Next phase in Trump impeachment inquiry begins

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11:12 a.m. ET, December 4, 2019

Law professor's fiery rebuke to Collins: "I'm insulted"

Alex Brandon/AP
Alex Brandon/AP

Law professor Pamela Karlan went off her prepared remarks and pushed back on Rep. Doug Collins' earlier statements that the hearing was invalid in part because the law professors wouldn't have had time to read up on the impeachment proceedings.

She said she would not have appeared if she weren't prepared and said that his comments were insulting.

"Today you are being asked to consider whether protecting those elections requires impeaching a president. That is an awesome responsibility. That everything I know about our Constitution and its values and my review of the evidentiary record and here, Mr. Collins, I would like to say to you, sir, that I read transcripts of every one of the witnesses who appeared in the live hearing because I would not speak about these things without reviewing the facts, so I'm insulted by the suggestion that as a law professor I don't care about those facts," Karlan said.

Watch:

11:06 a.m. ET, December 4, 2019

"President Trump must be held to account," professor says

Pool
Pool

Pamela S. Karlan, a law professor at Stanford Law School, said President Trump "must be held accountable" in order to uphold the US Constitution.

"Based on the evidentiary record before you, what has happened in the case before you is something that I do not think we have ever seen before: a President who has doubled down on violating his oath to faithfully execute the laws and to protect and defend the Constitution," she testified.

"If we are to keep faith with our Constitution and our Republic, President Trump must be held to account," she added.

Watch:

11:17 a.m. ET, December 4, 2019

Constitutional law expert says Trump invited foreign involvement in upcoming US election

Pamela Karlan, a professor at Stanford Law School, gave an impassioned opening statement before lawmakers today, saying President Trump invited foreign involvement in the upcoming election.

Here's a portion of what she told lawmakers:

"But everything I read on those occasions tells me that when President Trump invited — indeed, demanded — foreign involvement in our upcoming election, he struck at the very heart of what makes this country the 'republic' to which we pledge allegiance. That demand constituted an abuse of power. Indeed, as I want to explain in my testimony, drawing a foreign government into our election process is an especially serious abuse of power because it undermines democracy itself," she said.

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11:08 a.m. ET, December 4, 2019

Nadler: The integrity of the 2020 election is at stake

Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

In his opening statement, Democratic House Judiciary Committee chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler said that everyone is aware that the 2020 election is looming.

But he said that we can’t “wait for the election to address the present crisis,” since the very “integrity” of that election is at stake here.

The Republican ranking member of the committee, Rep. Doug Collins, argued that Democrats are pursuing a rapid impeachment vote not because of concerns about the integrity of the election but because they are worried about the election's outcome

“The chairman said it just a second ago -- because we’re scared of the elections next year. We’re scared of the elections -- we’ll lose again. So we’ve got to do this now,” Collins said. “The clock and the calendar are what’s driving impeachment, not the facts.”

Nadler had not said he was scared that Democrats would lose the election.

Watch the moment:

10:50 a.m. ET, December 4, 2019

This witness focused on the framers of the Constitution. Here's why.

Rick Friedman/Corbis via Getty Images
Rick Friedman/Corbis via Getty Images

In his opening statement, Noah Feldman, a professor at Harvard Law School, focused on the framers of the Constitution.

This is perhaps an effort to attract conservatives who take an originalist approach to the law. 

Here's part of his opening statement:

“The solicitation constituted an abuse of the office of the presidency because Pres. Trump was using his office to seek a personal political and electoral advantage over his political rival, former vice president Joe Biden, and over the Democratic Party. The solicitation was made in the course of the president’s official duties. According to the testimony presented to the House, the solicitation sought to gain an advantage that was personal to the president. This constitutes a corrupt abuse of the power of the presidency. It embodies the framers’ central worry that a sitting president would “spare no efforts or means whatever to get himself re-elected.”

11:00 a.m. ET, December 4, 2019

Law professor: Trump's conduct "clearly constitutes" an impeachable offense

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Noah Feldman, a professor at Harvard Law School, said Trump's behavior "clearly constitutes" an impeachable offense.

"President Trump’s conduct as described in evidence clearly constitutes impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors under the Constitution," he testified.  

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10:48 a.m. ET, December 4, 2019

Fact check: Collins says the whistleblower isn't afforded the right to anonymity

In his opening statement, Rep. Doug Collins refuted the claim that the whistleblower is afforded the right to anonymity by law.

Collins said, "He's not or she's not afforded the protection of identity. It's not in the statute. It's something that was discussed by Adam Schiff."

Facts First: Collins is right. It is true no law explicitly prevents anyone, other than the inspector general and their staff, from revealing the name of a whistleblower. But that doesn't mean it's legal to do so.

You can read a full fact-check of the whistleblower's protections here.

10:47 a.m. ET, December 4, 2019

Meanwhile, House Democrats held a secret meeting this morning to discuss impeachment

New Jersey Democrat Bill Pascrell said after a closed-door meeting among Democratic lawmakers this morning that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's unusual steps to keep the discussion secret were taken “because it’s family stuff.”

“Your know, you’ve got your own family, you want to discuss things, you want to throw people out that don’t belong there,” he said. “Nothing serious.” 

Staffers weren’t allowed in the meeting and members weren’t able to bring their cell phones into the room, a break from the normally relaxed atmosphere.

Pascrell said Adam Schiff briefed members on the intelligence panel’s impeachment report, which was released yesterday. He said he didn’t hear any discomfort among his colleagues about the pace of the impeachment inquiry, nor the scope of potential articles of impeachment. 

“We’re going at a great pace. I never thought we’d be this far at this time,” he told reporters. “We’ve done this methodically. I think Adam’s made the right decisions on this, and when you go through things methodically, it’s always slow. Maybe even too slow.”

Asked about next steps, Pascrell predicted: “Well, we’re going to vote to impeach, I would think. If the evidence is there, we will vote.”

“There is no anxiety on this thing, I can tell you that right now,” he added. "We’re not happy we’re at this point or doing this. It’s got to be done, though. That's our oath of office, and we will do it.”

Michigan Rep. Dan Kildee said confidentiality at the meeting was taken so seriously because “we’re at a really critical moment.”

“Obviously the beginning of the Judiciary hearings, the release of the report from the intelligence committee, the fact that the facts stack up so tall against the President and his behavior,” he said, "and we’re going to be very thoughtful about how we move forward.”

He said the meeting was “an opportunity to have a pretty candid conversation. It seems like there’s a lot of unity among the caucus on this point.”

Kildee told reporters he believes there is agreement within the caucus that enough evidence exists at this point to make a decision on impeachment.

"I think it would be a mistake to fall into the trap that the President is trying to set that we should somehow wait and wait for every count in the nation to determine whether or not his obstruction is legitimate,” said Kildee.

10:58 a.m. ET, December 4, 2019

The witnesses were just sworn in

Today's witnesses — four law professors — were just sworn in.

The witnesses are:

  • Noah Feldman of Harvard Law School
  • Pamela S. Karlan of Stanford Law School
  • Michael Gerhardt of the University of North Carolina School of Law
  • Jonathan Turley of the George Washington University Law School

Each will give an opening statement now.

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