” Collins added.
“Before that, of course, Democrats lied about Chairman Schiff’s contact with the whistleblower and Congress’s duty to talk to him or her. Democrats lied about the criteria for this impeachment.”
In summing up his argument, Collins said that the “big lie,” as he put it, boils down to the Democrats’ allegations against the president being false and the president’s conduct as it pertains to Zelensky likewise being “completely lawful and in the best interests of American taxpayers.”
Listen to his full statement below:
Following the delivery of Nadler and Collins’ opening statements, their Democrat and Republican peers, respectively, amplified their remarks with accusations of their own.
Echoing Nadler’s rhetoric, Democrat Rep. Pramila Jayapal warned that unless Trump is held accountable, he’ll continue to commit alleged abuses of power.
She also denied that the Democrats’ allegations against the president are based on hearsay and claimed that Trump himself is the “smoking gun.”
“This is not hearsay. The president was the first and best witness in this case. The president admitted to his wrongdoing and corrupt intent on national television. The president is the smoking gun. … The smoking gun is already re-loaded and whether or not it gets fired, that’s up to us,” she said.
Republican Matt Gaetz meanwhile echoed Collins’ charges, describing Democrats’ impeachment efforts as a “hot garbage impeachment” and “political hit job” not rooted in anything real but rather in politics.
He also rehashed how the Democrats’ “big lie” began with the debunked collusion narrative but then quickly switched to the obstruction of justice narrative and has since landed on the abuse of power narrative pushed by the partisan whistleblower.
“When a member of this committee said that President Trump was an ‘agent of the Russian government, engaged in a criminal conspiracy with the Russians,’ he lied,” Gaetz maintained. “Needing a new way to undermine our president, the Democrats said he ‘obstructed justice,’ but they couldn’t make the case, they didn’t have the facts, and there are no obstruction of justice articles in this impeachment.”
“Needing another new distraction, Chairman Schiff announced a whistleblower. He said we’d hear from this person about bad presidential conduct. Some in the media reported on the whistleblower, raising serious questions about political bias, improper motivation and scandalous coordination of a political hit job with the operatives of none other than Chairman Adam Schiff.”
If you’re interested, you may watch the full first half of the debate below:
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