Jan 22, 2020
Impeachment Trial Day 2 Transcript: Adam Schiff Opening Argument Speech Transcript
Representative Adam Schiff, one of the main impeachment managers at the Donald Trump Impeachment Senate trial, gave a heated presentation on the senate floor today. It was Day 2 of the Impeachment Trial on January 22, 2020. Read the full transcript of Schiff’s speech right here on Rev.com.
Chief Justice : (00:00)
No objection. So ordered. The Sergeant in Arms will make the proclamation.
Sergeant at Arm: (00:10)
Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye. All persons are commanded to keep silent on pain of imprisonment while the Senate of the United States is sitting for the trial of the articles of impeachment exhibited by the House of Representatives against Donald John Trump, President of the United States.
Chief Justice : (00:31)
The majority leader is recognized.
Mitch McConnell: (00:36)
Judge, first of all, our colleagues, no motions were filed this morning, so we’ll pursue to the House manager’s presentation. We will go for approximately two hours and take a short recess when there is an appropriate break time between presenters.
Chief Justice : (00:53)
Pursuant to the provisions of Senate Resolution 483, the managers for the House of Representatives have 24 hours to make the presentation of their case. The Senate will now hear you.
Adam Schiff: (01:20)
Mr. Chief Justice, senators, counsel for the president and my fellow House managers. I want to begin by thanking you, Chief Justice, for a very long day for the way you have presided over these proceedings and I want to thank the senators, also, we went well into the morning as you know, until I believe around 2:00 in the morning. And you paid attention to every word and argument you heard from both sides in this impeachment trial. And I know we are both deeply grateful for that. It was an exhausting day for us, certainly, but we have adrenaline going through our veins and for those that are required to sit and listen, it is a much more difficult task. And of course we know our positions. You have the added difficulty of having to weigh the facts and the law. So I want to begin today by thanking you for the conduct of the proceedings yesterday and for inviting your patience as we go forward, we have some very long days yet to come. So let us begin.
Adam Schiff: (02:34)
When a man unprincipled in private life, desperate in his fortune, bold in his temper, possessed of considerable talents, having the advantage of military habits, despotic in his ordinary demeanor known to have scoffed and private at the principles of liberty, when such a man is seen to mount the hobby horse of popularity to join in the cry of danger to liberty, to take every opportunity of embarrassing the general government and bringing it under suspicion, to flatter and fall in with all the nonsense of the zealots of the day; it may justly be suspected that his object is to throw things into confusion, that he might ride the storm and direct the whirlwind. Those words were written by Alexander Hamilton in a letter to president George Washington at the height of the panic of 1792, a financial credit crisis that shook our young nation.
Adam Schiff: (03:36)
Hamilton was responding to sentiments relayed to Washington as he traveled the country that America in the face of that crisis might descend from a republican form of government plunging instead into that of monarchy. The framers of the constitution, worried then, as we worry today, that a leader might come to power not to carry out the will of the people that he was elected to represent, but to pursue his own interests.
Adam Schiff: (04:04)
They fear that a president would subvert our democracy by abusing the awesome power of his office for his own personal or political gain. And so they devised a remedy as powerful as the evil it was meant to combat, impeachment. As centuries have passed, our founders achieved an almost mythical character. We are aware of their flaws, certainly some very painful and pronounced indeed. And yet when it came to the drafting of a new system of government never seen before and with no guarantee it would succeed, we cannot help but be in awe of their genius, their [inaudible 00:04:46] even, vindicated time and time again.
Adam Schiff: (04:50)
Still and maybe because of their brilliance and the brilliance of their words, we find year after year it more difficult to imagine them as human beings. This is no less true of Alexander Hamilton, not withstanding his recent return to celebrity. But they were human beings. They understood human frailties even as they exhibited them. They could appreciate just as we can, how power can corrupt. And even as we struggle to understand how the framers might have responded to presidential misconduct of the kind and character that we are here to try, we should not imagine for one moment that they lacked basic common sense or refused to apply it ourselves.
Adam Schiff: (05:34)
They knew what it was like to live under a despot and they risked their lives to be free of it. They knew they were creating enormously powerful executive and they knew they needed to constrain it. They did not intend for the power of impeachment to be used frequently or over mere matters of policy, but they put it in the constitution for a reason. For a man who would subvert the interest of the nation to pursue his own interests. For a man who would seek to perpetuate himself in office by inviting foreign interference and cheating an election. For a man who would be disdainful of [inaudible 00:06:10] ignoring or defeating the other branches of government and their co-equal powers. For a man who believed that the constitution gave him the right to do anything he wanted and practiced in the art of deception. For a man who believed that he was above the law and beholden to no one. For a man in short who would be a King. We are here today in this hallowed chamber undertaking this solemn action for only the third time in history because Donald J. Trump, the 45th President of the United States, has acted precisely as Hamilton and his contemporaries feared. President Trump solicited foreign interference in our democratic elections abusing the power of his office to seek help from abroad to improve his reelection prospects at home. And when he was caught, he used the powers of that office to obstruct the investigation into his own misconduct.
Adam Schiff: (07:15)
To implement this corrupt scheme, President Trump pressured the president of Ukraine to publicly announce investigations into two discredited allegations that would benefit President Trump’s 2020 presidential campaign. When the Ukrainian president did not immediately assent, President Trump withheld two official acts to induce the Ukrainian leader to comply, a head of state meeting in the oval office and military funding. Both were of great consequence to Ukraine and to our national interest and security, but one looms largest.
Adam Schiff: (07:52)
President Trump withheld hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to a strategic partner at war with Russia to secure foreign help with his reelection, in other words, to cheat. In this way, the president used official state powers available only to him and unavailable to any political opponent to advantage himself in a democratic election. His scheme was undertaken for a simple but corrupt reason to help him win reelection in 2020.
Adam Schiff: (08:26)
But the effect of his scheme was to undermine our free and fair elections and to put our national security at risk. It was not even necessary that Ukraine undertake the political investigations the president was seeking. They merely had to announce them. This is significant for President Trump had no interest in fighting corruption, as he would claim after he was caught, rather, his interest was in furthering corruption by the announcement of investigations that were completely without merit.
Adam Schiff: (08:59)
The first sham investigation that President Trump desired was into former Vice President Joe Biden, who had sought the removal of a corrupt Ukrainian prosecutor during the previous U.S. administration. The vice president acted in accordance with U.S. official policy at the time, and was supported unanimously by our European allies and key global financial institutions such as the international monetary fund that shared the concern over corruption. Despite this fact, in the course of this scheme, President Trump and his agents press the Ukrainian president to announce an investigation into the false claim that Vice President Biden wanted the corrupt prosecutor removed from power in order to stop an investigation into Barisma holdings, upon who’s board Biden’s son, Hunter, sat.
Adam Schiff: (09:55)
This allegation is simply untrue and it has been widely debunked by Ukrainian and American experts alike. That reality mattered not to President Trump. To him, the value in promoting a negative tale about former Vice President Biden true or false was its usefulness to his reelection campaign. It was a smear tactic against a political opponent that President Trump apparently feared.
Adam Schiff: (10:22)
Remarkably, but predictably, Russia too, has sought to support this effort to smear Mr. Biden. Reportedly hacking into the Ukrainian energy company at the center of the president’s dis-information campaign only last week. Russia almost certainly was looking for information related to the former vice president’s son so that the Kremlin could also weaponize it against Mr. Biden just like it did against Hillary Clinton in 2016 when Russia hacked and released emails from her presidential campaign. And President Trump has made it abundantly clear that he would like nothing more than to make use of such dirt against Mr. Biden, just as he made use of Secretary Clinton’s hacked and released emails in his previous presidential campaign.
Adam Schiff: (11:15)
Which brings us to the other sham investigation that President Trump demanded that the Ukrainian leader announce. This investigation was related to a debunked conspiracy theory alleging that Ukraine not Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election. This narrative propagated by the Russian intelligence services contends that Ukraine sought to help Hillary Clinton and harm then candidate Trump and that a computer server providing this fiction is hidden somewhere in Ukraine. That is the so-called CrowdStrike conspiracy theory. This tale is also patently false and remarkably, it is precisely the inverse of what the U.S. intelligence community’s unanimous assessment was that Russia interfered in the 2016 election in sweeping and systemic fashion in order to hurt Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump.
Adam Schiff: (12:16)
Nevertheless, the president evidently believed that a public announcement lending credence to these allegations by the Ukrainian president could assist his reelection by putting to rest any doubts Americans may have had over the legitimacy of his first election, even as he invited foreign interference in the next.
Adam Schiff: (12:36)
To the degree that most Americans have followed, the president’s efforts to involve another foreign power in our election, they may be most familiar with his entreaty to the Ukrainian president on the now infamous July 25th call to do us a favor though, and investigate Biden and the 2016 conspiracy theory.
Adam Schiff: (12:58)
But that call was not the beginning of the story of the president’s corrupt scheme, nor was it the end. Rather, it was merely part, although a significant part of a months long effort by President Trump and his allies and associates who applied significant and increasing pressure on Ukraine to announce these two politically motivated investigations. Key figures in the Trump administration were aware or directly involved or participated in the scheme. As we saw yesterday, one witness, a million dollar donor to the president’s inauguration effort, [inaudible 00:13:33] everyone was in the loop. After twice inviting Ukraine’s new president to the White House without providing a specific date for the proposed visit, President Trump conditioned this coveted head of state meeting on the announcement of these sham investigations.
Adam Schiff: (13:51)
For Ukraine’s new and untested leader, an official meeting with the President of the United States in the Oval Office was critical. It would help bestow on him important domestic and international legitimacy as he sought to implement an ambitious anti-corruption platform. Actual and apparent support from the President of the United States would also strengthen his position as he sought to negotiate a peace agreement with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin seeking an end to Russia’s illegal annexation and continued military occupation of parts of Ukraine.
Adam Schiff: (14:32)
But most pernicious President Trump conditioned hundreds of millions of dollars in congressionally appropriated tax payer funded military assistance for the same purpose to apply more pressure on Ukraine’s leader to announce the investigations, this military aid which has long enjoyed bipartisan support, was designed to help Ukraine defend itself from the Kremlin’s aggression. More than 15,000 Ukrainians have died fighting Russian forces and their proxies. 15,000. And the military aid was for such essentials as sniper rifles, rocket propelled grenade launchers, radar night vision goggles, and other vital support for the war effort. Most critically, the military aid that we provide, Ukraine helps to protect and advance American national security interests in the region and beyond.
Adam Schiff: (15:24)
America has an abiding interest in stemming Russian expansionism and resisting any nation’s efforts to remake the map of Europe by dent of military force, even as we have tens of thousands of troops stationed there. Moreover, as one witness put it during our impeachment inquiry, the United States aids Ukraine and her people so that we can fight Russia over there and we don’t have to fight Russia here.
Adam Schiff: (15:51)
Now, when the president’s scheme was exposed and the House of Representatives properly performed its constitutional responsibility to investigate the matter, President Trump used the same unrivaled authority at his disposal as commander in chief to cover up his wrongdoing. In unprecedented fashion, the president ordered the entire executive branch of the United States of America to categorically refuse and completely obstruct the House’s impeachment investigation. Such a wholesale obstruction of congressional impeachment has never before occurred in our democracy and it represents one of the most blatant efforts at a coverup in history.
Adam Schiff: (16:39)
If not remedied by his conviction in the Senate and removal from office, President Trump’s abuse of his office and obstruction of Congress will permanently alter the balance of power among the branches of government, inviting future presidents to operate as if they are also beyond the reach of accountability, congressional oversight, and the law.
