In his opening statement at Wednesday's impeachment inquiry hearing, Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler quoted Alexander Hamilton's description of the sort of president that would pose the greatest danger to the Republic to describe President Trump's actions.
"When a man unprincipled in private life, desperate in his fortune, bold in his temper, possessed of considerable talents, known to have scoffed in private at the principles of liberty, when such a man is seen to mount the hobby horse of popularity to join the cry of danger to liberty, to take every opportunity of embarrassing the general government and bringing it under suspicion, it may justly be suspected his object is to throw things into confusion, that he may ride the storm and direct the whirlwind," Nadler said, paraphrasing Alexander Hamilton's "Objections and Answers Respecting the Administration, August 18, 1792."
REP. JERRY NADLER: As we exercise our responsibility to determine whether this pattern of behavior constitutes an impeachable offense, it's important to place President Trump's conduct into historical context.
Since the founding of our country, the House of Representatives has impeached only two presidents. A third was on his way to impeachment when he was resigned. This committee hasn't voted to impeach two presidents. We have voted to impeach one president for obstructing a congressional investigation. To the extent that President Trump's conduct fits these categories, there's a precedent for recommending impeachment here.
Never before in the history of the republic have we been forced to consider the conduct of a president who has solicited favors from a foreign government. Never before has a president engaged in a course of conduct that included all of the acts that most concerned the framers.
The patriots who founded our country were not fearful men. They fought a war. They witnessed terrible violence. They overthrew a king. But as they meant to frame our Constitution, those patriots still feared one threat above all, foreign interference in our elections. They had jsut deposed a tyrant and they were deeply worried we would lose our newfound liberty, not through a war. If a foreign army were to invade we'd see that coming, but from corruption from within.
In the early years of the Republic, they asked each of us to be vigilant to that threat. Washington warned us quote, "To be constantly awake since history had experienced proved foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government."
Adams wrote to Jefferson: "As often as elections happen, the danger of foreign influence recurs."
Hamilton's warning was more specific and more dire. In the Federalist Papers, he wrote, "The most deadly adversaries of Republican government," end quote, "would certainly attempt" to quote, "raise a creature of their own for the chief magistracy of the union."
In short, the Founder warned us that we should expect our foreign adversaries to target our elections and that we would find ourselves in great danger if the president willingly opens to door to their influence.
What kind of president would do that? How will we know if the president has betrayed his country in this manner? How will we know if he's betrayed his country in this manner for petty personal gain?
Hamilton had a response for that as well. He wrote: "When a man unprincipled in private life, desperate in his fortune, bold in his temper, possessed of considerable talents, known to have scoffed in private at the principles of liberty, when such a man is seen to mount the hobby horse of popularity to join the cry of danger to liberty, to take every opportunity of embarrassing the general government and bringing it under suspicion, it may justly be suspected his object is to throw things into confusion, that he may ride the storm and direct the whirlwind."
Ladies and gentlemen, the storm in which we find ourselves today was set in motion by President Trump. I do not wish this moment on the country. But we have each taken an oath to protect the Constitution, and the facts before us are clear.
President Trump did not merely seek to benefit from foreign interference in our elections.
He directly and explicitly invited foreign interference in our elections. He used the powers of his office to try to make it happen. He sent his agents to make clear that this what he wanted. He was willing to compromise our security and his office for personal, political gain.
It does not matter that President Trump got caught and ultimately released the funds that Ukraine so desperately needed. It matters that he enlisted a foreign government to intervene in our elections in the first place.
It does not matter that President Trump felt that these investigations were unfair to him. It matters that he used his office, not merely to defend himself, but to obstruct investigators at every turn.
We are all aware that the next election is looming—but we cannot wait for the election to address the present crisis. The integrity of that election is the very thing at stake.
The President has shown us his pattern of conduct. If we do not act to hold him in check—now—President Trump will almost certainly try again to solicit interference in the election for his personal, political benefit.
Today, we will begin our conversation where we should, with the text of the Constitution.
We are empowered to recommend the impeachment of President Trump to the House if we find that he has committed treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.
Our witness panel will help us to guide that conversation.
In a few days, we will reconvene and hear from the committees that worked to uncover the facts before us. And when we apply the Constitution to those facts, if it is true that President Trump has committed an impeachable offense—or impeachable offenses—then we must move swiftly to do our duty and charge him accordingly.