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House Judiciary Committee ranking member Doug Collins. Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, slammed Democrats for "abusing their power" in his opening remarks at Wednesday's hearing to debate the two articles of impeachment against President Trump.

The big picture: Collins accused Democrats of "lying" about the criteria for impeachment and said, "the biggest, most dangerous lie is that the president, as an American citizen, is guilty until proven innocent."

Read Collins' full opening statement:

"Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Well, here we are — looking at articles of impeachment we always knew were coming. 

The moment we learned Democrats would hold the House majority in the 116th Congress, it was inevitable we would be here, marking up articles of impeachment against President Trump.

I thought we’d be somewhere else — namely, the Judiciary Committee hearing room, where so much history has happened. The Nixon and Clinton impeachment proceedings, for example.

The speaker, however, decided it was more important to pack in as many cameras as possible. This impeachment process has trampled on the time-honored precedents and traditions of the House, so I suppose it’s fitting we’re not besmirching our historic Judiciary hearing room with this.

Regardless, for this committee, this day was inevitable. That is because, for House Democrats, the conclusion was never in doubt. 

Since the day President Trump was elected, Democrats have engaged in a crusade to impeach him, and the facts really do not matter.

On January 30, 2017 — eleven days into the Trump Administration — attorney Mark Zaid tweeted, the 'coup has started.' Mr. Zaid, incidentally, is the attorney representing the whistleblower who initiated this inquiry.

On January 4, 2019, our colleague Rashida Tlaib said, 'We’re going to impeach the M-F-er.' That’s your modern Democratic Party — always keeping it classy.

In May 2019, our colleague Al Green infamously stated, 'I’m concerned that if we don’t impeach this president, he will get reelected.'

On November 18, 2019, Speaker Pelosi told the entire Democrat Caucus that it would be 'dangerous' to leave it to American voters to determine whether President Trump stays in office.

That, in a nutshell, is why we are here.

For Democrats, it has been and will always be, to paraphrase Lewis Carroll, 'sentence first, verdict later.'

The only thing Democrats didn’t have was the facts to support that verdict, and, today, they still don’t have the facts. 

The chairman recently stated that a jury, upon reviewing the so-called 'facts' compiled in this report, would convict 'in three minutes flat.'

Convict of what? On what evidence? The truth is a judge would grant a motion to dismiss in less than three minutes flat. There is no crime alleged anywhere in the articles we are marking up today. 

There’s no bribery — that’s not one of the articles. 

It’s well-established that Democrats, despite their newfound commitment to 'the intent of the Framers,' have completely misunderstood the Constitution’s meaning. Professor Turley explained that during the hearing we had last week. It’s ok, my friends — you’re new to this. Mistakes happen when you’re learning.

Is there evidence of the crime of obstruction of justice? No, and that’s not one of the articles either. Even though Judiciary Democrats, led by Chairman Nadler, wasted nine months on their 'investigations' into this president, not a single thing from that nine months of investigation made it into the articles.

I’m sorry, but that’s embarrassing. Nine months of work, straight out the window.

I suppose the chairman meant a jury would convict the president of 'abuse of power' or 'obstruction of Congress.' Again, last time I checked, those aren’t crimes, at least not in the way they are presented in these articles. I’d thought the Judiciary Committee Chairman, with jurisdiction over Title 18, might realize that.

Frankly, it’s unclear what those terms even mean. There’s no legal standard I’m aware of for measuring when someone has abused his or her power. It’s a subjective concept, but, to Democrats, it’s happened. 

This is the best they’ve got, and it’s consistent with their approach to this entire so-called 'impeachment inquiry': Conclusions first, investigations second, and facts last.

So here we sit. You know what this is really about? It’s not about so-called abuse of power, or so-called obstruction of Congress. It’s about what I like to call the Big Lie.

What’s the Big Lie? It’s the one Democrats have told the American people for the last three years. 

The Big Lie is that the ends justify the means.

The Big Lie is that a sham impeachment is okay because the threat is so great. 

The Big Lie is that political expedience is honorable and justifiable. History has shown that to be untrue and dangerous. 

The Big Lie is that Adam Schiff had evidence 'in plain sight' that President Trump colluded with Russia. Special Counsel Mueller’s report debunked that lie, but Democrats continue spreading this lie. 

The Big Lie is that the evidence for impeachment is 'overwhelming and uncontested,' and 'the facts are undisputed,' ignoring the fact that nearly every elected Republican, and millions of Americans, dispute Schiff’s 'findings.'

Before that, of course, Democrats lied about Chairman Schiff’s contact with the whistleblower and Congress’s duty to talk to him or her. 

Democrats lied about the criteria for this impeachment. 

Speaker Pelosi said in March the House would not move forward with impeachment unless it was 'compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan.'

Well, it’s not bipartisan. In fact, you’re losing Democrats, not gaining Republicans. There are reports that moderate Democrats are extremely nervous about voting to impeach the president on this pathetic record. They should be.

Let’s focus on these so-called 'articles of impeachment' for a moment. 

