ABUSE OF POWER OR A “DRAMA?”
by Sharon Rondeau
Within the first 30 seconds, Schiff was interrupted by a request for a “Point of Order” by Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX4), who asked for clarification on the “new rules” Schiff has set forth for the hearings.
Schiff responded to Ratcliffe and insisted on orderliness during the remainder of the hearing.
At 10:09, Schiff said that after Volodymyr Zelenskiy was elected president of Ukraine this past spring, he sought to establish a beneficial relationship with the United States.
Schiff said it is a “debunked conspiracy that Ukraine, not Russia, hacked the 2016 U.S. election” made by Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani.
Schiff said that the removal of former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch was wrongly removed from her post.
At 10:12, Schiff claimed that a July meeting at the White House sought an investigation on Ukraine’s part into its energy sector was a factor in Trump’s alleged abuse of power and request for political favors.
Schiff said that Trump’s request of Zelenskiy for “a favor” during a July 25 phone call was for “personal” benefit and that the White House “took the extraordinary step” of placing the transcript of the call in a highly-secretive place.
Schiff said that Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland gave “ominous” testimony during a closed-door hearing the committee recently conducted.
On September 24, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced the “impeachment inquiry” after word of a “whistleblower” complaint was made public. Schiff did not initially disclose that his staff met or spoke with the “whistleblower,” and Schiff has asked committee Republicans not to invoke the individual’s alleged identity.
At 10:20, Schiff yielded to ranking member Devin Nunes, who recounted that “some” Democrats, without naming Schiff, made “false” claims that Trump was colluding with Russia, a fact not established by a 22-month investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
The Democrats are now saying that collaboration with Ukraine, instead of Russia, is now Trump’s alleged crime.
Nunes said that after the private hearings in the basement of the Capitol over the last several weeks which Schiff primarily led, Democrats leaked portions of transcripts selectively and “orchestrated” the current “inquiry.”
Nunes recounted, again without naming Schiff, that Schiff mischaracterized what Trump said on the call with Zelenskiy during a late September hearing with witness Acting DNI Joseph Maguire over the handling of the “whistleblower” complaint.
Previously, Nunes has claimed that the “Russia collusion” narrative began in Ukraine.
He said Wednesday’s hearing will be a “sham” and “a drama.” He accused “elements of the civil service” of seeing themselves as “in charge” rather than the elected president.
Nunes claimed that witnesses’ statements behind closed doors were often based on “rumors and innuendo” and that Trump had the authority to fire Yovanovitch. He further accused the FBI, State Department and other government functionaries of attempted to usurp political power.
Just after Schiff introduced the witnesses, Rep. Elise Stefanik asked for a parliamentary point and point of order about Republicans’ witness list, three of whom Schiff approved on Tuesday night.
Following Schiff’s response to Stefanik, Rep. Mike Conaway asked that the committee “speak to the issue” as to whether or not whistleblower is to testify. Schiff had originally stated that he or she would appear very soon in public, a claim he altered after The New York Times reported that Schiff’s staff had interacted with the individual prior to the complaint becoming public.
Rep. Jim Jordan then interjected to ask if the whistleblower will be asked to testify, to which Schiff responded that anyone could be asked to testify. Schiff said that Jordan’s claim that he “knew who the whistleblower is” is false.