Adam Schiff: (17:03)
On the basis of this egregious misconduct, the House of Representatives returned two articles of impeachment against the president. First charging the president [inaudible 00:17:13] the power among the, of the presidency to solicit foreign interference in the upcoming presidential election for his personal political benefit. And second, that President Trump obstructed an impeachment inquiry into that abuse of power in order to cover up his misconduct. The House did not take this extraordinary step lightly. As we will discuss, impeachment exists for cases in which the conduct of the president rises beyond mere policies disputes to be decided otherwise and without urgency at the ballot box.
Adam Schiff: (17:49)
Instead, we are here today to consider a much more grave matter and that is an attempt to use the powers of the presidency to cheat in an election. For precisely this reason, the president’s misconduct cannot be decided at the ballot box, for we cannot be assured that the vote will be fairly won. In corruptly using his office to gain a political advantage and abusing the powers of that office in such a way to jeopardize our national security and the integrity of our elections, in obstructing the investigation into his own wrongdoing, the president has shown that he believes that he’s above the law and scornful of constraint. As we saw yesterday on the screen that under Article Two, he could do anything he wants.
Adam Schiff: (18:47)
Moreover, given the seriousness of the conduct at issue and its persistence, this matter cannot and must not be decided by the courts, which apart from the presence of the chief justice here today are given no role in impeachments in either the House or the Senate. Being drawn into litigation, taking many months or years to complete would provide the president with an opportunity to continue his misconduct. He would remain secure in the knowledge that he may tie up the Congress in the courts indefinitely, as he has with Don McGahn rendering the impeachment power effectively meaningless. We also took this step with the knowledge that this was not the first time the president solicited foreign interference in our elections. In 2016 then candidate Trump implored Russia to hack his opponent’s email accounts, something that the Russian military agency did only hours later, only hours later. When the president said, Hey, Russia, if you’re listening, they were listening. Only hours later they hacked his opponent’s campaign. And the president has made it clear, this would also not be the last time. Asking China only recently to join Ukraine in investigating his political opponent.
Adam Schiff: (20:23)
Over the coming days, we will present to you and to the American people the extensive evidence collected during the House’s impeachment inquiry into the president’s abuse of power. Overwhelming evidence, not withstanding his unprecedented and wholesale obstruction of the investigation into that misconduct. You will hear and read testimony from courageous public servants who upheld their oath to the constitution and their legal obligations to comply with the abuse of [inaudible 00:20:55] order by President Trump not to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry. These are courageous Americans who were told by the President of the United States not to cooperate, not to appear, not to testify, but who had the sense of duty to do so.
Adam Schiff: (21:20)
But more than that, you will hear from witnesses who have not yet testified like John Bolton and Mick Mulvaney, Mr. Blair and Mr. Duffy, and if you can believe the president’s words last month, you will also hear from Secretary Pompeo. You will hear their testimony at the same time as the American people. That is if you allow it. If we have a fair trial.
Adam Schiff: (21:50)
During our presentation, you will see documentary records. Those the president was unable to suppress that expose the president’s scheme in detail. You will learn of further evidence that has been revealed in the days since the House voted to impeach President Trump, even as the president and his agents have persisted in their efforts to cover up their wrongdoing from Congress and the public. And you will see dozens of new documents providing new and critical evidence of the president’s guilt that remain at this time in the president’s hands and in the hands of the Department of Defense and the Department of State and the Office of Management and Budget, even the White House. You will see them and so will the American people, if you allow it. If in the name of a fair trial, you will demand it.
Adam Schiff: (22:49)
These are politically charged times, tempers can run high, particularly where this president is concerned, but these are not unique times. Deep divisions and disagreements were hardly alien concepts to the framers. So they designed the impeachment power in such a way as to insulate it as best they could from the crush of partisan politics. The framers placed the question of removal before the United States Senate. A body able to rise above the fray, to soberly judge the president’s conduct or misconduct for what it was nothing more and nothing less. In Federalist 65 Hamilton wrote, where else than in the Senate could have been found a tribunal sufficiently dignified or sufficiently independent. What other body would be likely to feel confidence enough in this own situation to preserve on odd and uninfluenced, the necessary impartiality between an individual accused, and the representatives of the people, his accuser.
Adam Schiff: (24:03)
It is up to you to be the tribunal that Hamilton envisioned. It is up to you to show the American people and yourselves that his confidence and that of the other founders was rightly placed. The constitution entrusts you to the responsibility of acting as impartial jurors. To hold a fair and thorough trial and to weigh the evidence before you, no matter what your party affiliation or your vote in the previous election or the next, our duty is to the constitution and to the rule of law.
Adam Schiff: (24:34)
The founders was [inaudible 00:24:37] recognized there’ll be times during the trial that you may long to return to the business of the Senate. The American people look forward to the same. But not before you decide what kind of democracy that you believe we ought to be. And what the American people have a right to expect in the conduct of their president. The House believes that an impartial juror upon hearing the evidence that the managers will lay out in the coming days, will find that the constitution demands the removal of Donald J. Trump from his office as President of the United States. But that will be for you to decide. With the weight of history upon you and as President Kennedy once said, a good conscience you’re only sure reward. In drafting our constitution, the framers designed a new and untested form of government. It would be based on free and fair elections to ensure that our political leaders would be chosen democratically and by citizens of our country alone. Having broken free from a king with unbridled authority, who often placed his own interests above that of the people, the framers established a structure that would guarantee that the chief executive’s power flowed only from his obligation to the people, rather than from a sovereign whose power was conferred on him by divine right. In this new architecture, no branch of government or individual would predominate over another. In this way, the founders ensured that their elected leaders and their president would use the powers of office only to undertake that which the people desired and not for their personal aggrandizement or enrichment.
Adam Schiff: (26:29)
What did those who rebelled and fought a revolution desire, no different than what we, the generations that have followed desire, that no person including and especially the president would be above the law. Nothing could be more dangerous to a democracy than a commander in chief who believed that he could operate with impunity, free from accountability. Nothing that is except a Congress that is willing to let it be so. To ensure that no such threat could take root and subvert our fledgling democracy, the framers divided power among three co-equal branches of government, the executive, the legislative, and the judicial branches. So that ambition may be made to counter ambition.
Adam Schiff: (27:15)
They provided for presidential elections every four years and the framers required that the president swear an oath to faithfully execute the law and to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. Even with these guard rails in place, the framers understood that an individual could come to power who defied that solemn oath, who pursued his own interest rather than those of the country he led. For that reason, the framers adopted a tool used by the British parliament to constrain its officials, the power of impeachment. Rather than a mechanism to overturn an election, impeachment would be a remedy of last resort. And unlike in England, the framers applied this ultimate check to the highest office in the land to the President of the United States.
Adam Schiff: (28:04)
Impeachment and removal of a duly elected president was not intended for policy disputes or poor administration of the state, instead, the framers had in mind the most serious of offenses. Hamilton explained that impeachment was not designed to cover only statutory or common law crimes, but instead crimes against the body politic. Hamilton wrote the subjects of its jurisdiction are those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men or in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust. They are of a nature which may would peculiar propriety be denominated political as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to society itself. In other words, impeachment would be confined to abuses of people’s trust and to the society itself.
Adam Schiff: (29:03)
… to abuses of people’s trust and to the society itself. This is precisely the abuse that has been undertaken by our current president when he withheld money and support for an ally at war to secure a political benefit. The punishment for those crimes would fit the political nature of the offense. As James Wilson, a delegate at the Constitutional Convention and a future Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, reasoned, impeachments are confined to political characters, to political crimes and misdemeanors, and to political punishments. That punishment, the framers determined, would be neither prison nor fines, but instead limited to removal from office and disqualification from holding future office.
Adam Schiff: (29:52)
The framers chose to undertake impeachment for treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors to underscore the requirement of an offense against society. In this phrase, “high” modifies both the crimes and the misdemeanors in that both relate to a high injustice, a transgression committed against the people and to the public trust. The framers had two broad categories in mind. Those actions that are facially permissible under the president’s authority but are based on corrupt motives, such as seeking to obtain a personal benefit through public office, and those that far exceed the president’s constitutional authority or violate the legal limits on that authority. In Article One, we deal with the first evil which the framers wished to guard against, that is, cases in which a president corruptly misused the power otherwise bestowed on him to secure a personal reward. Guarding against a president who undertakes official acts with the corrupt motive of helping himself is that the heart of the impeachment power.
Adam Schiff: (31:04)
As one scholar explained, the President’s duty to faithfully execute the law requires that he undertakes actions only when motivated in the public interest rather than in their private self-interest. Efforts to withhold official acts for personal gain countermand the President’s sacred oath and therefore constitute impeachable behavior as it was conceived of by the framers.
Adam Schiff: (31:28)
In Article Two, we also deal with a second evil contemplated by the founders, who made it clear that the president ought not operate beyond the limits placed on him by legislative and judicial branches. Impeachment was warranted for a president who usurped the power of the constitution that was not granted to him, such as to defy Congress the right to determine the propriety, the scope, and the nature of an impeachment inquiry into his own misconduct.
Adam Schiff: (31:57)
[inaudible 00:31:57] the framers fashioned a powerful chief executive, but not one beyond accountability of law. When a president wields power in ways that are inappropriate and seek to extinguish the rights of the Congress, he exceeds the power of his constitutional authority and violates the limits placed on his conduct. Obstruction of a separate and coequal branch of government for the purposes of covering up an abuse of power not only implies a corrupt intent, but also demonstrates a remarkable antipathy towards the balance of power contemplated and enshrined in our constitution. It is a betrayal of the President’s sacred oath of office and of his duty to put the country before himself.
Adam Schiff: (32:54)
On September 24th, 2019, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced that the House of Representatives would move forward with an official impeachment inquiry into President Donald J. Trump. The announcement followed public reporting in the United States and Ukraine that the President and his agents sought Ukraine’s help in his re-election effort and revelations that the White House was blocking from Congress an intelligence community whistleblower complaint, possibly related to this grave offense.
Adam Schiff: (33:29)
The next day, on September 25th, under extraordinary pressure, the White House released publicly the record of the July 25th call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky. The call record reveal that President Trump explicitly requested that the new leader undertake investigations beneficial to President Trump’s reelection campaign. Upon release of the record of the call, President Trump claimed that the call was perfect. Far from perfect, the call record revealed a president who used his high office to personally and directly press the leader of a foreign country to do his political dirty work.
Adam Schiff: (34:13)
Asking for a favor, President Trump insisted that President Zelensky investigate a formidable potential political opponent, former Vice-President Joe Biden, as well as the baseless conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 election to assist then-candidate Trump’s opponent. Witnesses, who listened to the call as it transpired, testified that they immediately recognized these requests did not represent official US policy and instead were politically charged appeals not appropriate for a president to make. Key witnesses emphasized that was not necessary that Ukraine actually undertake the investigations, only that the Ukrainian president announce them. President Trump’s objective was not to encourage a foreign government to investigate legitimate allegations of misconduct or wrongdoing abroad, made clear as well by the fact that the investigations he wanted announced have been discredited entirely. Rather, the President simply wanted to reap a political benefit by tarnishing a political rival and attempting to erase from history his previous election misconduct. To compel the Ukrainian president to do his political dirty work. President Trump withheld from President Zelensky two official acts of great importance that [inaudible 00:35:38] to which the president, you Zelensky had already been invited and 391 million in military assistance Ukraine needed to fight the Russians.
