(CNN) On Wednesday morning, the House Judiciary Committee convened its first hearing in the impeachment investigation into President Donald Trump — bringing in four constitutional lawyers to debate what, exactly, constitutes “high crimes and misdemeanors” and whether the President had committed any of those acts.
I watched the hearing and identified key moments and takeaways in real time. They’re below.
It became clear within the first five minutes of the hearing that Republicans were committed to trying to gum up the works using a variety of parliamentary stall tactics. Within the first 90 minutes of the hearing, Republicans forced roll call votes of the 41 members on the committee three times — once to try to force Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, to testify, once to postpone the hearings and a third time to force the so-called “whistleblower” to testify. While all those motions were voted down — as will all such future motions offered by Republicans on Wednesday — they had the desired slow-down effect nonetheless.
These stall tactics by Republicans are a marked changed from the public impeachment hearings in the House Intelligence Committee, where there were very few similar attempts to disrupt the proceedings by the minority party. That change speaks to the cultural difference between the two committees. The Intelligence Committee is a small committee (20-ish members) with, typically, more workhorses than showhorses. The Judiciary Committee is almost twice as large in terms of members and packed with showhorses on both sides of the aisle seeking to score points for the cameras.
All of which meant that Wednesday’s hearing was going to be a circus. And a slow one at that.
In his opening statement, Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, a New York Democrat, sought to address the biggest question Democrats face when it comes to the ongoing impeachment process: Why now? Especially when Trump will be up for reelection in less than a year?
“We are all aware that the next election is looming — but we cannot wait for the election to address the present crisis,” Nadler said. “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.”
In short: We can’t wait because there is every reason to believe that Trump will do what he did with Ukraine again and again before the 2020 election. And such behavior would set a hugely dangerous precedent for how future presidents — Democrat or Republican — can and should act.
Nadler’s argument won’t change the minds of his Republican colleagues in Congress. But they’re not the intended audience. Voters around the country are.