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Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., is the highest-ranking Republican member of the House Judiciary Committee, which will play an important role in the impeachment process. He joins Judy Woodruff to discuss his impressions from the inquiry’s first public hearing, including that there was “nothing new” shared by witnesses William Taylor and George Kent, and why Adam Schiff can’t “rubber stamp” impeachment.
We turn now to influential members of the U.S. House for their assessment of today's hearing.
First up, Representative Doug Collins of Georgia. He is the highest ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee.
Congressman, welcome back to the "NewsHour."
Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga.:
It's great to be back with you, Judy.
So I assume you were able to hear a lot, if not all of what was said today. What did you come away with?
Rep. Doug Collins:
Well, I think the big takeaway from today is nothing new.
This was nothing — the hearing was just a regurgitation of what we had been — heard leaked out from Adam Schiff in the closed-door hearings. We have already seen the transcripts from both of these witnesses.
So, really, what we heard today was just simply a public airing of what we have already read, I guess sort of — making a TV kind of movie out of a transcript already there.
But the big takeaway at the end of the day was, there's nothing new here. We go back to basics then. If there's nothing new in the testimony, then what do we know? We know that the call itself, there was no quid pro quo.
We know that from — coming out from today, there was no linkage. In fact, Mr. — Ambassador Taylor kept saying there was no linkage that he had. He had conversations with Zelensky in which it never came up. We also found that they did get the aid and they did nothing to get it.
So as we look forward to this, and that there was no pressure — so, at the end of the day, I sort of ask the question — and I have heard all these comments about how amazing this day was.
At the end of the day, there was nothing new here.
Well, as you know, the Democrats have a very — a different view of this.
They would point to the testimony and say that there was linkage in the — in those conversations, not just the phone call, but otherwise.
You also had Ambassador Taylor saying today that he had an aide who, after he testified in closed session, an aide who told him about overhearing President Trump refer to investigations.
So, we know there are two different sides or interpretations. But, at this point, your committee, the Judiciary Committee, will receive whatever comes out of the — this committee, the Intelligence Committee.
And you and other Republicans today sent a letter to the leadership of the House today. What are you asking for?
Well, we'd like to at least see, if they going to actually do this, then actually to bring it back to historical norms.
That's what we're missing right now, and not only in the substance. There's no substance here that actually is a problem. We have actually called that — sort of funny you bring up the only thing that they bring up today that is new was an overheard hearsay phone call.
If there was nothing more in this — the testimony today was a lot of hearsay. So, if I was Democrats, I'd hang on everything I could too.
But, from my letter, perspective is, is saying, OK, when it comes back to the Judiciary, this is the historical home of impeachment, whether you agree or disagree. And there's a lot of problems with what we have seen over the past few weeks.
So if you're going to do this properly, you're going to send it to us, and now look to actually overturn an election, then it's time the Judiciary Committee, who has been sidelined because of the ineptness, I believe, during the Russia investigation, come back in and actually do this properly, so that all sides, including the president, are represented.
That's something that is missing in this project. We're going to see that go forward. And, by the way, when we do get it back, and Mr. Schiff sends a report to us, Mr. Schiff should be — Adam Schiff should be the first witness to sit there and take questions about this, because he is the one that is driving this whole process.
Do you believe it is acceptable for the president of the United States to ask a foreign leader to investigate a political rival?
I would reject the premise of the question.
I think what we have here is a president who actually asked about corruption, which he is required to do under the law. Now, where that corruption may lead is up to whoever committed the corruption. And we have already had outside sources, not the president, mainstream news sources, who reported the problems with the Hunter Biden situation and Joe Biden situation.
In fact, even the gentleman today, Mr. Kent, talked about that. And he raised concerns about Hunter Biden's proximity in this Burisma.
So at this point in time, what he was asking for was to investigate what went on through the Ukraine in the 2016 election. Now, this is often missed, Judy. The 2016 election, Ukrainians were very big in what we now know is the Russian collusion or Russian hoax that fell flat in the Mueller investigation.
Ukrainians were involved in that in many different ways, from — from Mr. Manafort to the black ledger to other things that we have seen.
So, this is what he was actually asking for. So we can spin it however we want to, but there is a legitimate reason to ask about corruption in the Ukraine.
Well, you're are correct that there were — there are questions raised that are still out there about the role that Hunter Biden played in that energy company in Ukraine.
But, at the same time, two other points. Number one is, as I understand it, it is not proven. There hasn't been anything proven about Ukraine's involvement in the 2016 election.
And we know, in that phone call between President Trump and the president of Ukraine, President Trump never used the word corruption. At least, that was what was testified today.
But what I want to come back to you, finally…
Well, can I jump in right there, Judy?
You said Ukraine. You said Ukraine.
And I want to be very specific here. I didn't say Ukraine as a country. I said Ukrainians. There were — and that was a mix that was coming through Ukraine, through the Ukrainians who were there.
So let's not — I mean, I don't want it to be mixed up, say the Ukrainian state was part of this. There was Ukrainians in this mix. So that's the main point that I want to make there, just to clarify.
And what I meant to say, the word corruption, according the transcript, didn't come up in that conversation.
But just very quickly, how long do you think this process is going to take? What's your expectation?
Well, I think, right now, what the — it looks like from Adam Schiff and what he said is, there going is to be one more hearing on — a public hearing on Friday.
Then we have set up probably eight more witnesses coming in next week to do public hearings. I think it — from their own time frame, they're trying — they're rushed on this because they're trying to get it out because they don't want to appear to be trying to interfere in the 2020 presidential election.
So you will see it come to us in December, is my understanding. But this is where it gets really challenging. If they're going to simply try to rubber-stamp it through the Judiciary Committee, I'm putting them on notice right now that will not be an easy process, because you cannot come and just simply rubber-stamp articles of impeachment that are designed to overturn an election.
Congressman Doug Collins, the ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, thank you.
Judy, it's always good to be with you.
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