House Begins Live Impeachment Hearings

Ken AshfordCourts/Law, L'Affaire Ukraine, Trump & Administration, Trump ImpeachmentLeave a Comment

Three constitutional scholars invited by Democrats to testify at today’s impeachment hearings will say that President Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine for political gain clearly meet the historical definition of impeachable offenses, according to copies of their opening statements.

The three law professors are appearing in the first impeachment hearing before the House Judiciary Committee as it kicks off a debate about whether to draft articles of impeachment against the president.

Noah Feldman, a professor at Harvard, planned to argue that attempts by Trump to withhold a White House meeting and military assistance from Ukraine as leverage for political favors constitute impeachable conduct, as does the act of soliciting foreign assistance on a phone call with Ukraine’s leader.

“President Trump has committed impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors by corruptly abusing the office of the presidency,” Mr. Feldman planned to say. “Specifically, President Trump abused his office by corruptly soliciting President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce investigations of his political rivals in order to gain personal advantage, including in the 2020 presidential election.”

Michael J. Gerhardt, a professor at the University of North Carolina, planned to argue that Trump “has committed several impeachable offenses” by taking actions regarding Ukraine that were worse than Richard Nixon’s misconduct during Watergate.

“If left unchecked, the president will likely continue his pattern of soliciting foreign interference on his behalf in the next election,” Mr. Gerhardt plans to say, adding that Trump’s actions “are worse than the misconduct of any prior president.”

Pamela S. Karlan, a Stanford law professor, will tell lawmakers that the president’s attempt to “strong arm a foreign leader” would not be considered politics as usual by historical standards.

“It is, instead, a cardinal reason why the Constitution contains an impeachment power,” she planned to say. “Put simply, a candidate for president should resist foreign interference in our elections, not demand it. If we are to keep faith with the Constitution and our Republic, President Trump must be held to account.

Trump campaign manager:

Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University who was invited to testify at today’s impeachment hearing by the committee’s Republicans, will offer the lone dissent, arguing in his opening statement that Trump should not be impeached.

In a 53-page written statement submitted to the committee, Mr. Turley makes it clear that he is not a supporter of the president and believes that the Ukraine matter warrants investigation. But he plans to say that the Democratic impeachment case is dangerously “slipshod” and premature.

“I am concerned about lowering impeachment standards to fit a paucity of evidence and an abundance of anger,” he planned to say. “If the House proceeds solely on the Ukrainian allegations, this impeachment would stand out among modern impeachments as the shortest proceeding, with the thinnest evidentiary record, and the narrowest grounds ever used to impeach a president.”

Offering an exhaustive and colorful account of the history of impeachment, Mr. Turley will agree with the other panelists that “a quid pro quo to force the investigation of a political rival in exchange for military aid can be impeachable, if proven.”

But for that to be the case, he will say, the evidence has to be stronger. Witnesses like Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, and John R. Bolton, the former national security adviser, must be heard from — not just spoken about by other witnesses. He will argue the current case is destined for “collapse in a Senate trial.”

Turley’s position is not so much a rebuttal, as a critique, and it is one shared by the ediotorial board of the Washington Post:

The Democratic report lacks direct testimony of Mr. Trump confirming the quid pro quo he was demanding, though it cites a public statement by acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney to that effect. It also acknowledges “unanswered questions.” Among other matters, there are disturbing indications that Mr. Trump may have successfully extorted the previous Ukrainian government. While saying the intelligence committee’s investigation will continue, the Democrats argue that they are unable to wait to refer the impeachment case to the Judiciary Committee because of the “threat of further presidential attempts to solicit foreign interference in our next election.”

While that fear is not unwarranted, the speedy referral smacks of political expediency. The Judiciary Committee may well have enough evidence to draw up articles of impeachment. But the witnesses and documents that Mr. Trump is improperly blocking might well provide a fuller and, to many Americans, more persuasive picture of his guilt — and American democracy cannot afford for Congress to fail to establish its right to obtain them. The fight for them must not be given up.

Updates as needed.

Oh God, the Republicans are trying to make this a circus with lots of gesticulating and nonsensical motions.

Also complains about his chair. Gets no laughs.

He’s now blathering about Louis XIV and the Treaty of Dover in 1670.

Says Johnson is the “outlier” — hard to call Johnson an “outlier” when there are only three historical examples of impeachment.

Ari Melber on Prof. Jonathan Turley’s testimony: “I thought this was extraordinarily weak for the Republicans and for Professor Turley … we heard a lot of Jonathan Turley’s ideas for proposed amendments to the Constitution.”

On break…. and meanwhile…

Back from break…

Gohmert talks for five minutes about ???? without asking a question.

Jim Jordan is yelling again. Same yelling points: unfair process blah blah blah.

Jordan claims that Schiff denied their witnesses. False. One of them even affirmed quid pro quo.

Jordan still claiming Ukrainians didn’t know about the hold on military aid. They did.

Jordan is treating meetings between officials and Ukrainians as the important ones, not the ones involving Rudy. He’s claiming that Ukraine would offer investigation for a meeting with a Democratic Senators, which is odd.

Roby (R) — how can we have experts testify about possible grounds of impeachment until we choose grounds for impeachment? (WTF?)

Oh shit. It’s Matt Gaetz.

Gaetz is bad at this. He tries gotcha questions and the professors are smarter than him. For example, he asks Feldman about words he wrote against impeachment IN MAY. Feldman says, “Yeah, I was against it in May. And then all this evidence came out” (paraphrase).

Swalwell now. Takes it a little to Turley.

Swalwell does clean-up with Feldman. Trump is running out the clock and making court challenges of subpoenas where the law is settled by US v. Nixon.