Impeaching Trump would be historic mistake
Would ‘not bode well for future presidents’ in ‘bitterly divided’ nation
The sole witness called by Republicans to testify before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday contended impeaching President Trump over the Ukraine allegations would be a historic mistake.
Jonathan Turley, a professor at George Washington University Law School, noted he did not vote for President Trump and has been critical of the president.
But he warned against partisan rancor influencing what should be a constitutionally based process.
“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,” Turley said, according to his prepared testimony.
“That does not bode well for future presidents who are working in a country often sharply and, at times, bitterly divided,” he said.
“I get it. You are mad. The president is mad. My Republican friends are mad. My Democratic friends are mad. My wife is mad. My kids are mad. Even my dog seems mad. And Luna is a Goldendoodle and they don’t get mad,” said Turley.
“We’re all mad. Where has that taken us? Will a slipshod impeachment make us less mad? Will it only give an invitation for the madness to follow in every future administration?”
Turley testified alongside three legal scholars called by the Democrats, Stanford Law professor Pamela Karlan, Harvard Law professor and Bloomberg columnist Noah Feldman, and University of North Carolina Law Professor Michael Gerhardt.
The impeachment inquiry is based an anonymous whistleblower’s complaint that in Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, he improperly threatened to withhold aid to pressure Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.
The Democrats’ witnesses accused Trump of abuse of power.
Feldman said that “on the basis of the testimony before the House, President Trump has committed impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors by corruptly abusing the office of the presidency.”
Turley said that while Trump should not have made a reference to the Bidens, it did not amount to bribery, as the Democrats contend.
The “issue is not whether these comments are correct, but whether they are corrupt,” he said.
If Trump “honestly believed that there was a corrupt arrangement with Hunter Biden that was not fully investigated by the Obama administration, the request for an investigation is not corrupt, notwithstanding its inappropriateness.”
“In my view, there is no case law that would support a claim of corrupt intent in such comments to support a bribery charge,” Turley said.
‘Intense rancor and rage’
The Georgetown professor said he found the “atmosphere” of the current impeachment proceedings to be similar to the impeachment of Bill Clinton, for which he testified some 20 years ago.
“Some elements are strikingly similar. The intense rancor and rage of the public debate is the same,” he said.
Turley noted that the Framers of the Constitution anticipated such a situation, citing Alexander Hamilton’s warning that charges of impeachable conduct “will seldom fail to agitate the passions of the whole community, and to divide it into parties more or less friendly or inimical to the accused.”
“As with the Clinton impeachment, the Trump impeachment has again proven Hamilton’swords to be prophetic,” Turley said. “The stifling intolerance for opposing views is the same. As was the case two decades ago, it is a perilous environment for a legal scholar who wants to explore the technical and arcane issues normally involved in an academic examination of a legal standard ratified 234 years ago.”
During questioning by Republicans, Turley said the Constitution allows impeachment on a non-crime but emphasized it would be unprecedented.
“Impeachment has to be base on proofs, not presumptions,” he said.
‘Woefully inadequate’ case
At the beginning of his testimony, Turley established that he is “not a supporter of President Trump,” having voted against him in 2016 and previously for Presidents Clinton and Obama. He said he also has been “highly critical of President Trump, his policies, and his rhetoric, in dozens of columns.” And he has criticized Trump’s raising of the investigation of the Hunter Biden matter with the Ukrainian president.
He emphasized that “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.”
“To put it simply, I hold no brief for President Trump. My personal and political views of President Trump, however, are irrelevant to my impeachment testimony, as they should be to your impeachment vote.”
He said his only concern is “the integrity and coherence of the constitutional standard and process of impeachment.”
“President Trump will not be our last president and what we leave in the wake of this scandal will shape our democracy for generations to come,” he said.
“I am concerned about lowering impeachment standards to fit a paucity of evidence and an abundance of anger.”