House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) issued the opening statement on the impeachment inquiry President Donald Trump is risking altering the balance of power in the government.
“If the president can simply refuse all oversight, particularly in the context of an impeachment proceeding, the balance of power between our two branches of government will be irrevocably altered,” Schiff said Wednesday in his opening statement.
“That is not what the founders intended, and the prospects for further corruption and abuse of power in this administration or any other will be exponentially increased,” Schiff added.
The opened the hearing by detailing several key parts of the testimony of three House committees leading the impeachment inquiry into Trump following several weeks of closed-door depositions from several bureaucrats. They have alleged that the White House may have withheld aid to Ukraine in exchange for investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden, who is a 2020 presidential candidate. Trump has denied the allegations.
“If this is not impeachable conduct, what is,” Schiff said.
House Intelligence ranking member Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), also issued an opening statement, saying that the current impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump is effectively a show trial.
Democrats failed to “engaged in a last-ditch effort” to paint Trump as a “Russian agent,” and now the current impeachment inquiry is a continuation of the “Russian hoax,” Nunes said.
“What we will witness today is a televised, theatrical performance staged by the Democrats … It seems you agreed wittingly or unwittingly to participate in a drama,” Nunes said.
Nunes said that crucial questions should be answered: What is the full extent of the Democrats’ coordination with the whistleblower, what is the full extent of Ukraine’s election meddling in the Trump campaign, why did Burisma hire Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, and how did it interface with the Obama administration.
He also blasted the “cult-like atmosphere in the basement of the Capitol” when Democrats questioned witnesses before releasing a flood of misleading, one-sided leaks while selecting officials for impeachment depositions who would fit their narrative
On Wednesday, diplomats Bill Taylor and George Kent are slated to testify in the public hearing.
This week’s hearings, where Americans are hearing directly for the first time from people involved in events that sparked the congressional inquiry, may pave the way for the Democratic-led House to approve articles of impeachment—formal charges—against Trump.
That would lead to a trial in the Senate on whether to convict Trump of those charges and remove him from office. Republicans control the Senate and have shown little support for Trump’s removal.
Reuters contributed to this report.