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Three Out of Four Professors Testify Trump's Actions Are Grounds for Impeachment

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Three Out of Four Professors Testify Trump's Actions Are Grounds for Impeachment

2019-12-05 13:14:00

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Pamela Karlan (Image source: Screenshot)

Three out of four law professors testified on Wednesday in the House Judiciary Committee's impeachment hearing that Donald Trump's actions with Ukraine are grounds for impeachment. The scholars stuck to party lines, yet it's still a very powerful statement that those who teach law believe the law is clear in this case. 

The one dissenting opinion was that of George Washington University professor Jonathan Turley. While he was invited to testify by Republicans, he admitted he voted against Donald Trump in 2016 and has been critical of his policies.

Yet, he opined that "if the House proceeds solely on the Ukrainian allegations, this impeachment would stand out among modern impeachments as the shortest proceedings, with the thinnest evidentiary record, and the narrowest escape grounds ever used to impeach a president." The professor added that it "does not bode well for future presidents who are working in a country often sharply and, at times, bitterly divided."  

University of North Carolina law professor Michael Gerhardt said Trump's conduct is "worse than the misconduct of any prior president, including what previous presidents who faced impeachment have done or been accused of doing."

He believes that "the record compiled thus far shows that the president has committed several impeachable offenses, including bribery, abuse of power in soliciting a personal favor from a foreign leader to benefit  his presidential campaign, obstructing Congress, and obstructing justice." 

The July 25 call when Trump asked Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, said Harvard Law School professor Noah Feldman, on its own "qualifies as an impeachable high crime and misdemeanor." He added that "President Trump's conduct described in the testimony and evidence clearly constitutes an impeachable high crime and misdemeanor under the Constitution.

Stanford University professor Pamela S. Karlan testified that "what has happened in the case before you is something that I do not think we have ever seen before: a president who has doubled down on violating his oath to 'faithfully execute' the laws and to 'protect and defend the Constitution.' " 

"The evidence reveals a president who used the powers of his office to demand that a foreign government participate in undermining a competing candidate for the presidency," she continued. "If we are to keep faith with the Constitution and our Republic, President Trump must be held to account."

Trump's reelection campaign manager Brad Parscale chimed in via tweet to say, "Meet the Three Stooges, the new impeachment 'witnesses' the Democrats are trotting out today to continue their impeachment hoax." He wrote that "they're liberal Democrats who oppose President Trump and support impeachment. Just more of the same old sham!" 

While several Democratic leaders have ticked off the impeachable offenses as written in the Constitution, House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler (D-NY) said, "Never before in the history of the Republic ... has the president engaged in a course of conduct that included all of the acts that most concerned the Framers."

He finds much "precedent for recommending impeachment" under the offenses of obstruction of justice and obstruction of Congress, explaining that even Richard Nixon gave Congress recordings.. and Bill Clinton had given a blood sample. "Trump's level of obstruction is without precedent," he said. 

Nadler suggested that Trump had "directly and specifically invited" the "one threat above all" that the Framers had warned against: "foreign interference in our elections," when he "betrayed his country for private personal gain.

"The facts before us are clear: President Trump did not merely seek to benefit from foreign interference in our elections — he directly and specifically invited foreign interference in our elections. ... He was willing to compromise our security and his office for personal political gain." 

"We have just a deep-seated hatred of a man who came to the White House and did what he said he was going to do," countered Rep. Douglas A. Collins (R-GA). the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee. "This is not an impeachment. This is just a simple railroad job."

He feels the impeachment inquiry is being led by the "clock and the calendar" and accused the Democrats of being committed to impeachment since Trump was elected. "You just don't like the guy," he said. "The chairman has talked about impeachment since last year when he was elected chairman." He concluded, "You know where this started? It started with tears in Brooklyn in November 2016," meaning the night Hillary Clinton lost to Trump at her campaign headquarters. 

Collins claimed there was no way the four professors could have read the entire House Intelligence Committee report. Karlan told him that she "read the transcripts of every one of the witnesses," adding, "I would not speak about these things without reviewing the facts. I'm insulted by the suggestion that as a law professor I don't care about those facts."

Feldman defended the Constitution, noting that the reason the document "provided for impeachment was to anticipate a situation like the one that is before you today." He told the committee that, "If we cannot impeach a president who uses his power for personal advantage, we no longer live in a democracy — we live in a monarchy or a dictatorship." 

After telling the committee that it's their "responsibility to make sure that all Americans get to vote in a free and fair election next November," she mentioned the most "chilling" moment from the Intelligence Committee's impeachment hearing was when U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland said that Zelensky was expected to announce investigations but not necessarily carry them out. "This was about injuring somebody who the president sees as a particularly hard opponent," she said.

Gerhardt most likely had the line of the whole hearing when he said, "I just want to stress that if what we're talking about is not impeachable, then nothing is impeachable." He added that "if Congress concludes they're going to give a pass to the president here ... every other president will say, 'Okay, then I can do the same thing,' and the boundaries will just evaporate." 

Nadler ended the hearing by noting "all three parts" of his test of whether Trump should be impeached were met. He committed an act that was impeachable, the offense represented a "direct threat" to the Constitution, and he believes that at least some of Trump's supporters will be going against him.

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