Article I charges the president with 'abuse of power.' That’s funny. I’ve already discussed how Democrats don’t have the evidence to allege an actual crime against this president — so instead, they resort to this vague 'abuse of power' article. 

If this investigation has shown anything, it’s that Democrats are the ones abusing their power.

Democrats ignored or blocked the admission of exculpatory evidence that doesn’t fit the narrative fabricated by Chairman Schiff and Speaker Pelosi. 

Democrats threatened witnesses that, if they didn’t comply, it would be used against them and the president.

Democrats instructed witnesses not to respond to relevant lines of questioning from Republicans.

Democrats, led by Chairman Schiff, cherry-picked and leaked information favorable to them, while suppressing information helpful to the president.

I could go on. The abuses of power have been by Democrats, not the president. In fact:

The president did not commit any crimes.

The president had a longstanding skepticism of foreign aid and a deeply-held belief that Ukraine was corrupt, and not a good destination for American taxpayer dollars.

The president was protecting taxpayer dollars from going to a corrupt nation because 'it’s as good as kissing it goodbye.'

The president released the aid only after several people, including Vice President Pence and Senator Ron Johnson, assured him Ukraine was taking meaningful steps to address corruption. 

After a 55-day pause, Ukraine received the aid and a meeting with President Trump, and never opened an investigation.

The second article is 'Obstruction of Congress.' Now, this really strains credulity. At our hearing earlier this week, my friend Congresswoman Lofgren tried to equate the Clinton impeachment investigation with this one. 

She said that, even though this impeachment had proceeded from the opening of the investigation to the presentations of evidence in a mere 76 days, that was fine because the Clinton impeachment took 73 days.

Those 73 days, however, were preceded by four years and 35 days of investigative work performed by the independent counsel. No stone was left unturned in the Clinton impeachment.

That did not happen here — not even close.

Why? Because House Democrats have been ordered to impeach the president before Christmas, and more than a half-dozen Democrat senators are running for president and don’t want to be in Washington when they are hoping to be in Iowa.

So here we are. Democrats have moved this 'impeachment inquiry' at breakneck speed. They have utterly failed to engage in the time-honored accommodations process. They have instead lurched directly to impeachment.

Democrats do not recognize that the facts do not align with their claims of obstruction. 

As Professor Turley told us, the president has legitimate constitutional privileges, and it is for the courts to determine the contours of these privileges. 

The White House released two call transcripts to the public for review during this process. 

The president said, 'Go tell the truth,' when Ambassador Sondland told the president he was asked to testify before Congress.

Democrats actually engaged in a campaign of intimidation to prevent witnesses from providing testimony to the Intelligence Committee.

If Democrats really cared about any of this, they would use the courts to validate their claims, but Chairman Schiff and Speaker Pelosi haven’t.

Chairman Nadler has, of course, but his efforts don’t matter for the larger impeachment push.

So again, what’s the Big Lie? It is that the central allegations of the Democrats’ case against the president are false. The president’s conduct was completely lawful and in the best interests of American taxpayers.

The truth is, the president did not abuse his power. The president did not obstruct Congress.

As Professor Turley stated, this rush to impeachment is, instead, Congress’s own 'abuse of power.'

The speaker’s case, delivered courtesy of Chairman Schiff alone, is hardly compelling or overwhelming. The facts are in dispute, and the 'evidence' relied upon by Democrats is largely unreliable hearsay.

The biggest lie isn’t that the president committed an impeachable offense. That may be the most recognized lie in this impeachment fable, as more than half of Americans now oppose impeaching the president. 

The biggest, most dangerous lie is that the president, as an American citizen, is guilty until proven innocent.

Or, that he’s somehow placing himself above the law when he’s acted within the bounds of the law. That is what the Democrats are selling, and it is exclusively for their own political reasons.

The American people, to their credit, aren’t buying it."

Go deeper: House Democrats unveil articles of impeachment against Trump

Go deeper

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A series of powerful "atmospheric river" storms are delivering historic amounts of rainfall across parts of drought-stricken California and the Pacific Northwest.

Why it matters: The atmospheric river, packing large amounts of moisture, was causing Northern California to whiplash from drought to flood, as it slowly moved south overnight. It's triggered widespread power outages, flooding and mudslides.

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Sudan's civilian Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok was put under house arrest and several other ministers were detained Monday in what appears to be a military coup in the country, per local reports.

The latest: The head of the military faction of the Sudanese government, Gen. Abdul Fattah al-Burhan, said in a statement that he is announcing a state of emergency, suspending several parts of the interim constitution and dissolving the civilian government and interim sovereignty council — the highest governing body in the country.

Facebook's pivotal week

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

They're battening down the hatches at Facebook headquarters this week as the company faces a trifecta of tumult: a continuing wave of negative press coverage fueled by document leaks, a critical earnings report Monday and a reported name change looming.

The big picture: All this is unfolding as Mark Zuckerberg tries to transform Facebook from a social network into the prime mover behind a new "metaverse" of VR- and AR-driven remote work and play.