All eyes were on moderate House Democrats in swing districts Wednesday night, after the first day of public hearings in the impeachment inquiry against President Trump wrapped up with no major revelations — but also highlighted weaknesses in Democrats’ key witnesses, who relied primarily on second-hand information and never once interacted with the president.
At one point in Wednesday’s hearing, Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., even appeared to embrace hearsay testimony, claiming that “hearsay can be much better evidence than direct” and that “countless people have been convicted on hearsay because the courts have routinely allowed and created, needed exceptions to hearsay.” It was unclear which of those limited exceptions would apply to Wednesday’s testimony — and whether Quigley’s argument would persuade critical swing-vote Democrats.
The House is now comprised of 431 members, meaning Democrats need 217 yeas to impeach Trump. There are currently 233 Democrats, so Democrats can only lose 16 of their own and still impeach the president. 31 House Democrats represent more moderate districts that Trump carried in 2016.
Freshman Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich. — who flipped a GOP district in 2018 that Trump won by 7 points in 2016 — told Fox News that she was tentatively weighing all the evidence.
“My constituents expect me to make an objective decision,” Slotkin said as the hearings concluded, “not one based on an hour of testimony.” Slotkin went on to acknowledge that launching an impeachment inquiry was a “politically tough thing to do.”
“I’m not waking up in the morning looking for some golden poll,” Slotkin said, insisting that she would analyze all testimony carefully in the coming days.
Reports have emerged that, should Trump be impeached by a majority vote in the House, Senate Republicans might strategically hold a lengthy trial to “scramble” the 2020 Democratic presidential primary — including by requiring several of the contenders to remain in Washington to handle the trial. Trump is all but certain to be acquitted by the GOP-controlled Senate in the event of impeachment, given that a two-thirds vote is required in the Senate to remove the president. As the public hearing wrapped up on Wednesday, the panel voted 13-9, along party lines, to table a Republican motion to subpoena the whistleblower — signaling that not many minds had been swayed.
A GOP source close to the House Intelligence Committee told Fox News late Wednesday that Republicans have full confidence in counsel Steve Castor, and he will continue to lead the questioning in the next round of public impeachment hearings. GOP members were pleased with his questioning today, the source said.
The day offered one previously undisclosed allegation. Career diplomat William Taylor, the charge d’affaires in Kiev, offered testimony, for the first time, that the president was overheard by a member of his staff on July 26 asking EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland about “the investigations,” to which Sondland supposedly responded that “the Ukrainians were ready to move forward.” Taylor said that following Sondland’s call with Trump, the member of his staff asked what Trump thought about Ukraine.
“Ambassador Sondland responded that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden, which Giuliani was pressing for,” Taylor said, revealing new information from his prior testimony last month. “At the time I gave my deposition on October 22, I was not aware of this information. I am including it for completeness.” But, Republicans pointed out that Taylor’s testimony was unverifiable hearsay, several layers deep — and that Sondland has previously testified that Trump explicitly told him there were “no quid pro quo’s of any kind” with Ukraine, including one in which military aid would be conditioned on any politically motivated investigations.