The Judiciary Committee House panel begins its hearings to debate and determine articles of impeachment. They will hear from four legal scholars about the basis for impeachment.CreditCredit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times
Here’s what you need to know:
President Trump committed impeachable offenses, three scholars invited by Democrats will testify.
Three constitutional scholars invited by Democrats to testify at Wednesday’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 Mr. 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 Mr. 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 Mr. 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.”
President Trump at the White House last month.Credit…Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times
Case against Trump is ‘slipshod’ and premature, scholar invited by Republicans will testify.
Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University who was invited to testify at Wednesday’s impeachment hearing by the committee’s Republicans, will offer the lone dissent, arguing in his opening statement that Mr. 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.”
The Impeachment Inquiry’s Main Players
Here are the lawmakers to watch as the process unfolds.
Four scholars will describe the history of impeachment in light of Trump’s actions.
Testimony from the legal scholars will place Mr. Trump’s actions in historical context for lawmakers who will eventually have to vote on whether the president committed “high crimes and misdemeanors” and should be impeached and removed from office.
Three of the scholars — Mr. Feldman, Ms. Karlan and Mr. Gerhardt — were invited to deliver remarks by the Democratic majority on the committee. Mr. Turley was invited by Republicans.
The scholars may focus their testimonies on what the country’s founders were trying to achieve by providing a process for Congress to remove a president. They are expected to discuss the impeachment efforts for Presidents Andrew Johnson, Richard M. Nixon and Bill Clinton.
But lawmakers are likely to press the witnesses to offer their own assessments about whether impeachment is appropriate for Mr. Trump, which could prompt sharp exchanges between committee members and the scholars.
Liberals and conservatives are certain to clash as an unruly panel grapples with the president’s fate.
The Judiciary Committee features some of the most outspoken partisans in Congress, which promises to generate fireworks as the two parties clash over the fate of Mr. Trump’s presidency.
Liberals on the 41-member committee include Representatives Zoe Lofgren of California, Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, Eric Swalwell of California and Pramila Jayapal of Washington. Representatives Jim Jordan of Ohio, Louie Gohmert of Texas and Matt Gaetz of Florida are among the deeply conservative members on the panel.
Unlike the House Intelligence Committee, which has about half the number of members, the Judiciary Committee is often a forum for intense debates, and Mr. Nadler does not have a reputation for instilling discipline among the membership.
One result could be a series of angry procedural disputes as Republicans on the panel seek to disrupt the hearing in the hopes of drawing attention to what they say is an unfair and illegitimate inquiry. Mr. Jordan said as much on Monday as he began viewing a draft of the Intelligence Committee’s report.
“We’re going to, I’m sure, raise all kinds of issues and all kinds of concerns,” he told reporters who asked about Wednesday’s hearing. “That’s kind of what we do in these things when it’s this ridiculous.”
Democrats and Republicans will make opposite cases about Trump’s actions.
House Democrats have signaled they intend to use the Judiciary Committee hearings as another opportunity to generate public support for the impeachment inquiry. Nearly two weeks of testimony by witnesses during Intelligence Committee hearings failed to significantly increase that support.
The Democratic strategy is focused on using the 300-page Intelligence Committee report as evidence that Mr. Trump’s actions were clearly an abuse of power and that the president must be held accountable.
During Mr. Clinton’s impeachment inquiry, many of his defenders repeatedly condemned his affair with Monica Lewinsky even as they argued that his conduct — however reprehensible — and lying about it to the American people and a grand jury did not rise to the level of an impeachable act.
Mr. Trump’s allies have embraced a different strategy that will most likely be on display on Wednesday. Following Mr. Trump’s lead, they have insisted that he did nothing wrong and is the victim of an unfair and illegitimate partisan process.
Catch up on some important background on the impeachment inquiry.
Mr. Trump repeatedly pressured President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to investigate people and issues of political concern to Mr. Trump, including the former vice president. Here’s a timeline of events since January.
A C.I.A. officer who was once detailed to the White House filed a whistle-blower complaint on Mr. Trump’s interactions with Mr. Zelensky. Read the complaint.
Admit It: You Don’t Know How Impeachment Works. We Can Help.
Explosive testimony. News media frenzies. A trial in the Senate. Here is how impeachment works — and how it has played out in the past.
