Impeachment Hearing Live Updates: Trump’s Actions Are Impeachable, Scholars Testify
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President Trump committed impeachable offenses, three scholars invited by Democrats testified.
Three constitutional scholars invited by Democrats to testify at Wednesday’s impeachment hearings said 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 appeared in the first impeachment hearing before the House Judiciary Committee as it kicked off a debate about whether to draft articles of impeachment against the president.
Noah Feldman, a professor at Harvard, argued 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 said. “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 had “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 planned to say, adding that Mr. Trump’s actions “are worse than the misconduct of any prior president.”
Pamela S. Karlan, a Stanford law professor, told 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 said. “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.”
Case against Trump is ‘slipshod’ and premature, a scholar invited by Republicans said.
Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University who was invited to testify by the committee’s Republicans, offered 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 made it clear that he is not a supporter of the president and believes that the Ukraine matter warranted investigation. But he argued 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 said. “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 agreed 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 said, 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 argued the current case is destined for “collapse in a Senate trial.”
‘Are you ready?’ Speaker Nancy Pelosi rallied the Democratic troops ahead of the hearing.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi convened a rare members-only Democratic Caucus meeting Wednesday morning to rally her rank-and-file members as the impeachment proceedings against President Trump got underway.
“Are you ready?” Ms. Pelosi asked.
They are, Democratic lawmakers responded in unison, according to multiple people in the room who described the private meeting on condition of anonymity.
The Democrats gave a standing ovation to Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, who has spearheaded the impeachment investigation. Mr. Schiff presented his panel’s 300-page report made public on Tuesday detailing the Democrats’ case against the president and fielded questions.
“Nancy said, ‘Keep your cool and read the report,’” said Representative Donna Shalala, Democrat of Florida.
Representative Dean Phillips, Democrat of Minnesota said the tenor of the room was, “Unanimity.”
As Ms. Pelosi mobilized her members, Vice President Mike Pence was delivering his own battle cry to Republicans at their weekly conference meeting. Mr. Pence praised the lawmakers and said he and Mr. Trump were proud of them for their strong impeachment defense, said an official familiar with the remarks.
But Mr. Pence also issued a marching order: “Turn up the heat” on House Democrats, he said.
— Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Catie Edmondson
Partisan fireworks began almost immediately.
Within the first hour of the House Judiciary Committee, the panel lived up to its reputation for partisan rancor. Republicans interrupted the proceedings to present Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York and the committee’s chairman, with a letter demanding a day of minority hearings.
They also forced votes on motions to call Mr. Schiff to testify before the panel and to suspend and postpone the hearing.
Democrats knocked each down along party lines, but the proceeding stood in stark contrast with those of the relatively staid and orderly proceedings of Intelligence Committee that carried the impeachment inquiry for the last two months. And it was a harbinger of things to come as the impeachment battle enters a more intensive phase as Democrats rush toward a vote before Christmas.
In between the Republican parliamentary maneuvers, Mr. Nadler made no effort to cover up the unruly circumstances, but he put the blame on Mr. Trump.
“Ladies and gentlemen, the storm in which we find ourselves today was set in motion by President Trump,” Mr. Nadler said. “I do not wish this moment on the country. It is not a pleasant task that we undertake today. But we have each taken an oath to protect the Constitution, and the facts before us are clear.”
When his turn to speak arrived, Representative Doug Collins of Georgia, the panel’s top Republican, offered a hard-edged rebuke of the Democrats.
“This may be a new time, a new place and we may be all scrubbed up and looking pretty for impeachment,” Mr. Collins said. “This is not an impeachment. This just a simple railroad job and today’s is a waste of time.”
— Nicholas Fandos
Number of procedural motions Republicans have forced to a vote: 3 (so far).
As the minority party, Republicans have considerably less power in the Judiciary Committee than majority Democrats, but they can use parliamentary procedures to put up a fight and slow the proceedings. Republicans began availing themselves of those rights almost from the moment the hearing began, repeatedly interjecting and proposing motions, at times interrupting the witnesses mid-statement, and forcing Mr. Nadler to halt the process and hold a vote to lay aside the Republican objections.
They lost each time in party-line votes.
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.