Adam Schiff: (35:52)
For a strategic partner of the United States in a hot war with Russian-backed forces inside its own borders, the symbolic support conferred on it by an oval office visit with the President of the United States, and the lifesaving support of our military aid was essential. As the House’s presentation will make clear, in directly soliciting foreign interference and withholding those official acts in exchange for the announcement of political investigations beneficial to his reelection, the President put his own interests above the national interest. President Trump undermined the integrity of our free and fair elections by pressing a foreign power to influence our most sacred right as citizens: our right to freely choose our leaders. And he threatened our national security by withholding critical aid from a partner on the front lines of war with Russia, an aggressor that has threatened peace and stability on an entire continent. In so doing, the President sacrificed not only the security of our European allies, but also our nation’s core national security interests.
Adam Schiff: (37:06)
President Trump undertook this pressure campaign through handpicked agents inside and outside of government who circumvented traditional policy channels. President Trump intentionally bypassed many US government career officials with responsibility over Ukraine and advanced his scheme primarily through the effort of his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani. President Trump carried out this scheme with the knowledge of senior administration officials, including the President’s acting Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney; Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; Vice-President Mike Pence; National Security Counsel Legal Advisor John Eisenberg; and White House Counsel, Pat Cippollone.
Adam Schiff: (37:50)
When the President became aware that the scheme would be uncovered, he undertook an unprecedented effort to obstruct the House of Representatives impeachment inquiry and to hide it from the public and from Congress, including all evidence related to his misconduct. That coverup continues today, as the administration has not provided a single document pursuant to lawful subpoenas by the House. The administration also continues to prevent witnesses from cooperating, further obstructing the House. Efforts the President is no doubt proud of, but which threaten the integrity of this institution and of this Congress as a coequal branch of power. Our ability not only to do oversight, but to hold a President who is unindictable, accountable.
Adam Schiff: (38:47)
But despite these efforts to obstruct our inquiry, the House of Representatives uncovered overwhelming evidence related to the President’s misconduct through interviews with 17 witnesses who appeared before the Intelligence, Oversight and Reform, and Foreign Affairs committees. Many of these witnesses bravely defied White House orders not to comply with duly authorized congressional subpoenas and, were it not for them … were it not for Ambassador Marie Ivanovich who was this [inaudible 00:10:21] breach, we may never have known of the President’s scheme. I want you to imagine, just for a minute, what kind of courage that took for Ambassador Ivanovich, the subject of that vicious smear campaign, to risk her reputation and her career to stand up to the President of the United States who’s instructing her through his agents, “You will not cooperate. You will not testify. You will tell them nothing.”
Adam Schiff: (40:10)
Or Bill Taylor, West Point graduate, Vietnam veteran with a bronze star and, something he was even more proud of, the combat infantryman’s badge badge. He knows what courage is. He showed a different kind of courage in Vietnam, but he also showed courage, as did others, in coming forward, in defying the President’s order that he obstruct to tell the American people what he knew. But for the courage of people like this and Lieutenant Colonel Vindeman, a Purple Heart recipient … But for their courage, we would have known nothing of the President’s misconduct. Nothing.
Adam Schiff: (41:07)
When the president directs his ire towards these people, this is why, because they showed the courage to come forward. Now we held in the Intelligence Committee 7 open hearings with 12 fact witnesses. Separately, the Judiciary Committee held public hearings with constitutional law experts and counsel from the House Intelligence Committee as it sought to determine whether to draft and consider articles of impeachment. The House also collected text messages related to the President’s scheme from a witness who provided limited personal communications.
Adam Schiff: (41:46)
Since the conclusion of our inquiry, new evidence has continued to come to light through court-ordered releases of administration documents and public reporting, underscoring that there is significantly more evidence of the President’s guilt, which he continues to block from Congress, including the Senate. Nevertheless, the documents and testimony that we were able to collect paints an overwhelming and damning picture of the President’s efforts to use the powers of his office to corruptly solicit foreign help in his reelection campaign and withhold official acts and military aid to compel that support. Over the coming days, you will hear remarkably consistent evidence of President Trump’s corrupt scheme and coverup. When you focus on the evidence uncovered during the investigation, you will appreciate there is no serious dispute about the facts underlying the President’s conduct.
Adam Schiff: (42:47)
And this is why you will hear the President’s lawyers make the astounding claim that you can’t impeach a president for abusing the powers of his [inaudible 00:43:01] because they can’t seriously contest that that is exactly, exactly what he did. And so they must go find a lawyer somewhere. Apparently they could not go to their own Attorney General. It was just reported in a memo he wrote as part of the audition for Attorney General, which opined that a President can’t be impeached for abusing the public trust. Couldn’t go to Bill Barr for that opinion. Couldn’t go to even Jonathan Turley, their expert in the House for that opinion. No. They had to go outside of these experts, outside of the constitutional law, to a criminal defense lawyer and professor. And why? Because they can’t contest the facts.
Adam Schiff: (43:51)
The President was the key player in the scheme. Everyone was in the loop. He directed the actions of his team. He personally asked a foreign government to investigate his opponent. These facts are not in dispute.
Adam Schiff: (44:07)
Ultimately, the question for you is whether the President’s undisputed actions require the removal of the 45th President of the United States from office, because he abused his office and the public trust by using his power for personal gain, by seeking illicit foreign assistance in his reelection, and covering it up. Other than voting on whether to send our men and women to war, this is … There is I think, no greater responsibility before you than the one before you now. The oath that you’ve taken to impartially weigh the facts and evidence requires serious and objective consideration. Decisions that are about country, not party; about the constitution, not politics; about what is right and what is wrong. After you consider the evidence and weigh your oath to render a fair, impartial verdict, I suggest to you today the only conclusion consistent with the facts and law, not just the law, but the constitution, is clear. As described by constitutional law experts’ testimony before the House, if this conduct is not impeachable, then nothing is.
Adam Schiff: (45:29)
Let me take a moment to describe to you how we intend to present the case over the coming days. Today, you will hear the details of the President’s corrupt scheme in narrative form, illustrating the timeline of the effort through the testimony of numerous witnesses who came before the House as well as the documents and materials we collected as evidence during the investigation. After you hear the factual chronology, we will then discuss the constitutional framework of impeachment, as it was envisioned by the founders, before we analyze how the facts of the President’s misconduct and coverup lead to the conclusion that the President undertook the sort of corrupt course of conduct that impeachment was intended to remedy. Let me start with a preview of the President’s scheme, the details of which you’ll hear during the course of this day.
Adam Schiff: (46:24)
President Trump’s months-long scheme to extract help in his 2020 reelection campaign from the new Ukranian president involved an effort to solicit and then compel the new leader to announce political investigations. The announcement would reference two specific investigations [inaudible 00:46:42] to undermine the unanimous consensus of our intelligence agencies, Congress, and Special Counsel Robert Muller that Russia interfered in the 2016 election to help then-candidate Trump, and another to hurt the presidency of former Vice President, Joe Biden. The Kremlin itself has been responsible for, first, propagating one of the two false narratives that the President desired. In February 2017, less than a month after the U S intelligence community released its assessment that Russia alone was responsible for a covert influence campaign designed to help President Trump win the 2016 election, president Putin said, ” As we all know, during the presidential campaign in the United States, the Ukrainian government adopted a unilateral position in favor of one candidate. More than that, certain oligarchs, certainly with the approval of political leadership funded this candidate, or female candidate, to be more precise.”
Adam Schiff: (47:55)
Those were Putin’s words, February 2nd, 2017. Of course, this is false and is part of a Russian counter-narrative that President Trump and some of his allies have adopted. Fiona Hill, Senior Director for Europe and Russia at the National Security Council, described Russia’s effort to promote this baseless theory.
Fiona Hill: (48:21)
Based on questions and statements I’ve heard, some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country and that perhaps, somehow, for some reason, Ukraine did. This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves. The unfortunate truth is that Russia was the foreign power that systematically attacked our democratic institutions in 2016. This is the public conclusion of our own intelligence agencies, confirmed in bipartisan congressional reports. It is beyond dispute, even if some of the underlying details must remain classified.
Adam Schiff: (49:03)
This, of course, was not the first time that president Trump embraced Russian activity and disinformation. On July 24 of last year, Special Counsel Robert Mueller testified before Congress that Russia interfered in the 2016 election in a, quote, sweeping and systemic fashion, to benefit Donald Trump’s political campaign. Mueller and his team found that, quote, the Russian government perceived that it would benefit from a Trump presidency and work to secure that outcome. They also found that the Trump campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts. And just as he solicited help from Ukraine in 2019, in 2016, then-candidate Trump also solicited help from Russia in his election effort. As you will recall, at a rally in Florida, he said the following.
Donal Trump: (49:58)
Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press. Let’s see if that happens.
Adam Schiff: (50:15)
Following Special Counsel Mueller’s testimony, during which he warned against future interference in our elections, did the President recognize the threat posed to our democracy and renounce Russian interference in our democracy? Did he choose to stand with his own intelligence agencies, both Houses of Congress, and the Special Counsel’s investigation in affirming that Russia interfered in our last election? He did not. Instead, only one day after Special Counsel Mueller testified before Congress, empowered in the belief that he had evaded accountability for making use of foreign support in our last election, President Trump was on the phone with the president of Ukraine pressing him to intervene on President’s Trump’s behalf in the next election.
Adam Schiff: (51:08)
Let’s take a moment to let that sink in. July 24th, Bob Muller concludes lengthy investigation. He comes before the Congress. He testifies that Russia systemically interfered in our election to help elect Donald Trump, that the campaign understood that, and they willfully made use of that help. July 24th. That’s what happens. The very next day, the very next day, he’s on the phone … President Trump is on the phone with a different foreign power, this time Ukraine, trying to get Ukraine to interfere in the next election. The next day. That should tell us something. That should tell us something.
Adam Schiff: (52:07)
He did not feel shamed by what the Special Counsel found. He did not feel deterred by what the Special Counsel found. He felt emboldened by escaping accountability. For the very, very next day, he’s on the phone soliciting foreign interference again. Now, that July 25th phone call between President Trump and President Zelensky was a part of President Trump’s direct and corrupt solicitation of foreign help in the 2020 election. The requests likely sounded familiar to President Zelensky, who had been swept into office in a landslide victory on a campaign of rooting out just the type of corruption he was being asked to undertake on this call with our president. Zelensky campaigned as a reformer, as someone outside of politics who would come up and clean up corruption, who would end the political prosecutions and the political investigations. And what is his most important and powerful patron asking him to do? To do exactly what he campaigned against. No wonder he resisted this pressure campaign. Now, President Trump had been provided talking points for discussion by the National Security Council staff beforehand, including recommendations to encourage President Zelensky to continue to promote anticorruption reforms in Ukraine.
Adam Schiff: (53:53)
So the National Security staff understood what was in the US national security interests, and that was rooting out corruption. And they encouraged the President to talk about it. But, as you see from the record of the call … and I join the President in saying, read the call … that topic was never addressed. The word “corruption” never escaped his lips. Instead, President Trump openly pressed President Zelensky to pursue the two investigations that would benefit him personally. In response to President Zelensky’s gratitude for the significant military support the United States has provided to Ukraine, president Trump said, “I would like you to do us a favor, though, because our country has been through a lot, and Ukraine knows a lot about it. I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine. They say, CrowdStrike … I guess you have one of your wealthy people … The server, they say Ukraine has it.”