“Impeachment by its nature, it’s a political process.” “What people think is going to happen can turn out to be very different from what happens.” “Because it has to do with elected officials holding another elected official to account for their conduct.” When the framers of the Constitution created a process to remove a president from office, they were well … kind of vague. So to understand how it’s going to play out, the past is really our best guide. “I think we’re just all in for a really crazy ride.” Collectively, these New York Times reporters have covered U.S. politics for over 150 years. “I’m also a drummer in a band, so …” They’ve reported on past impeachment inquiries. “Yea, I’m lost in Senate wonderland.” And they say that the three we’ve had so far have been full of twists and turns. “The president of the United States is not guilty as charged.” In short, expect the unexpected. First, the process. Impeachment is technically only the initial stage. “Common misconceptions about impeachment are that impeachment by itself means removal from office. It doesn’t. The impeachment part of the process is only the indictment that sets up a trial.” The Constitution describes offenses that are grounds for removing the president from office as bribery, treason and — “They say high crimes and misdemeanors, which, really, is in the eye of the beholder.” “The framers didn’t give us a guidebook to it. They simply said, that the House had the responsibility for impeachment and the Senate had the responsibility for the trial.” One of the things missing from the Constitution? How an impeachment inquiry should start. And that has generally been a source of drama. Basically, anything goes. “In fact, in the Andrew Johnson case they voted to impeach him without even having drafted the articles of impeachment.” For Richard Nixon, his case started with several investigations that led to public hearings. That part of the process went on for two years, and yielded revelation after revelation, connecting Nixon to a politically-motivated burglary at D.N.C. headquarters — “… located in the Watergate office building.” — and its subsequent cover-up. “Mr. Butterfield, are you aware of the installation of any listening devices in the Oval Office of the president?” “I was aware of listening devices. Yes, sir.” “This was a shocker. Everybody in the White House recognized how damaging this could be.” As the House drafted articles of impeachment, Nixon lost the support of his party. “O.K., I shall resign the presidency effective at noon tomorrow.” “I was asked to write the farewell piece that ran the morning after Nixon resigned. And this is what I wrote: The central question is how a man who won so much could have lost so much.” So for Nixon, it more or less ended after the investigations. But for Bill Clinton, that phase was just the beginning. “This is the information.” An independent counsel’s investigation into his business dealings unexpectedly turned into a very public inquiry about his personal life. “The idea that a president of the United States was having an affair with a White House intern and then a federal prosecutor was looking at that, it was just extraordinary.” That investigation led to public hearings in the House Judiciary Committee. “When the Starr Report was being delivered to Congress it was a little bit like the O.J. chase, only a political one. There were two black cars. They were being filmed live on CNN. They were heading towards the Capitol. We were watching it and a little bit agog.” Public opinion is key. And the media plays a huge part in the process. This was definitely true for Clinton. “You know it was just a crazy time. We worked in the Senate press gallery.” “All your colleagues are kind of piled on top of each other.” “We had crummy computers, the fax machine would always break. The printer would always break.” After committee hearings, the House brought formal impeachment charges. “It was very tense. I thought that the Saturday of the impeachment vote in the House was one of the most tense days I’d experienced in Washington.” And it turned out, also, full of surprises. “The day of impeachment arrived, everyone’s making very impassioned speeches about whether Bill Clinton should or should not be impeached and Livingston rises to give an argument for the House Republicans. He started to talk about how Clinton could resign.” “You, sir, may resign your post.” “And all of a sudden people start booing and saying, ‘Resign, resign’!” “So I must set the example.” “He announced he was resigning because he had had extramarital affairs and challenged President Clinton to do the only honorable thing, in his view —” “I hope President Clinton will follow.” “— to resign as well, so there was all this drama unfolding even in the midst of impeachment.” Then it went to the Senate for trial. The Constitution gets a little more specific about this part. “The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is supposed to preside over that trial.” “Rehnquist, he showed up in this robe he had made for himself, which had gold stripes on the sleeves because he liked Gilbert and Sullivan.” “The Senate is the actual jury.” “You will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws. So help you, God.” “This is a copy of the rules of the Senate for handling impeachment. They’re actually very specific.” “Meet six days a week.” “Convene at noon. The senators have to sit at their desks and remain quiet in their role as jurors. And not talk, which trust me, is going to be a problem for some of the senators who are used to talking all the time.” It’s just like a courtroom trial. There are prosecutors who present the case against the president. “That was perjury.” Only, they’re members of the House, and they’re called managers. Then the senators, or the jurors, vote. And things are still, unpredictable. “The options are guilty or not guilty. But there was one senator —” “Arlen Specter, a moderate Republican from Pennsylvania.” “Under Scottish law, there are three possible verdicts: guilty, not guilty and not proved.” “— which is not a thing.” “And everybody just looks, you know, how do you even record that vote?” In the end, there were not enough votes to oust Clinton. “What’s amazing about this whole thing to me wasn’t so much the constitutional process. It was that it felt to me like the beginning of really intense partisanship, the weaponization of partisanship.” And here’s the thing: An impeachment charge has never gotten the two-thirds majority it needs in the Senate to actually oust a president from office. “So you could end up having a situation where the president is impeached, acquitted and runs for re-election and wins re-election.” And that would be a first. “This is my ticket to the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton. I don’t think you’ll find these on StubHub.”
Explosive testimony. News media frenzies. A trial in the Senate. Here is how impeachment works — and how it has played out in the past.CreditCredit…Photo illustration by Aaron Byrd
Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com