The first day of hearings in the next phase of the impeachment of Donald Trump turned out to be a clash of legal scholars.
The hearings before the Judiciary Committee were little more than a continuation of the partisan one-upmanship that has marked the impeachment process from the beginning.
Legal scholars invited to testify sparred during the hearing about whether President Trump has committed impeachable offenses — with witnesses called by the Democrats insisting Trump engaged in high crimes and misdemeanors and the sole Republican witness arguing the case is “woefully inadequate” and “dangerous.”
The House Judiciary Committee hearing set the stage for the next phase of the Democratic-led House impeachment inquiry, with legal professors from top law schools around the country making the case that the president did abuse the office of the presidency. Republicans pushed back hard against those experts, accusing the three witnesses called by Democrats of espousing anti-Trump views and being biased against the president.
Stanford Law professor Pamela Karlan, Harvard Law professor, and Bloomberg columnist Noah Feldman and University of North Carolina Law Professor Michael Gerhardt — all witnesses called by Democrats on the committee — did not hesitate on Wednesday to call Trump’s actions impeachable. One, even saying that if the Founding Fathers had been present in the Chamber, they would have found Trump guilty, and want him removed from office!
“On its own, soliciting the leader of a foreign government in order to announce investigations of political rivals and perform those investigations would constitute a high crime and misdemeanor,” Feldman said in his opening statement, adding that the president’s move to withhold critical military aid to Ukraine and a White House meeting with Zelensky in exchange for the announcement of those investigations are both acts that “constitute impeachable high crimes.”
Karlan and Gerhardt echoed a similar sentiment, with Gerhardt claiming that the president has committed “several impeachable offenses,” including obstruction of justice and a “pattern of abusing” his office.
“If Congress fails to impeach here, then the impeachment process has lost all meaning,” Gerhardt said.
But Jonathan Turley, a law professor from George Washington University Law School and the sole witness called by Republicans on the Judiciary Committee for the hearing, argued the opposite.
“One can oppose President Trump’s policies or actions but still conclude that the current legal case for impeachment is not just woefully inadequate, but in some respects, dangerous, as the basis for the impeachment of an American president,” Turley said in his opening statement.
“I am concerned about lowering impeachment standards to fit a paucity of evidence and an abundance of anger,” Turley continued. “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.”
The White House was quick to dismiss the testimony of the three Democratic witnesses.
“3 of 4 ‘experts’ in this sham hearing have known biases against @realDonaldTrump,” tweeted White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham. “Not only is @POTUS given no rights in this process, the Dems’ ‘witnesses’ made up their minds long before today. The people of this country are being cheated of a Congress who works for them.”