Adam Schiff: (54:54)
That’s that crazy conspiracy theory I talked about earlier, that there’s this server somewhere in Ukraine that shows that in fact it was Ukraine that hacked the DNC, not the Russians. That’s a Russian propaganda conspiracy theory, and here it is being promulgated by the President of the United States. And more than promulgated, he’s pressuring an ally to further this Russian propaganda.
Adam Schiff: (55:29)
Because he was referring to this extensively discredited conspiracy theory that Ukraine was the one who really hacked the DNC … the Democratic National Committee … servers in 2016. And that reference to CrowdStrike, well, that’s an American cybersecurity firm. And the theory, this kooky conspiracy theory, is that CrowdStrike moved the DNC servers to Ukraine to prevent US law enforcement from getting them. If Ukraine announced an investigation into this fabrication, President Trump would remove what he perceived to be a cloud over his legitimacy, the legitimacy of his last election, Russia’s assistance with his campaign, and suggest that it was the Democratic Party that was the real beneficiary of help. On the call, President Trump told Zelensky, “Whatever you can do, it’s very important that you do it, if that’s possible.” President Zelensky agreed that he would do the investigation saying, “Yes, it is very important for me, and everything that you just mentioned earlier.”
Adam Schiff: (56:38)
President Trump then turned to a second request, asking President Zelensky to look into the sham allegation into former Vice-President Biden. President Trump said to President Zelensky, “The other thing, there’s a lot of talk of about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution, and a lot of people want to find out about that. So whatever you can do with the attorney general would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution. So if you could look into it, it sounds horrible to me.”
Adam Schiff: (57:09)
There is no question that President Trump intended impressing the Ukraine leader to look into his political rival. Even after the impeachment inquiry began, he confirmed his desire on the south Lawn of the White House, declaring not only that Ukraine should investigate Biden, but to China should do the same. Let’s see what he said.
Speaker 1: (57:29)
Mr. President, what exactly did you [inaudible 00:57:32] Zelensky when [inaudible 00:57:35] Biden [inaudible 00:57:35] phone call? [inaudible 00:28: 37]?
Donal Trump: (57:38)
Well, I would think that, if they were honest about it, they’d start a major investigation into the Bidens. It’s a very simple answer. They should investigate the Bidens, because how does a company that’s newly formed and … All of these companies, if you look at … And by the way, likewise China should start an investigation into the Bidens, because what happened in China is just about as ba-
Donal Trump: (58:03)
… because what happened to China is just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine.
Adam Schiff: (58:13)
Now, the day after that July 25th phone call, President Trump sought confirmation that President Zelensky understood his request to announce the politically motivated investigations and that he would follow through. After meeting with Ukrainian officials, President Zelensky and his top aide, the president’s handpicked ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, called President Trump from an outdoor restaurant in Kiev to report back. This was the second conversation between the two about Ukraine in as many days. David Holmes, an American diplomat dining with Sondland over [inaudible 00:58:50] with Ukraine, including the president’s voice through the cell phone. I described part of that call last night. Holmes testified that President Trump asked Sondland, “So, he’s going to do the investigation?” Sondland replied that he’s going to do it, adding that President Zelensky will do anything you ask him to. After the phone call, Holmes took the opportunity to ask Ambassador Sondland for his candid impression of the President’s views on Ukraine. According to Holmes …
David Holmes: (59:22)
In particular, I asked Ambassador Sondland if it was true that the president did not give a expletive about Ukraine. Ambassador Sondland agreed that the president did not give an expletive about Ukraine. I asked why not. Ambassador Sondland stated that the president only cares about big stuff. I noted there was big stuff going on in Ukraine, like a war with Russia, and Ambassador Sondland replied that he meant big stuff that benefits the president, like the Biden investigation that Mr. Giuliani was pushing. The conversation then moved on to other topics.
Adam Schiff: (59:59)
Those three days in July, the 24th, the 25th, and the 26th reveal a lot about President Trump’s effort to solicit help from a foreign country in assisting his own reelection. On the 24th, Special Counsel Mueller testifies that Russia interfered in our 2016 election to assist the Trump campaign, which knew about the interference, welcomed it, and utilized it. That’s the 24th. The 25th is the day of the call when President Trump, believing he had escaped accountability for Russian meddling in the first election and his welcoming of it, asks the Ukrainian president to help him undermine the Special Counsel’s conclusion and help them smear a political opponent, former Vice President Biden. And then, the third day in a row in July, President Trump sought to ensure that Ukraine had received his request and understood it and would take the necessary steps to announce the investigations that he wanted.
Adam Schiff: (01:01:04)
Three days in July. In many ways, those three days in July tell so much of this story. This course of conduct alone should astound all of us who value the sanctity of our elections and who understand that the vast powers of the presidency are reserved only for actions which benefit the country as a whole, rather than the political fortunes of any one individual. President Trump’s effort to use an official head of state phone call to solicit the announcement of investigations helpful to his reelection is not only conduct unbecoming a president, but is conduct of one who believes that the powers of his high office are political tools to be wielded against his opponents, including by asking a foreign government to investigate a United States citizen and for a corrupt purpose. That alone is grounds for removal from office of the 45th president, but these three days in July were neither the beginning, nor the end, of this scheme.
Adam Schiff: (01:02:17)
President Trump, acting through agents inside and outside of the U.S. government, including his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, sought to compel Ukraine to announce the investigations by withholding the head of state meeting in the Oval Office until [ inaudible 01:02:33]. Hosting an Oval Office meeting for a foreign leader is an official act available only to one person, the president of the United States, and it is an official act that President Trump had already offered to President Zelensky during their first phone call on April 21st and in a subsequent letter to the Ukrainian leader. Multiple witnesses testified about the importance of a White House meeting for Ukraine. For example, Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent explained that a White House meeting was very important for Ukrainians to demonstrate the strength of their relationship with Ukraine’s strongest supporter. Dr. Fiona Hill of the National Security Council explained a White House meeting would supply the new Ukrainian government with “the legitimacy it needed, especially vis-a-vis the Russians,” and that the Ukrainians viewed a White House meeting as a recognition of their legitimacy as a sovereign state.
Adam Schiff: (01:03:42)
This White House meeting would also prove to be important for three handpicked agents whom President Trump placed in charge of U.S.-Ukraine issues, Ambassador Sondland, Ambassador Volker, and Energy Secretary Rick Perry, the so called three amigos. They hoped to convince President Trump to hold an Oval Office meeting with Zelensky. During a meeting of the three amigos on May 23rd, President Trump told them that Ukraine had tried to take him down in 2016. He then directed them, talk to Rudy Giuliani about Ukraine. It was immediately clear that Giuliani, who was pursuing the discredited investigations in Ukraine on the president’s behalf, was the key to unlocking an Oval Office meeting for President Zelensky. Giuliani by then had said publicly that he was actively pursuing investigations President Trump corruptly desired and planning a trip to Ukraine. Giuliani admitted, “We’re not meddling in an election. We’re meddling in an investigation.”
Adam Schiff: (01:04:53)
On May 10, however, Giuliani canceled the trip to Ukraine to dig up dirt on former Vice President Biden and the 2016 conspiracy theory, just as President Zelensky won elections for the presidency in parliament. Faced with a choice between working with Giuliani to pursue an Oval Office meeting, understanding it meant taking part in a corrupt effort to secure the political investigations, or abandoning efforts to support our Ukrainian ally, the president’s agents fell into line. They would pursue the White House meeting and explain to Ukraine that announcements of the investigations was the price of admission. As Ambassador Sondland made clear …
Gordon Sondland: (01:05:38)
I know that members of this committee frequently frame these complicated issues in the form of a simple question. Was there a quid pro quo? As I testified previously with regard to the requested White House call and the White House meeting, the answer is yes.
Adam Schiff: (01:06:00)
This quid pro quo was negotiated between the president’s agents, Rudy Giuliani and Ukrainian officials, throughout the summer of 2019 in numerous telephone calls, texts [inaudible 00:01:06:14], including during a meeting hosted by then National Security Advisor John Bolton on July 10th. Near the end of that July 10th meeting, after Ukrainians again raised the issue of a White House visit, Ambassador Sondland blurted out that there would be agreement for a White House meeting once the investigations began. At that point, Bolton immediately stiffened and abruptly ended the meeting. During a subsequent discussion that day, Sondland was even more explicit. Lieutenant Colonel Alex Vindman, a director for Europe and Ukraine on the National Security Council, testified that Sondland began to discuss the deliverable required to get the White House meeting, which Sondland specifically mentioned, was investigation of the Bidens. This is, again, in that meeting in the White House with the Ukrainian delegation and an American delegation.
Adam Schiff: (01:07:10)
Sondland explained in that meeting he had an agreement with acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, whereby President Zelensky would be granted the Oval Office meeting if he went forward with the investigations. After the meeting, Vindman’s supervisor, Dr. Hill, reported back to Bolton, who told her to tell John Eisenberg, the National Security Council Legal Advisor, that he was not part of whatever drug deals Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up on this. She reported her concerns, as did Vindman.
Adam Schiff: (01:07:43)
It remains unclear what action, if any, Bolton or Eisenberg took once they were made aware of Mulvaney and Sondland’s drug deal. Both refused to testify in our inquiry. However, Dr. Hill testified that she understood that Mr. Eisenberg informed Mr. Cipollone of her concerns about the drug deal. If this body is serious about a fair trial, one that is fair to the president and to the American people, we again urge you to allow the House to call both Eisenberg and Bolton, as well as other key witnesses with firsthand knowledge who refused to testify before the House on the orders of the president. Additional testimony and documents are particularly important because, according to Sondland, everyone was in the loop when it came to the president’s self-serving effort. In part, relying on email excerpts, Sondland explained that the president’s senior aides and Cabinet officials knew that the White House meeting was predicated on Ukraine’s announcement of the investigations beneficial to the president’s political campaign. He’ll characterize the quid pro quo succinctly.
Fiona Hill: (01:09:02)
… but it struck me one yesterday, when you put up on the screen Ambassador Sondland’s emails and who was on these emails, and he said these are the people who need to know that he was absolutely right because he was being involved in a domestic political errand, and we were being involved in national security foreign policy, and those two things had just diverged.
Adam Schiff: (01:09:24)
In effect, President Zelensky was being drawn into this domestic political errand. He grew wary of becoming involved in another country’s election and domestic affairs. Bill Taylor, the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine at the time, described a conversation he had with a senior aide to the Ukrainian leader. He said …
Adam Schiff: (01:09:51)
Also, he [inaudible 01:09:55] conversation with Alexander Danyliuk, President Zelensky’s national security advisor, who emphasized that President Zelensky did not want to be used as an instrument in a U.S. reelection campaign.
Adam Schiff: (01:10:12)
Remember that conversation when you hear counsel say that the Ukrainians felt no pressure to be involved in a U.S. reelection campaign, but that concern did not deter President Trump. In his conversation with Sondland shortly before the 25th of July call, the president made clear that he not only wanted Ukraine to do the investigations or announce them, but also a White House meeting would only be scheduled if President Zelensky confirmed these investigations. As Volker communicated to President Zelensky’s top aid by text less than 30 minutes before the phone call between Trump and Zelensky, and again, we’re talking about July 25th, in a text 30 minutes before the Trump-Zelinsky phone call, here’s what is said, with Volker texting Andriy Yermak, a top aide to President Zelensky.
