U.S. House Hearings Present Open, Televised Testimony Against President Trump

In his defense, President Donald Trump's supporters point to what the Republican from New York described as a "perfect" transcript of summer phone calls with Ukraine's president. Trump admitted requesting help investigating alleged corruption in Ukraine. The matter allegedly involved former Vice President Joe Biden's son, Hunter.

Westchester/Bronx Congressman Eliot L. Engell prepping for a live television appearance on Wednesday, Nov. 13 with CNN's Wolf Blitzer.
Westchester/Bronx Congressman Eliot L. Engell prepping for a live television appearance on Wednesday, Nov. 13 with CNN's Wolf Blitzer. Photo Credit: @RepEliotEngel

Outside the White House fence, protesters chanted during Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erogan's visit to Washington, D.C. 

During a news conference Wednesday afternoon, President Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan faced reporters from their respective countries on the issues of the day. Trump called on his favorite news outlets — One America News Network (OAN) and Fox News — and proceeded to give unsurprising answers about the impeachment hearings that just started on Capitol Hill. “Are you talking about the witch hunt, is that what you mean?” he said.

Protesters outside shouted, "We are here to stop the invaders. The world is watching 1950s. Silently. Like 1930 in daquow. "They are trying to stop me because I am fighting for you.And that will never happen."

Yet Trump has a knack for making news via small talk — stray chatter that often exposes carefully cultivated ignorance about the world around him. Or the words betray an authentic authoritarian streak, as the case may be: As Erdogan went about choosing a reporter from whom to take a question, Trump provided some color commentary: “A friendly person from Turkey, please. Friendly. Only friendly reporters — we like to see. There aren’t too many of them around," he said. "We need nice reporters."

President Trump, who openly withheld U.S. military money pending answers about Biden, a leading Democratic contender for president next year, issued a statement calling this week's congressional hearings: "The single greatest scam in the history of politics. They're trying to stop  me because I am fighting for you. and that will never happen."

The lobbying exchange also includes help from former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. 

But no original tape or detailed notes from any calls have been released. The press and general public appear confused by the distinction. Some federal officials have been quoted as saying the original phone transcript may be locked down, per classified protocol. Some of those government officials have, often reluctantly, agreed to testify before Congress, some against the advice of White House counsel. Others fear subpoenas, charges for obstruction of justice or perjury as new facts get verified.

Meanwhile, Kentucky Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday that Republican senators will not be watching the U.S. House of Representatives' impeachment hearings. McConnell, who is up for re-election next fall 2020, said Senators will instead be paying attention to the Senate's business Wednesday instead of the first day of the House's public impeachment hearings.

McConnell is one of several Republican senators who said Tuesday, Nov. 12 that they don’t plan to watch the House's impeachment proceedings when they are televised live this week.

“Tomorrow, I’m going to be paying attention to what we’re doing in the Senate,” McConnell said when asked if he would watch any of this week’s scheduled impeachment hearings.

Other members of Senate GOP leadership said they would tune out this week’s House hearings and would only pay attention to the arguments of House prosecutors after the House passes articles of impeachment, if the lower chamber in fact goes that far.

“I’ve got other things to do,” said Texas Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican adviser to McConnell.

“I think it’s a political sideshow, and I’ve got more important things to do,” Cornyn said, indicating he would wait until the matter comes to the Senate before giving it his attention. “The House has its job to do, and then when it comes to us, that’s when our job kicks in.”

Senate Republican Policy Committee Chairman Roy Blunt of Missouri said, “I don’t see any time in my schedule that I would be likely to watch any of it tomorrow.”

The House Intelligence Committee, which includes New York Congressmen Sean Patrick Maloney of Cold Spring and Connecticut U.S. Rep Jim Himes, opened its first public impeachment hearing on Wednesday, Nov.13 when it was scheduled to hear testimony from William Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine, and George Kent, deputy secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs. 

U.S. Rep. Eliot L. Engel, a Democrat who represents the Bronx and southern Westchester also has subpoenaed witnesses and testimony as chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Engel faces a Democratic primary challenge in the spring of 2020. He was invited to speak to CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Wednesday, which Engel announced here on Twitter. Engel faces a Democratic primary challenge in the spring of 2020.

Earlier on Wednesday, Maloney tweeted: "My view from the dais on this somber day. I did not come to Congress to impeach a president -- but I took an oath to uphold the Constitution, and I don’t take that lightly." Maloney, a Democrat, represents northern Westchester and part of Orange, Rockland and Putnam counties in New York state. Maloney also is up for re-election in 2020. 

The Washington, D.C., hearing is drawing intense media coverage, but key Republican senators, who would ultimately try any articles of impeachment passed by the House, said they are not eager to watch any developments as they unfold.

Senate Republican Conference Vice Chairwoman Joni Ernst of Iowa said she plans to catch up on Wednesday’s developments in the evening but explained, “I have committee meetings that I’ll be engaged in” while the U.S. House hearings are going on.

Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said, “I don’t have time to watch that tomorrow.”

An aide to Grassley pointed out that the Senate Judiciary Committee will meet at the same time as the House proceedings.

Grassley said it would be “worth it” to pay attention when Democrats “decide to give due process to [the] minority party the same way we did when (Bill) Clinton of Chappaqua and (Richard) Nixon were involved,” referring to the 1973-1974 and 1998-1999 impeachment efforts. Clinton was impeached but not convicted by the Senate. Nixon resigned before a Senate trial.

Senate Republicans have argued the House impeachment investigation is unfair because it doesn’t give Republican lawmakers enough power to call competing witnesses or the president’s defense team enough opportunity to cross-examine officials who testify. 

In other news accounts this week: 

-- House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Democrat from Maryland, denounced efforts by Republicans to win testimony in the impeachment probe from the whistleblower whose report triggered the House inquiry. Hoyer, the second-ranking Democrat in the House, called the efforts "despicable," according to this report on Wednesday by the Hill.

-- A World War II veteran threatened to shoot anti-Trump protesters, including other U.S. veterans, if he could get a hand on a gun. 

According to multiple news reports, the World War II veteran angrily confronted a group of anti-Trump protestors—who also identified themselves as U.S. veterans—during a New York City parade for Veterans Day on Monday, Nov.11, while allegedly threatening to shoot them all.

In footage shot by a journalist for ScooterCaster, and shared widely on social media, including a retweet by Donald Trump Jr., the elderly veteran approached a group of protesters standing on the sidewalk during the parade to chastise them.

"We're all vets just like you, sir. We're all vets," said one of the protesters, who stood in front of a banner that read: "Trump: Veterans aren't your political props."

"Are you enjoying this country?" asked the WWII veteran, who said he served in the Pacific under Gen. Douglas MacArthur and was at the surrender of Japan.

The protesting veterans started chanting: "Here for the vets, not for Trump."

In another video of the same confrontation, shown by CBS News, the protester said he did not want to take on the elder veteran. "I want to punch the shit out of him," the WWII veteran responded, pointing at the protester, before concluding they all have "a lot of hate."

"You're full of hate," a woman who was protesting replied. "We're trying to support you and you're here screaming at us."

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