Cole: "This is no way to go about impeaching a president"
Remarks as prepared for delivery during floor debate on the rule for two articles of impeachment against President Trump:
Madam Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Massachusetts, Chairman McGovern, for yielding me the customary 30 minutes, and I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Well, Madam Speaker, today is a very sad day for all us – for me personally, for the Rules Committee, for the entire House of Representatives and most importantly for the American people. For the second time in my life, the House of Representatives will be voting to impeach a president of the United States. But unlike in 1998, the decision to have this vote is not the result of a bipartisan process, nor an open or a fair process. Instead, it is going to be a deeply partisan vote, coming at the end of an unfair and rushed process prescribed solely by Democrats to ensure a predetermined result.
Impeachment of a president is one of the most consequential acts the House of Representatives can undertake, and it should only be done after the fullest and most careful consideration. Yet today, after a truncated investigation that denied the president due process, cherry-picked evidence and witness testimony to fit their narrative and trampled on Republicans’ minority rights, Democrats in the House are pressing forward with a partisan impeachment vote. Doing so contradicts Speaker Pelosi’s own words back in March of this year when she said that, “Impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there's something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don't think we should go down that path, because it divides the country.”
But if we’re really being honest, Democrats have been searching for a reason to impeach President Trump since the day he was elected. In December of 2017, a current member of the majority forced a vote to impeach the president, and even then, long before there was even an impeachment investigation, 58 Democrats voted to impeach the president. And those numbers have only grown since then, to the point where the majority is now pushing forward with a final vote on impeachment, heedless of where it takes the country and regardless of whether they have proven their case.
And if my colleagues in the majority believe they have proven their case, let me be clear: they have not. The entire premise of these articles of impeachment rests on a pause placed on Ukrainian security assistance – a pause of 55 days. The majority has spun creative narratives as to the meaning and motive of this pause, alleging that the president demanded a “quid pro quo” but with no factual evidence to back it up. Security aid to Ukraine was released, and the administration did so without Ukraine ever initiating an investigation into anyone or anything.
It’s even more startling to me that the majority wants to move forward with this resolution given how substantially flawed and procedurally defective the entire process has been. The Judiciary Committee, which drafted these articles of impeachment, engaged in an abbreviated process, hearing from no witnesses with firsthand knowledge of the events in question. They did not conduct their own investigation and only held two hearings on this topic before drafting the articles, one with staff and one with constitutional law scholars. That is hardly the type of lengthy and serious consideration a topic as grave as impeachment demands.
The committee actually charged with an impeachment investigation was the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, not the Judiciary Committee. But that committee, too, followed a primarily closed process. Republicans were denied the right to call witnesses or subpoena documents, and the president was denied the right to representation in that committee’s hearings. Without respecting minority rights and without respecting due process rights of the president, how can anyone consider that to be a fair process?
Madam Speaker, it gets worse. The articles of impeachment we are considering today are based on the Schiff Report, the final document produced by the Intelligence Committee and transmitted to the Judiciary Committee. But the Schiff Report includes unsubstantiated allegations. It includes, in some cases, news reports as the only evidence supporting so-called factual assertions. And it includes at least 54 different hearsay statements as assertions of evidence without any first-hand information from witnesses to corroborate those statements.
The author of the report, Chairman Schiff, was never questioned by the Judiciary Committee, and he refused to sit for questions or to explain how his committee conducted its investigation. In fact, during the staff presentation of evidence at the Judiciary Committee, Ranking Member Collins asked how the investigation was conducted that resulted in the drafting of the Schiff Report. But he never received an answer.
During the Rules Committee consideration of House Resolution 755, there were numerous times that members on both sides of the aisle posed questions to our witnesses – questions they could not answer because they sit on the Judiciary Committee and were not the author of the report that brought about H. Res. 755. The author has never appeared before members of the Minority to explain a single thing in the report or to provide factual information supporting the many assertions it contains
Madam Speaker, this is no way to go about impeaching the President of the United States. The articles before us are based on very limited information. They are based on hearsay, on news reports and on other unsupported allegations. They are based on a report written by a Member of Congress who refused to answer questions about it, and I do not believe the allegations – which are subject to interpretation actually rise to the level of an impeachable offense.
To make matters worse, when Republicans attempted to exercise one of their rights under House Rules, they were shut down by Chairman Nadler. Under Clause 2(j)(1) of Rule XII, the Minority is allowed to demand a minority hearing day. On December 4, Republicans on the Judiciary Committee properly exercised that right and transmitted a demand to Chairman Nadler for a hearing day at which the Minority could call their own witnesses. And to be clear, Madam Speaker, a minority hearing day is not subject to the chair’s discretion. It is a right, and Republicans on the Judiciary Committee properly demanded to exercise that right.
And yet Chairman Nadler declined to allow a minority hearing day to be held before voting on these articles. I think we can all agree that it would have been better for the institution and for the American people to allow all voices to be heard and all witnesses to be questioned before proceeding to a vote on something this consequential. And yet the majority trampled on that right.
But I suppose I should not be surprised by any of this. When the House passed H. Res. 660, the resolution setting up the official “impeachment inquiry” less than two months ago, I warned the House that what the majority was doing was setting up a closed, unfair process that could only have one outcome. And today, we are seeing the end result of this closed and unfair process. A quick rush to judgment, forced through not one but two committees in short order, with minority rights trampled, witnesses left unquestioned and due process ignored.
It is also disappointing that members are not being given more time to debate this issue on the floor. Last night at the Rules Committee, I offered an amendment to double the amount of time for floor debate from six hours to 12 hours. This would have allowed for roughly the same amount of debate used in the Clinton impeachment, and it would have ensured that all members could have the opportunity to speak on the floor. Unfortunately, that amendment was not accepted.
While I know Chairman McGovern did the best he could, I do think it is ironic that when all is said and done, the 13 members of the Rules Committee spent more time discussing H. Res. 755 in committee yesterday than we will spend debating it on the House floor today. I think that is a disservice to the members of this body and to the American people.
Madam Speaker, we deserve better than the flawed process that led to this flawed outcome. The House of Representatives deserves better than that. The president certainly deserves better than that. And more importantly, the American people deserve better than what we are doing here today.
I oppose this proceeding any further. I oppose the rule. I oppose this limited, rushed, and unfair process. And I certainly oppose impeaching President Trump.
With that, I urge opposition to the rule, and I reserve the balance of my time.