Adam Schiff: (01:11:11)
“Good lunch. Thanks. Heard from White House. Assuming President Z convinces Trump he will investigate, ‘get to the bottom of what happened’ in 2016, we will nail down date for visit to Washington. Good luck! See you tomorrow. Kurt.”
Adam Schiff: (01:11:29)
Well, those words couldn’t be much clearer. Assuming President Z convinces Trump he will investigate, get to the bottom of what happened in 2016, we’ll nail down the visit to Washington. That’s a text 30 minutes before that call. Counsel for the president would like you to think this is just about that call. You don’t get to look outside the four corners of that call. They don’t want you to look at the months that went into preparing for that call or the months of pressure that followed it, but you could just look at right now what happened 30 minutes before that call in this text message. “Heard from White House. Assuming President Z convinces Trump he will investigate, ‘get to the bottom of what happened’ in 2016 …”
Adam Schiff: (01:12:20)
If you are wondering how it seemed that President Zelensky was aware of what he was going to be asked on that call, this is how you can tell. He was prepped. Of course he was prepped, and in fact, the missing reference in the call record to Burisma was a signal Colonel Vindman recognized, that clearly he had been prepped for that call. Why else would the name of this particular energy company come up in that conversation? Well, President Zelensky clearly got the message. Toward the end of the call with President Trump, President Zelensky said, “I also want to thank you for your invitation to visit the United States, specifically Washington D.C. On the other hand, I also wanted to ensure you that we will be very serious about the case, and we will work on the investigation.”
Adam Schiff: (01:13:21)
Thank you for the invitation. On the other hand, I want to ensure you that we will be very serious about the case, and we will work on the investigation, to ensure Zelensky clearly understood the quid pro quo for the White House meeting on July 25th. But his reticence to be used as a political pawn kept President Trump from moving forward with a promise to schedule the meeting. And so, the president and his agents pressed on.
Adam Schiff: (01:13:54)
In August, Giuliani met with a top Ukrainian aide and made it clear that Ukraine must issue a public statement announcing the investigations in order to get the White House meeting. Fearful of getting involved in U.S. domestic politics, and having entered office with a promise to clean up government and corruption, President Zelensky and his aides preferred a generic statement about investigations, but Giuliani insisted, no, the statement must include two specific investigations that would benefit President Trump. Let’s look at a comparison between the statement the Ukrainians preferred and the one that Giuliani required.
Adam Schiff: (01:14:35)
So, on the left, and I will read it in case you can’t see the screens, the draft, the Yermak draft, the Ukrainian draft, says, “We intend to initiate and complete a transparent and unbiased investigation of all available facts and episodes, which in turn will prevent the recurrence of this problem in the future.” That’s pretty generic. But here’s the Giuliani- Volker-Sondland response. This is what had to be included. “We intend to initiate and complete a transparent and unbiased investigation of all available facts and episodes …” Up to that point, it’s exactly the same, until you get to, “… including those involving Burisma and the 2016 U.S. elections.” And then, it goes back to the Ukrainian draft, “… which in turn will prevent the recurrence of this problem in the future.” You can see in this such graphic evidence. Ukrainians did not want to do this. They didn’t even want to mention this.
Adam Schiff: (01:15:42)
Giuliani had to insist, no, no, no, we’re not going to be satisfied with some generic statement. After all, I think we can see this isn’t about corruption. No, this is about announcing investigations to damage Biden and to promote this fiction about the last election. So, here in these texts, you see that Giuliani, Volker, and Sondland have added these references to Burisma, a thinly-veiled reference to former Vice President Biden and the 2016 election. They wished to ensure the Ukrainians mentioned the sham investigations President Trump required. Now, the Ukrainians recoiled at the new statement, recognizing that releasing it would run directly counter to the anticorruption platform that Zelensky campaigned on and would embroil them in U.S. election politics. As a result, Zelensky didn’t get his White House meeting. He still hasn’t gotten his White House meeting.
Adam Schiff: (01:16:44)
Senators, witness testimony, text messages, emails, and the call record itself confirm a corrupt quid pro quo for the White House meeting, an official act, available only to the president of the United States. In exchange for the announcement of political investigations, the president and his allies have offered no explanation for this effort, except the president can abuse his office all he likes, and there’s nothing you can do about it. The [inaudible 01:17:17] can’t impeach him. That is because they cannot seriously dispute that President Trump corruptly used an official White House visit for a foreign leader to compel the Ukrainian president into helping him cheat in the next election.
Adam Schiff: (01:17:35)
The White House meeting, of course, was not the only official act that President Trump conditioned on the announcement of investigations into Biden and the conspiracy theory meant to exonerate President Trump from Russians’ interference on his behalf in the last election. In a far more draconian step, as we have discussed, the president withheld $391 million of military aid. Several weeks before this phone call with President Zelensky but after Giuliani was already pressing Ukrainian officials to conduct the investigations his clients sought, President Trump ordered the hold on Ukraine’s military aid. Significantly, this was after Congress had already been notified that most of it was prepared to be spent. Ukraine had met all of the critical conditions for anticorruption and defense reforms in order to receive the funds. We conditioned the funds, they met the conditions, the funds were ready to go. At the time, and even today, witnesses uniformly testified that the order to hold the funding came without explanation to the foreign policy and national security officials responsible for Ukraine. The only message from the Office of Management And Budget was that the hold was implemented at the direction of the president. Since Russia’s illegal incursion into Ukraine in 2014, the U.S. has maintained a bipartisan policy of delivering hundreds of millions of dollars of military aid to Ukraine each year, which several senators here have personally invested significant time and effort to ensure.
Adam Schiff: (01:19:21)
And it was President Trump himself who originally authorized additional financial support for military assistance to Ukraine in 2017 and 2018 without reservation, making his abrupt decision to withhold assistance in 2019 without explanation all the more surprising to those responsible for Ukraine policy. That confusion, however, would soon disappear. The president used the hold of military aid as leverage to pressure Ukraine to announce these investigations that he hoped would help his reelection campaign. The only difference between the prior years, when the president approved the aid without question, and the inexplicable aid on hold in 2019 was the emergence of Joe Biden as a potentially formidable obstacle to the president’s reelection.
Adam Schiff: (01:20:19)
These funds that the president withheld, these funds, they don’t just benefit Ukraine. They benefit the security of the United States by ensuring that Ukraine is equipped to defend its own borders against Russian aggression. As Ambassador Taylor noted in his deposition, the United States provides Ukraine with radar and weapons and sniper rifles, communication that saved lives. It makes Ukrainians more effective. It might even shorten the war. Ukrainians can defend themselves, and the Russians in the end will say, “Okay, we’re going to stop. That’s in our interest.” This isn’t just about Ukraine or its national security. It’s about our national security. This isn’t charity. It’s about our defense as much as Ukraine’s. Ambassador Taylor also said that the American aid was a concrete demonstration of the United States’ commitment to resist aggression and to defend freedom.
Adam Schiff: (01:21:35)
That’s what this country is supposed to be about, right? Resisting aggression, defending freedom, not exporting corrupt ideas. That’s what we’re supposed to be about, right? It was against this backdrop that American officials responsible for Ukraine policy sat in astonishment, according to ambassador Taylor, when they learned about the hold. Officials immediately expressed concerns about the legality of President Trump’s hold on assistance to Ukraine. Their concerns were well-warranted as the Government Accountability Office, which was, just last night, pooh-poohed as by the president’s counsel. Well, that’s just some institution of Congress, right? They’re going to be just inherently biased, right? Well, they are a nonpartisan organization that both parties have come to rely upon, but I’m not surprised they don’t like the collusion of the GAO because the Defense Department warned them that this was going to be the conclusion. And that conclusion was, the hold on aid was not only wrong, it was not only immoral, it was also illegal. It violated the law, a law that we passed so that presidents could not refuse to spend money that we allocated for the defense of others and for ourselves.
Adam Schiff: (01:22:55)
The Impoundment Control Act prevents the president and other government officials from unilaterally making funding decisions when Congress has made its intent clear. In fact, the act exists precisely because of previous presidential abuses of Congress’s power of the purse during the Nixon era. The nonpartisan GAO ruled that the hold on military aid was not only illegal, but that holding underscores the president’s efforts to go to any lengths to ensure his own personal benefit, rather than take care that the laws be faithfully executed, as he swore he would do when he took his oath of office.
Adam Schiff: (01:23:43)
Now, because of recent Freedom Of Information Act responses and media reports, we now know additional details about how senior officials expressed serious reservations about the legality of the hold at the time. So, this is not like some new surprise. This is not like something that just came out of the blue. Oh, an independent watchdog agency found this was illegal. No, they knew this was illegal at the time. These concerns were raised at the time. Certain individuals who may have further information about the hold, they’ve refused to testify, at the president’s direction, including his chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, his deputy, Robert Blair, OMB official, Michael Duffy, all of them. All of them defied Congressional subpoenas but were included in important email communications that have been made public only recently. As you know, these [inaudible 01:24:37] White House Defense Department, OMB, were subpoenaed by the House, and none was produced, none, at the president’s direction and through Mr. Cipollone’s intervention. Although the investigation developed an overwhelming body of evidence that clearly proves that the president implemented this hold to pressure Ukraine to announce investigations, the full story behind the hold, the full and complete story, is within your power to request.
Adam Schiff: (01:25:17)
As you consider the evidence we present to you, ask yourselves whether the documents and witnesses that have been denied by the president’s complete and unprecedented obstruction could shed more light on this critical topic. You may agree with the House managers that the evidence of the president’s withholding of military aid to [inaudible 01:25:38] Ukraine is already supported by overwhelming evidence, and no further insight is necessary to convict the president. But if the president’s lawyers attempt to contest these or other factual matters, you are left with no choice but to demand to hear from each witness with firsthand knowledge. A fair trial requires nothing less. Let’s look at some of the evidence that we gathered notwithstanding this obstruction. First, the president withheld the aid without explanation and against the advice of his own agencies, Cabinet officials, national security experts, including Secretary Pompeo, Secretary Esper, Ambassador Bolton, and others. Only Mick Mulvaney, a central figure in this effort, reportedly supported the hold, and he told us why. During a press briefing, Mulvaney personally acknowledged that the hold was ordered as part of a quid pro quo designed to get Ukraine to undertake the investigation President Trump’s sought. Second, the reason for the security assistance hold was undoubtedly on the president’s mind during the telephone call with President Zelensky on July 25th. Near the beginning of their conversation, President Zelensky expresses gratitude for U.S. military assistance, noting the United States’ ” great support in the area of defense.” Immediately …
Adam Schiff: (01:27:03)
… great support in the area of defense immediately after President Zelensky’s reference to defense and military support, President Trump responded by saying, “I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot, and Ukraine knows a lot about it.” President Trump then proceeded to openly press Ukraine to conduct these investigations.
Adam Schiff: (01:27:25)
Third, numerous officials were aware that President Trump was withholding the White House meeting until the Ukrainian president announced the investigations, that the president would ratchet up pressure on Ukraine to compel its action stunned Ukraine experts like Ambassador Taylor, but followed logically for those engaged in the president’s corrupt scheme.
Adam Schiff: (01:27:50)
Fourth, by the end of August, there was still no explanation for the hold despite ongoing efforts from numerous officials to persuade the president to release the money, and the leverage of the White House meeting had not succeeded in coercing Ukraine to announce the investigations, providing the president and his agents every reason to use the most aggressive lever of influence, hundreds of [inaudible 01:28:19] efforts from [inaudible 01:28:20] to compel Ukraine to act. If they didn’t feel pressure, they would have done it. They would’ve done it. But of course they did.
