Next phase in Trump impeachment inquiry begins
Law professor Noah Feldman was asked to explain why he concluded that the President committed the high crime of abuse of power and why it matters.
Feldman said, "The abuse of power occurs when the president uses his office for personal advantage or gain."
"That matters fundamentally to the American people. Because if we cannot impeach a president who abuses his office for personal advantage, we no longer live in a democracy. We live in a monarchy or we live under a dictatorship. That's why the framers created the possibility of impeachment."
Norm Eisen, a committee consultant who was hired by the Judiciary Committee earlier this year, is now questioning the witnesses on behalf of Democrats.
Under the impeachment inquiry protocols, during the first two questioning rounds — 45 minutes for the Democrats and 45 minutes for the Republicans — only the chairman, the ranking member and their lawyers can ask questions.
This is the same format that the Intelligence Committee hearings followed.
House Intelligence chair Adam Schiff presented his report to the House Democratic caucus this morning, according to a senior Democratic aide. Schiff then received a standing ovation from members for the work of his committee.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke about the gravity and somber nature of this moment. She reiterated her belief that this is prayerful time and that members must give room for their colleagues to reach their own conclusions as the inquiry proceeds, the aide said.
A discussion followed on what members are hearing in their districts and members overwhelmingly indicated that they want to continue to advance the inquiry on its current deliberative path – one step at a time.
The Constitution says presidents can be impeached for “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors,” but it does not define “high crimes and misdemeanors.”
In his testimony, Harvard Law School constitutional law professor Noah Feldman said the phrase means this: "Abuse of the office of the presidency for personal advantage or to corrupt the electoral process or to subvert the national security of the United States.”
“High,” Feldman said, means “connected to the office of the presidency.” He emphasized that the “abuse of office for personal gain or advantage,” like the kind he alleges President Trump committed, is the kind of high crime or misdemeanor that was “familiar to the Framers” of the Constitution.
Jonathan Turley, a professor at the George Washington University Law School, said "we're all mad" — but that doesn't mean impeachment is the answer.
"I get it. You're mad. The President's 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 golden doodle and they don't get mad," he said.
"So we're are all mad, and where has it 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?" he added. "This is not how you impeach an American president."
Jonathan Turley, a professor at the George Washington University Law School, said this impeachment inquiry could set standards for future presidents, and he's "concerned about lowering impeachment standards."
"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 testified. "I am concerned about lowering impeachment standards to fit a paucity of evidence and abundance of anger."
Remember: Turley is the only GOP witness testifying today.
President Trump, while in London, did not answer a question today on whether he still has confidence in his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani but did ask why it's "a big deal" that he made phone calls to the White House.
"So somebody said he made a phone call into the White House? What difference does that make? I don't know. Is that supposed to be a big deal? I don't think so," Trump said.
"Rudy's a great gentlemen and they're after him only because he's done such a good job. He was very effective against Mueller and the Mueller hoax," Trump continued.
Why this matters: In the House Intelligence Committee's impeachment report released Tuesday new phone records were uncovered showing a web of communications between Giuliani, his associate Lev Parnas, Congressman Devin Nunes, and the White House budget's office.
Trump was asked earlier why Giuliani would call OMB specifically, but he only said: "I don't really know."
Michael Gerhardt, a professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law, spent more time talking about special counsel Robert Mueller's report in his opening statement than the other experts who focus on the Ukraine matter.
“When we apply our constitutional law to the facts found in the Mueller report and other public sources, I cannot help but conclude that this president has attacked each of the Constitution’s safeguards against establishing a monarchy in this country," he said.
“The Mueller Report found at least five instances of the President’s obstruction of the Justice Department’s criminal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion between the President’s campaign and Russia," Gerhardt added.
And while Jonathan Turley, a professor at the George Washington University Law School, will focus on the fact that the Democrats are not waiting for the courts to rule on whether key members can testify, Gerhardt put the onus on the President who has argued he is “entitled to order everyone within the executive branch not to cooperate with and to refuse compliance with lawful directives of this Congress.”
And Gerhardt referred to the argument made by the President’s personal lawyers who have said that he is “entitled” to “absolute immunity” from any criminal wrongdoing, including “shooting someone on Fifth Avenue.”
He accused the President of trying to “stymy this House’s impeachment inquiry.”
In contrast to Turley, he said he sees Trump’s transgressions as equal if not worse than Nixon’s: "Even President Nixon agreed to share information with Congress, ordered his subordinates to comply with subpoenas to testify and produce documents (with some limited exceptions), and to send his lawyers to ask questions in the House’s impeachment hearings.”
He also had a warning for Congress: "If Congress fails to impeach here, then the impeachment process has lost all meaning, and, along with that, our Constitution’s carefully crafted safeguards against the establishment of a king on American soil. No one, not even the president, is beyond the reach of our Constitution and our laws.”
President Trump, who is at the NATO summit in London right now, called the House Democrats' Impeachment Inquiry report, as well as today's Judiciary hearing on impeachment, "a joke."
"I saw it and it's a joke. Everybody's saying it," Trump said when asked if he saw the report released Tuesday.
"I will tell you it's a uniform statement. I think pretty much right down the road that what they're doing is a very bad thing for our country. It's of no merit," Trump said.
Trump lamented that this is the second foreign summit that is happening while impeachment hangs over his head. He said that the NATO celebration was "scheduled for a year," insinuating that the Judiciary could have deliberately moved the hearing.
"It just happened to be scheduled on this day? It's really, honestly a disgrace," Trump said.
"I think we're gonna have a tremendous 2020. I'm sure you've all seen the polls that have come out," the President added.