Rep. Connolly says Democrats already have 'smoking gun' to impeach Trump

Jon Ward
Senior Political Correspondent

 

A Democrat who attended most of the closed-door depositions over the past month said that while the beginning of public hearings will be instructive for Americans, President Trump has already given Congress all the evidence it needs to impeach him.

The reconstructed partial transcript of Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky “is the smoking gun,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., who has represented the Northern Virginia suburbs for the last decade. 

“It’s right in front of us,” Connolly said in an interview with Yahoo News. 

He also announced that he has jumped into the contest to succeed Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., as the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee following the lawmaker’s recent death.

“I miss him terribly. It would be a great honor to succeed him,” Connolly said. “I am running right now. I’m speaking to a number of different parts of our caucus this week, and we’ll see where that takes us.”

Connolly will not be part of the impeachment hearings on Wednesday because he is not on the House Intelligence Committee. But his seat on Oversight allowed him to sit in on close to a dozen closed-door depositions that were conducted by three committees conducting the investigation under the leadership of Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif.

Most of the transcripts of those depositions have been released, and Connolly said they paint “a very, very disturbing picture of a president using his office and using taxpayer-funded military assistance for a country that is under siege from active Russian combat to further his own private political purposes, to get dirt on a prospective political opponent. That is abuse of office on its face.

Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., listens to a question from a reporter as he leaves a closed door meeting where Catherine Croft, a State Department adviser on Ukraine, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Laura Cooper testify as part of the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2019. (Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP)

“It’s also extortion,” he said. “Extortion doesn’t have to be successful to be a crime.”

Republicans defending Trump have said that because nearly $400 million in assistance to Ukraine was released on Sept. 11, and Zelensky never made a public statement about investigating Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, there was never a delivery of the “favor” that Trump had requested.

Connolly said there is “zero chance” that the Senate, where Republicans have a 53-seat majority, will find Trump guilty of the charges brought against him in the House. The U.S. Constitution requires that two-thirds of the Senate vote in favor of conviction, which would result in the president being removed from office.

“That requires at least 20 Republicans to vote to convict,” Connolly said. “There’s no likelihood of that, in my private opinion.”

So why impeach in the first place? Connolly said Congress has a “constitutional responsibility to protect our form of government from abuse.”

“And when we have an executive, president, who is in fact abusing his office and jeopardizing that constitutional framework, we have an obligation to act,” he said.

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