Adam Schiff: (01:28:35)
Imagine if this country were dependent on a more powerful country for our defense. Imagine we were at war. Imagine we were waiting for weapons to defend ourselves, something our framers could have understood. Imagine that we found ourselves in those circumstances, and much to our astonishment, we couldn’t even get a meeting with our ally, much to our astonishment, they were withholding aid from us. You think we’d feel pressure? Of course, we would. The framers had common sense, and so must we.
Adam Schiff: (01:29:13)
Are we to accept, “Well, the president said there was no quid pro quo. I guess that closes the case.” In every courtroom in America, jurors… and I know you’re not just jurors, I read a Clinton trial. You’re jurors and judges. Jurors all over America are told you don’t leave your common sense at the door. Well, we don’t have to leave our common sense at the door here too. Two plus two equals four. The aid is withheld. You’re asking for it. We are asking for it. His own aids are asking for it. No one can get an explanation. Ukrainians can’t get an explanation.
Adam Schiff: (01:29:53)
All the Ukrainians get is “we want you to do these investigations.” They’re promised a White House meeting. They want a White House meeting. They need a White House meeting. They’re going to be going into negotiations with Putin. They want to show strength. They can’t get in the door. They see the Russian foreign minister get in the door of the White House. We see the photos of the president, the Russian foreign minister, or the ambassador. What a great time they’re having, but no, the president of Ukraine, our ally, can’t get in the door. They’re not stupid. They know what’s going on here. They’re not stupid. That conversation I referenced yesterday when the Ukrainians threw it right back in our face, when Ambassador Volker said to his Ukrainian counterpart, “You shouldn’t investigate the former president. You shouldn’t engage in those political investigations,” oh, the Ukrainian response was, “You mean like the one you want us to do of the Bidens and the Clintons?” They’re not stupid. By the end of August, there was still no explanation for the hold despite efforts by numerous people to seek the release of the funding. The leverage hadn’t succeeded in getting the president to, of course, Ukraine to announce the investigations, and so the aid was withheld. Two witness privy the scheme testified that the only logical conclusion to reach about the president’s continued to hold on the aid was that it was intended to put more pressure on Ukraine to announce the investigations.
Adam Schiff: (01:31:43)
As I said, they testified it was as simple as two plus two equals four. We could do math, and more importantly, so can Ukrainians, and maybe even more importantly than that, so can the Russians. Multiple [inaudible 01:32:00] on the aid have confirmed this logical conclusion. On September 7th, Ambassador Sondland spoke directly to President Trump, who, by that point, was aware that a whistleblower complaint was circulating that alleged the contours of his scheme, and the Congress and the public were beginning to ask probing questions about the hold on aid, including whether the withholding of the aid was an exchange for reelection help.
Adam Schiff: (01:32:28)
During that call, September 7th… so July you’ve got, well, Mueller’s testimony, you’ve got the call itself, you’ve got the followup call the next day with the president to speaking to Sondland, wants to make sure they’re going to do the investigation. You’ve got August while they’re trying to hammer out a statement, and the Ukrainians are still resisting. Then you have September, September 7th. Ambassador Sondland on the phone with President Trump.
Adam Schiff: (01:32:59)
At that point, he is aware that a whistleblower has filed a complaint alleging the contours of this scheme, and Congress and the public are beginning to ask questions about the hold on aid, including whether this was to get help in his reelection. During this call between the President and Ambassador Sondland, without a prompt, president Trump told Sondland, “There’s no quid pro quo.”
Adam Schiff: (01:33:28)
Now, why would he do that? That’s not something that comes up in normal conversation, right? “Hello, Mr. President, how are you today? No quid pro quo.” That’s the kind of thing that comes up in a conversation if you’re trying to put your alibi out there. If you’ve heard about a whistleblower complaint, if you’ve seen allegations, if Congress is starting to sniff around, no quid pro quo, but, and I know this is astonishing, so much of the last three years has been a combination of shock, and yet no surprise, and yet even while the president is saying, “No quid pro quo,” what does he say? “Zelensky must publicly announce the two political investigations, and he should want to do it.”
Adam Schiff: (01:34:23)
No quid pro quo, except this quid pro quo. Sondland immediately relayed the message to President Zelensky informing him that without the announcement of the political investigations, they would be at a stalemate. Sondland made clear that this reference to a stalemate meant the release of the security assistance. President Zelensky after hesitating for weeks to join the president’s corrupt scheme finally relented. President Zelensky informed Sondland that he agreed to do a CNN interview, and Sondland understood that he would use that occasion to mention these items, meaning the two investigations, at the heart of the scheme.
Adam Schiff: (01:35:13)
The candidate Zelensky who is swept into office with a landslide victory on a promise of fighting corruption would be forced to undertake just the same kind of corrupt act he’d been elected to clean up. Upon learning this, Ambassador Taylor called Sondland to register his deep concern, telling him on a [inaudible 01:35:42]. Crazy. Taylor later texted Sondland to reinforce the point, “As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.” “As I said on the phone.” Clearly, they had discussed it. “As I said on the phone.”
Adam Schiff: (01:36:05)
Taylor testified about the message and the events leading up to it. Taylor said that security system assistance was so, assistance was so… I’m sorry, “Security system was so important for Ukraine as well as our own national interest to withhold that assistance for no good reason other than help with the political campaign made no sense. It was counterproductive to all of what we had been trying to do. It was illogical. It could not be explained. It was crazy.”
Adam Schiff: (01:36:40)
What’s more, Ambassador Taylor also came to learn that President Trump wanted Zelensky in a public box. He testified Mr. Goldman asking the question, “Now, you referenced the television interview and a desire for President Trump to put Zelensky in a public box, which you also have in quotes. Was that in your notes?” Now, this is a reference, I think, to his written testimony. Was that reference to in a public box in his notes? Remember, he kept detailed notes.
Adam Schiff: (01:37:16)
Taylor’s answer, “It was in my notes.” “And what did you understand to mean to put Zelensky in a public box?” and Taylor responds, “I understood that to mean that President Trump, through Ambassador Sondland, was asking for President Zelensky to publicly commit to these investigations that it was not sufficient to do this in private, that this needed to be done. This needed to be a very public statement.”
Adam Schiff: (01:37:48)
We saw earlier the side by side comparison of what the Ukrainians wanted to say. They wanted to make no mention of these specific investigations and how Giuliani insisted, “No, no, no. This isn’t going to be credible unless you mentioned these specific investigations. This is what it’s going to take.” Now you see Ambassador Sondland has acknowledged to Ambassador Taylor that not enough to use even the right language, apparently. Got to be done in public. We’re not going to take any private commitment. It’s got to be done in public as we would later come to understand this is because President Trump didn’t care about the investigations being done. He just wanted them announced. He wanted Zelensky in a public box. He wanted it announced publicly.
Adam Schiff: (01:38:42)
Ambassador Taylor also testified that he understood from Sondland that because President Trump was a businessman, he would expect to get something in return before signing a check.
During our meeting during our call on September 8th, Ambassador Sondland tried to explain to me the President Trump is a businessman. When a businessman is about to sign a check to someone who owes him something, the businessman ask that person to pay up before signing the check. Ambassador Volker used the same language several days later while we were together at the Yalta European Strategy conference. I argued to both that the explanation may try to [inaudible 01:39:23] did not owe President Trump anything.
Adam Schiff: (01:39:32)
This is very telling. Ambassador Taylor, Vietnam veteran, West Point graduate. Ukrainians didn’t owe us anything. Clearly, Donald Trump felt that Ukrainians owed him. This is not about Ukraine’s national security. It’s not about our national security. It’s not about corruption. No. It’s about, “What’s in it for me. Those Ukrainians owe me. Before I sign a check… ” and by the way, that’s not his money. That’s your money. That’s the American people’s money for their defense.
Adam Schiff: (01:40:16)
But here we see that Ambassador Sondland explained, “No, President Trump’s a businessman. Before he’s going to sign a check, he wants to get something.” Of course, that something he was going to sign that check where he’s going to make that payment for with our tax dollars, that thing that he was going to buy with those tax dollars was the smear of his opponent and an effort to lift whatever cloud he felt was over his presidency because of the Russian interference on his behalf in the last election.
Adam Schiff: (01:40:49)
Now, the president has offered an assortment of shifting explanations after the fact for the hold on aid, including that he withheld the money because of corruption in Ukraine or concerns about burden sharing with other European countries, but those arguments are completely without merit. First, the president’s own administration had determined by the time of the hold that Ukraine had undertaken all necessary anti-corruption and defense reforms in order to receive the funds. The defense department and state department officials repeatedly made this clear as the hold remained and threatened the ability of the agencies to spend the money before the end of the fiscal year.
Adam Schiff: (01:41:29)
Second, the evidence revealed that the president only asked about foreign contributions to Ukraine in September, nearly two months after the president implemented the hold and as it became clear that the public Congress and a whistleblower were becoming aware of the president’s scheme. The after-the-fact effort to come up with a justification also belies the truth. The European countries provide far more financial support to Ukraine than the United States. Their support is largely economic. Ours also includes a lot of military support, but Europe is a substantial financial backer of Ukraine.
Adam Schiff: (01:42:22)
Something else remarkable about this I was struck by yesterday. As we’re going through the importance of the witness testimony and looking at some of those redacted emails in which the administration sought to hide its misconduct, in those redactions, when we got to see what was beneath them, and there was an indication… This is very close hold. This is a need-to-know basis only. Remember that? We’ll show you that again, but one of those emails that only came to light, I believe, recently, and not because the administration wanted you [inaudible 01:43:05]. We see there’s a desire not to let people know about this hold.
Adam Schiff: (01:43:12)
If the president was fighting corruption, if he wanted Europeans to pay more, why would he hide it from us? Why would he hide it from the Ukrainians? Why would he hide it from the rest of the world? If this was a desire to get Europe to pay more, why wouldn’t he charge Sondland ask Europe for more, why wouldn’t he be proud to tell the Congress of the United States, “I’m holding up this aid, and I’m holding it up because I’m worried about corruption.”
Adam Schiff: (01:43:40)
Why wouldn’t he? Because, of course, it wasn’t true. There’s no evidence of that. What’s more, the White House admitted why the president held up the money. The president’s own chief of staff explained precisely why during October 17th and October 17th press conference. Let’s see again what he had to say.
Those were the driving factors. Did he also mention to me in the past the corruption related to the DNC server? Absolutely. No question about that, but that’s it. That’s why we held up the money. Now, there was a report-
Speaker 2: (01:44:22)
So the demand for an investigation into the Democrats was part of the reason that he-
Speaker 2: (01:44:27)
… ordered to withhold funding to Ukraine?
The look back to what happened in 2016 certainly was part of the thing that he was worried about in corruption with that nation, and that is absolutely appropriate.
Adam Schiff: (01:44:41)
But Mulvaney didn’t just admit that the president withheld the crucial aid appropriated by Congress to apply pressure on Ukraine to do the president’s political dirty work. He also said that we should just get over it. Let’s watch.
Speaker 2: (01:44:58)
Let’s be clear. What you just described is a quid pro quo. It is funding will not flow unless the investigation into the democratic server happened as well.
We do that all the time with foreign policy. If you read the news reports, and you believe that… What did McKinney say yesterday? What McKinney said yesterday, that he was really upset with the political influence in foreign policy. That was one of the reasons he was so upset about this, and I have news for everybody: Get over it. There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy.
