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Legal Experts Tell Congress They're Split on Impeachment: Evidence 'Fails to Satisfy the Standard'

12-04-2019
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On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee picked up the impeachment torch by holding its first public hearing. The committee heard from four constitutional law experts on what constitutes high crimes and misdemeanors. House Democrats called three witnesses, while Republicans had one.

The three witnesses called by Democrats testified to their belief President Trump committed an impeachable offense.

"President Trump has committed impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors by corruptly abusing the office of the presidency," claimed Noah Feldman, a Harvard law professor. 

Jonathan Turley, a George Washington University law professor who was called by Republicans to testify, opened his remarks by making one thing clear.

"I'm not a supporter of President Trump. I voted against him," Turley declared.

Turley then, however, laid out his case for why he's against impeaching Trump.

"I believe this impeachment not only fails to satisfy the standard of past impeachments but would create a dangerous precedent for future impeachments," Turley explained. "To impeach a president on this record would expose every future president to the same type of inchoate impeachment."

And he cautioned Democrats about pursuing the charge of obstruction of justice as well.

"Obstruction is a crime with meaning. It has elements. It has case authority," Turley continued. "The record does not establish obstruction in this case. What my esteemed colleague said was certainly true. If you accept all of their presumptions, it would be obstruction. But impeachments have to be based on proof, not presumptions."

But the other witnesses cautioned about a different precedent being set. 

"If what we're talking about is not impeachable, then nothing is impeachable," declared UNC law professor Michael Gerhardt.

The three Democrat witnesses also expressed concern Trump might solicit foreign interference again. 

"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," said Stanford law professor Pamela Karlan.

While it is still not certain articles of impeachment will be brought to the House floor, Democrats appear ready to move forward.

"We cannot wait for the election to address the present crisis," House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) said.

Republicans argue Democrats have planned this since they lost the 2016 election.

"You just don't like the guy," said Ranking Member Doug Collins (R-GA). "You didn't like him since November of 2016."

The House Judiciary Committee will be tasked with officially drawing up articles of impeachment if they decide to move forward. But Democrats say there is no specific timeline yet on when the articles could be brought to the House floor.

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