Adam Schiff: (01:45:38)
Should the Congress just get over it? Should the American people just come to expect that our presidents will corruptly abuse their office to seek the help of a foreign power to cheat in our election? Should we just get over it? Is that what we’ve come to? I hope and pray that the answer is no. We cannot allow a president to withhold military aid from an ally at war for elicit help in a really good election campaign.
Adam Schiff: (01:46:12)
I hope that we don’t have to just get over that. I hope that we just don’t have to get accustom to that. Is that what we want to tell our constituents? Yeah, the president withheld aid from an ally. Yeah, it damaged our national security, and yeah, he wouldn’t meet with a foreign leader who’s important to us unless he got help in the next election, and yeah, it’s wrong to try to get a foreign power to help. It’s kind of cheating, really. If we’re going to be honest about it, blatant about it, it’s cheating.
Adam Schiff: (01:46:48)
Americans are supposed to decide American elections, but I guess we just need to get over it. I guess that’s just what we should now expect of a president of United States. I guess there’s really no remedy for that anymore, the impeachment. I mean, maybe that was a good idea 200 years ago, but I guess we just need to get over it.
Adam Schiff: (01:47:13)
I guess maybe the president really is above the law because they say you can’t indict the president. The president says you can’t even investigate the president. The president is in court saying you can not only not indict the president, you can’t even investigate the president. Attorney General’s position is you can’t even investigate the president. Are we really prepared to say that?
Adam Schiff: (01:47:38)
The only answer to presidential misconduct is we just need to get over it? What are we going to say with the next president? What are we going to say with the president who’s from a different party who refuses the same kind of subpoenas, and the president says to you or his chief of staff says to you or her chief of staff says to you, ” Just get over it. I’m not doing anything different than Donald Trump did. Just get over it. He asked for help in the next election. I’m asking for help in the next election. Just get over it. We do this kind of thing all the time.”
Adam Schiff: (01:48:15)
People are cynical enough as it is about the politics, about people’s commitment to their good, cynical enough without having us confirm it for them. “I think it’s more than crazy.” That was Ambassador Taylor’s word. “I think it’s more than crazy.” I think it’s a gross abuse of power. I don’t think that impeachment power is a relic. If it is a relic, I wonder how much longer our Republic can succeed.
Adam Schiff: (01:49:05)
For months, President Trump and his agents had pressured Ukraine to announce the investigations, and President Zelensky finally yielded. As previously noted, he scheduled a CNN interview and planned to publicly announce the politically motivated investigations. He informed Sondland of this plan during a September 7th phone call. In the same call, Sondland relayed to President Zelensky that Trump required that the Ukrainian leader make the public announcement in order to get the critical military aid.
Adam Schiff: (01:49:36)
President Trump’s corruption had finally worn down President Zelensky, overcoming his effort to remain true to his anti-corruption platform until events intervened. Before Zelensky could do the interview, President Trump learned that his scheme had been exposed. Facing public and congressional pressure on September 11th, the president finally released the hold on aid to Ukraine. Just like with the implementation of the hold, he provided no reason for the release, but the reason is quite simple: The president got caught.
Adam Schiff: (01:50:15)
In late August, President Trump learned about a whistleblower complaint that was winding its way through the intelligence agencies on its way to Congress. On September 9th, three House Committees announced an investigation into president Trump’s Ukraine misconduct and that of his proxy, Rudy Giuliani. Later that day, again, September 9th, the Intelligence Committee Inspector General notified the Senate and House Intelligence Committees of the existence of the complaint and the fact that it was being withheld from Congress contrary to law and in an unprecedented fashion.
Adam Schiff: (01:50:52)
Facing significant public pressure on September 11th, the president gave up and released the money to Ukraine. One week later, President Zelensky canceled the CNN interview. Rather than demonstrate contrition or acknowledge wrongdoing, the president instead has continued his effort even after the impeachment investigation began. He not only continued to call on Ukraine to investigate his political opponents and called on China to do the same [inaudible 01:51:29]. This should concern all of us. It’s a confirmation not only the scheme to pressure Ukraine to help his political campaign, but a clear sign that the president believes that these corrupt acts are acceptable. A president this unapologetic, this lawless, this unbound to the Constitution and the Oath of Office must be removed from that office lest he continue to use the vast presidential powers at his disposal to seek advantage in the next election.
Adam Schiff: (01:52:09)
President Trump’s abuse of powers of his office undermine the integrity of our free and fair elections and compromised the America’s national security. If we don’t stand up to this peril today, we will write the history of our decline with our own hand. If President Trump is not held to account, we send the message to future presidents, future congresses and generations of Americans that the personal interests of the president can fairly take precedent over those of the nation.
Adam Schiff: (01:52:43)
The domestic effects of this descent from democracy will be a weakened trust in the integrity of our elections and the rule of law and a steady decline of the spread of democratic values throughout the world, for how can any country trust the United States as a model of governance if it is one that sanctions precisely the political corruption and invitation to foreign meddling that we have long sought to help eradicate in burgeoning democracies around the world?
Adam Schiff: (01:53:18)
To protect against foreign interference in our elections, we have guard rails built into our democratic system. We have campaign finance laws to ensure that political assistance can come only from domestic actors, and we take seriously the need to shore up the integrity of our voting systems so that a foreign government or actor cannot change vote tallies. The promise of “one person, one vote” is only effective if each vote is cast free of foreign interference. Americans decide American elections, at least they should.
Adam Schiff: (01:53:55)
Now, what if electoral corruption is even more insidious? What happens when the invitation comes from within? Our framers understood that threat too. George Mason noted at the Constitutional Convention that impeachment was a necessary tool because the man who has practiced corruption and by that means procured his appointment in the first instance could seek to repeat his guilt.
Adam Schiff: (01:54:25)
In June of last year, President Trump was clear that if a foreign government offered dirt on his political opponent, he would take it, a statement deeply at odds with the guidance provided at the time by his own FBI director, the formal Federal Election Commission and chair, and our Constitution written some 233 years ago. In no uncertain terms, it admonishes that any person holding office of profit or trust, it admonishes against them accepting of any present from a foreign state.
Adam Schiff: (01:55:03)
But President Trump did more than take the foreign help in 2019 as he had done in 2016. He had not only asked for it in the July 25th call, but when he didn’t get the help from the Ukrainian president in the form of the announced investigations, he withheld hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer-funded military aid and a coveted White House meeting to increase the pressure on Ukraine to comply. Later, he demonstrated no remorse and continued to encourage Ukraine to conduct the political investigations he wanted, even asking other countries to do. The consequences of these actions alone have shaken our democratic system. What message will we send if we choose not to hold this president accountable for his abuse of power to solicit reelection interference in our upcoming election? The misconduct undertaken by this president may lead future presidents to believe that they too-
Adam Schiff: (01:56:03)
[inaudible 01:56:00] by this president may lead future presidents to believe that they too can use the substantial power conferred on them by the constitution in order to undermine it. Nothing could weaken the integrity of our elections more, and no campaign finance law or statement by a future FBI director could stand up to the precedent of electoral misconduct set by the President of the United States if we do not say clearly that this behavior is unacceptable, and more than unacceptable, impeachable.
Adam Schiff: (01:56:37)
We also undermine our global standing as a country long view it as a model for democratic ideals worth emulating. We have for generations been the shining city upon a hill that president Reagan described. America is not just a country, but also an idea. But what worth is that idea if when tried, we do not affirm the values that underpin it? What will those nascent democracies around the world conclude? That democracy is not only difficult, but maybe that it’s too difficult. Maybe that it’s impossible.
Adam Schiff: (01:57:22)
And who will come to fill the void that we leave when the light from that shining city upon a hill is extinguished? The autocrats with whom we compete, who value not freedom and fair elections, but the unending rule of a repressive executive. Autocrats that value not freedom of the press and open debate, but disinformation, propaganda and state sanctioned lies. Vladimir Putin would like nothing better. The Russians have little democracy left thanks to Vladimir Putin. It’s an autocracy. It’s a thugocracy.
Adam Schiff: (01:58:04)
The Russian storyline, the Russian narrative, the Russian propaganda, the Russian view they would like people around the world to believe is that every country is just the same, just the same corrupt system. There’s no difference. It’s not a competition between autocracy and democracy. No, it’s just between autocrats and hypocrites. They make no bones about their loss of democracy. They just want the rest of the world to believe you can’t find it anywhere. Why take to the streets in Moscow to demand something better if there’s nothing better anywhere else? That’s the Russian story.
Adam Schiff: (01:58:52)
[inaudible 01:58:52] That’s the Russian story. That’s who prospers by the defeat of democracy. That’s who wins by the defeat of our democratic ideals. It’s not other democracies. It’s the autocrats. We’re on the rise all over the world. I think all of us in this room have grown up in a generation where each successive generation lived with more freedom than the one that came before. We each had more freedom of speech and association, freedom to practice our faith. This was true at home. It was true all over the world.
Adam Schiff: (01:59:36)
And I think we came to believe this was some immutable law of nature, only to find it isn’t. Only to come to the terrible realization that this year, fewer people live in the freedom that last, and there’s no guarantee that next year people will live in more freedom than today. And the prospect for our children is even more in doubt. Turns out there’s nothing immutable about this. Every generation has to fight for it. We’re fighting for it right now. There’s no guarantee that this democracy that has served us so well will continue to prosper. We will struggle to protect this idea, and even as we do, we will struggle to protect our security in more tangible ways. Support for an independent and democratic Ukraine, which is the literal bulwark against Russian expansionism in Europe, is essential to our security. Russia showed that when it invaded Ukraine in 2014 and sought to redraw the map of Europe. Was our commitment to Ukraine’s independence and sovereignty just an empty promise, or are we prepared to support its efforts to keep Russia contained so that they and we may all eventually enjoy a long peace?
Adam Schiff: (02:01:21)
Russia is not a threat, I don’t need to tell you, to Eastern Europe alone. Ukraine has become the de facto proving ground for just the types of hybrid warfare that the 21st century will become defined by: cyber attacks, disinformation campaigns, efforts to undermine the legitimacy of state institutions, whether that is voting systems or financial markets. The Kremlin showed boldly in 2016 that with the maligned skills it honed in Ukraine, they would not stay in Ukraine. Instead, Russia employed them here to attack our institutions, and they will do so again. Indeed, they’ve never stopped.
Adam Schiff: (02:02:05)
Will we allow the primary country now fighting Russia to be weakened, placing our troops in Europe at greater risk, and opening the door to greater interference in our affairs at home? If we allow the President of United States to pursue his political and personal interests rather than the national interests, we send a message to our European allies that our commitment to a Europe free and whole is for sale to the highest bidder. Troops in Europe [inaudible 02:02:34] on a shared understanding of what that alliance stands for. One built on the rule of law, on free and fair elections, on a shared struggle against aggression from autocratic regimes. We are countries built on a commitment to our people, not unyielding loyalty to a president who would be king.
Adam Schiff: (02:02:56)
A president has the right to hold a call with a foreign leader. Yes. And he has the right to decide the time and location of a meeting with that leader. Yes. And he has the right to withhold funding to that leader should the law be followed and the purpose be just. But he does not, under our laws and under our constitution, have a right to use the powers of his office to corruptly solicit foreign aid, prohibited foreign aid in his reelection. He does not. He does not have the right to withhold official presidential acts to secure that assistance. And he certainly does not have the right to undermine our elections and place our security at risk for his own personal benefit. No president, Republican or Democrat, can be permitted to do that.
Adam Schiff: (02:03:47)
Now, let me turn to the second article of impeachment, which charges the president with misusing the powers of his office to obstruct and interfere with the impeachment inquiry. The evidence you’ll hear during the House presentation is equally undeniable and damning. President Trump issued a blanket order directing the entire executive branch not to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry and to withhold all documents and testimony. His order was categorical. It was indiscriminate and historically unprecedented. No president before President Trump has ever ordered the complete defiance of an impeachment inquiry or sought to obstruct and impede so comprehensively the ability of the House of Representatives to investigate high crimes and misdemeanors.
Adam Schiff: (02:04:37)
The president was able to block agencies across the executive branch from producing any records or documents to the House investigative committees, despite duly authorized subpoenas. The White House continues to refuse to produce a single document or record in response to a House subpoena that remains in full force and effect. The Department of State and Office of Management and Budget, the Department of Energy and the Department of Defense continue to refuse to provide a single document or record in response to House subpoenas that remain in full force and effect.
Adam Schiff: (02:05:20)
It is worth underscoring this point. The House has yet to receive a single document from the executive branch agencies pursuant to its subpoenas, not a single piece of paper, email or other record has been turned over. Not one. While I pause to get a drink of water, let me let you know for your timing. I have about 10 minutes left in my presentation, so the end is in sight.
Adam Schiff: (02:05:55)
President Trump has also successfully blocked witnesses, nine of them under subpoena from testifying, witnesses with firsthand knowledge of the president’s actions, including his closest aides, some of whom were directly involved in executing the president’s improper orders. These [inaudible 02:06:14] and Robert Blair, Russell Vought, the acting head of the Office of Management and Budget, Michael Duffy, a senior official and the president’s chief legal advisor on the National Security Council, John Eisenberg, among others. The managers will present in detail what these officials knew about their role in executing different parts of the president’s scheme. There is no dispute, nor could there be, that President Trump’s order substantially obstructed the House impeachment inquiry. That obstruction continues unabated today, even as we stand here at the start of the president’s trial. And the president has been able to do so only because of the uniquely powerful position that he holds as our commander in chief.
Adam Schiff: (02:07:05)
No other American could seek to obstruct an investigation into his own wrongdoing this way. No other American could use the vast powers and levers of his government to conduct a corrupt scheme to benefit themselves, and then use those same powers to suppress evidence and bar any cooperation with the authorities investigating them. Not a police chief, not a mayor, not a governor, not any elected official in the country, and certainly not any non-elected official in the country.
Adam Schiff: (02:07:39)
All those folks watching us from around the country, you know what would happen to them if they defied a lawful subpoena. They got a subpoena commanding them to appear. You know what would happen to them because they’re not above the law. They’d be arrested, they’d be detained, they’d be incarcerated. They would be forced to comply. They’re not above the law, and neither are we, and neither is the president, and yet, despite the fact that he is not above the law, the president’s extensive and persistent efforts… The president, the House heard from courageous witnesses who did obey lawful subpoenas, and we gathered overwhelming evidence. The House built a formidable case that forms the basis of these articles.
Adam Schiff: (02:08:36)
The second article for obstruction of Congress is not simply about President Trump’s decision to obstruct a congressional investigation, or even an impeachment inquiry. It should not be misunderstood as some routine dispute between two branches of government, nor should it be reduced to the notion that the president was simply protecting himself or fighting back against a partisan or overzealous Congress. The charges in the second article are much more serious and urgent than that.
Adam Schiff: (02:09:07)
First, the president’s attempt to obstruct the inquiry so categorically and comprehensively is part and parcel of the president’s furious effort to conceal, suppress, and cover up his own misconduct. From the very first moment, his actions were at the risk of coming to light, President Trump sought to hide and cover up key evidence, even as a scheme to pressure Ukraine was still underway. As the House presentation will make clear, the president’s cover up started even before the House began to investigate the president’s Ukraine related activity.
Adam Schiff: (02:09:41)
The president learned early on of the existence of a lawful whistleblower complaint from within the intelligence community that would ring the first alarm. He deployed the White House and Justice Department to intervene in an unprecedented fashion, to conceal and then withhold from Congress for the first time ever a credible and urgent whistleblower complaint, even though the law requires that it be provided to the congressional intelligence committees.
Adam Schiff: (02:10:10)
Once the impeachment inquiry was underway in late September, the president used the immense and unique power at his disposal to direct and maintain at every turn the categorical defiance of congressional scrutiny, even as he attacked the inquiry itself and its witnesses. The president offered multiple and shifting justification’s for obstructing the House’s inquiry, each of them deficient, while his actions and statements powerfully reflect his own consciousness of guilt.
Adam Schiff: (02:10:43)
Second, the ramifications of the president’s obstruction go beyond the sinister motives of simply covering up his actions. His obstruction strikes at the heart of our constitution. It threatens the last line of defense our founders purposely enshrined in our system to protect our democracy. If presidents can obstruct an impeachment inquiry undertaken by the House and evade accountability in the Senate for doing so, they usurp an essential power granted exclusively to the Congress, and for a reason.
Adam Schiff: (02:11:17)
Presidents could seize for themselves the power to neutralize and nullify the impeachment clause in order to shield themselves from any accountability. And if Congress is unable to investigate and impeach a president for abuse of their office, our democracy’s essential check on a rogue president will fail. It would no longer protect the American people from a corrupt president who presents an ongoing threat. This is the outcome every American should be concerned about and one that the founders warned us about.
Adam Schiff: (02:11:53)
Through the impeachment clause, the framers of the constitution empowered Congress to thoroughly investigate presidential malfeasance and to respond, if necessary, by removing the president from office. This entire framework depends upon Congress’ ability to discover and then to thoroughly and effectively investigate presidential misconduct. Without the ability of Congress to do that, the impeachment power is a nullity. If you can’t investigate it, you can’t enforce it, you can’t apply it.
Adam Schiff: (02:12:28)
What we confront here in the second article of impeachment is therefore an impeachable offense aimed at destroying the impeachment power itself. When a president abuses the power of his office to so completely defy House investigators and does so without lawful cause or excuse, he attacks the constitution itself. He confirms that he sees himself as above the law. His actions destabilize the separation of powers that defines our democracy and preserves our freedom, and establish an exceedingly dangerous precedent. And he proves that he is willing to destroy a vital safeguard against tyranny, a safeguard meant to protect the American people just to advance his own personal interest in covering up evidence.
Adam Schiff: (02:13:21)
The House presentation of the second article will therefore focus on three core areas that confirm the president’s obstruction and require his removal from office. First, the singular importance and role of the impeachment clause for our democracy and why an effort by a president to obstruct an impeachment inquiry is in and of itself an impeachable offense. Second, why the president’s extensive effort to cover up evidence of his misconduct is unprecedented in American history and without lawful cause or justification. And, finally, why the president’s obstruction poses a direct threat to our system of self-governance, with consequences for all Americans today and in the future, and for both chambers of Congress.
Adam Schiff: (02:14:11)
Over the coming days, you will hear from the House managers details of this scheme and the effort to hide it from Congress. The articles of impeachment that the House presented go to the heart of those efforts. And let me share a few key takeaways. The House of Representatives has found that, using the powers of his office, President Trump solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, in the 2020 US presidential election. He did so through a scheme or course of conduct that included soliciting the government of Ukraine to publicly announce investigations that would benefit his reelection, harm the election prospects of a political opponent and influence the 2020 US presidential election improperly and to his advantage.
Adam Schiff: (02:15:09)
President Trump also sought to pressure the government of Ukraine to take these steps by conditioning official United States government acts of significant value to Ukraine on Ukraine’s public announcement of these investigations. And he engaged in this scheme or course of conduct for corrupt purposes in pursuit of his personal political benefit. In doing so, President Trump used the powers of the presidency in a manner that compromised the national security of the United States and undermined the integrity of the US democratic process. He thus ignored and injured the interests of the nation.
Adam Schiff: (02:15:50)
As part of the House’s impeachment inquiry, the committee’s undertaking that investigation served subpoenas seeking documents and testimony deemed vital to the inquiry from various executive branch agencies and offices, current and former officials. In response and without lawful cause or excuse, President Trump directed executive branch agencies, offices and officials not to comply with those subpoenas. President Trump thus interposed the powers of the presidency against the lawful subpoenas of the House of Representatives and assumed to himself functions and judgements necessary to the exercise of the sole power of impeachment vested by the constitution in the House of Representatives.
Adam Schiff: (02:16:42)
As George Washington and his troops retreated across the Delaware River in early December 1776, they were read the words of Thomas Paine published that month in his pamphlet, The American Crisis. “These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will in this crisis shrink from the service of their country, but he that stands by it now deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.” 17 days later, George Washington crossed the Delaware, leading to a decisive victory for those who had come to shape our promising young country. As much as our founders feared an unchecked chief executive able to pursue his own will over the will of the people, they also feared the poison of excessive factionalism, that could divert us from a difficult service to our country. As George Washington warned in his farewell address, “The common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restraint it.”
Adam Schiff: (02:18:04)
Now, our political parties and affiliations are central to our democracy, ensuring that good and bad political philosophies alike are considered in the marketplace of ideas. Here, the American people can choose between the policies of [inaudible 02:18:21] decisions about their political leaders, up to and including the President of the United States, based on the degree to which that person represents their interests and values. That is not factionalism. That is the foundation of our democracy.
Adam Schiff: (02:18:39)
But when a leader takes the reigns of the highest office in our land and uses that awesome power to solicit the help of a foreign country to gain an unfair advantage in our free and fair elections, we all, Democrats and Republicans alike, must ask ourselves whether our loyalty is to our party or whether it is to our constitution. If we say that we will align ourselves with that leader, allowing our sense of duty to be usurped by an absolute executive, that is not democracy. It is not even factionalism. It is a step on the road towards tyranny.
Adam Schiff: (02:19:21)
The damage that this president has done to our relationship with a key strategic partner will be remedied over time. And Ukraine continues to enjoy strong bipartisan support in Congress. But if we fail to act, the damage to our democratic elections, to our national security, to our system of checks and balances, will be long lasting and potentially irreversible. As you will hear in the coming days, President Trump has acted in a manner grossly incompatible with self-governance. His conduct has violated his oath of office and his constitutional duty to faithfully execute the law. He has shown no willingness to be constrained by the rule of law and has demonstrated that he will continue to abuse his power and obstruct investigations into himself causing further damage to the pillars of our democracy if he is not held accountable.
Adam Schiff: (02:20:26)
He cannot be charged with a crime, so says the Department of Justice. There is no remedy for such a threat, but removal from office of the President of the United States. If impeachment and removal cannot hold him accountable, then he truly is above the law. We are nearly two-and-a-half centuries into this beautiful experiment of American democracy, but our future is not assured. As Benjamin Franklin departed the constitutional convention, he was asked, “What have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” He responded simply, “A republic, if you can keep it.” A fair trial, impartial consideration of all of the evidence against the president is how we keep our republic. That concludes our introduction.
Chief Justice: (02:21:25)
The majority leader is [crosstalk 02:21:26]
Speaker 3: (02:21:26)
Chief Justice, colleagues, I suggest we have a recess until 10 minutes to 4:00, at which moment we’ll reconvene subject to call the Chair.
Chief Justice: (02:21:39)
Without objection. So ordered.