Next phase in Trump impeachment inquiry begins

By Meg Wagner, Mike Hayes and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 8:13 a.m. ET, December 5, 2019
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11:29 a.m. ET, December 4, 2019

This law professor just defined "high crimes and misdemeanors" and how it applies to Trump

From CNN's Daniel Dale

Alex Brandon/AP
Alex Brandon/AP

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.

Watch more:

11:24 a.m. ET, December 4, 2019

Professor: "Even my dog seems mad" but that doesn't mean we should impeach

Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images
Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

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."


11:21 a.m. ET, December 4, 2019

Professor: "I am concerned about lowering impeachment standards" out of anger


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.


11:14 a.m. ET, December 4, 2019

Trump asks why it's a "big deal" Giuliani called White House 

From CNN's Allie Malloy

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."

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

This witness accused Trump of trying to "stymy this House’s impeachment inquiry"

From CNN's Ariane De Vogue

Jacquelyn Martin/AP
Jacquelyn Martin/AP

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.”

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

Trump calls impeachment report and judiciary hearing "a joke"

From CNN's Allie Malloy

Evan Vucci/AP
Evan Vucci/AP

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.

11:18 a.m. ET, December 4, 2019

Professor: Trump has attacked the "Constitution’s safeguards against establishing a monarchy"


Michael Gerhardt, a professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law, said Trump has attacked the US's "safeguards" against monarchy.

"After reviewing the evidence that's been made public, I cannot help but conclude that this President has attacked each of the Constitution’s safeguards against establishing a monarchy in this country."

Watch more:

11:15 a.m. ET, December 4, 2019

Collins throws Nadler's 1998 impeachment comments back at him

From CNN's Michael Warren

Andrew Harnik/AP
Andrew Harnik/AP

To open today's hearing, Republican ranking member Doug Collins parroted Democratic chairman Jerry Nadler’s own words back at him from the last impeachment of a president, more than 20 years ago.

Nadler opposed the impeachment of President Bill Clinton and said so in a House floor speech in 1998. Moments ago, Collins repeated Nadler’s words to apply them to the current impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump.

“You may have the votes. You may have the muscle. But you do not have the legitimacy of a national consensus or of a constitutional imperative. This partisan coup d’etat will go down in infamy in the history of this nation,” Collins said, quoting directly from Nadler’s 1998 speech.

Nadler had also said then that there must “never be a narrowly-voted impeachment or an impeachment supported by one of our major political parties and opposed by the other.”

More context: One of the arguments congressional Republicans have marshaled against impeaching Trump is that support for such action appears to be falling along partisan lines. So far, not a single Republican in either house of Congress has said they will vote to impeach or convict the President.

In 1998, five House Democrats voted in favor of some of the articles of impeachment against Clinton, while multiple Republicans voted against some of the articles. But two articles passed the House and Clinton was impeached. During the Senate trial in 1999, 10 Republicans voted not guilty on the first article and 5 Republicans voted not guilty on the second article. All 45 Senate Democrats voted not guilty on both articles, and Clinton was acquitted.

Watch the moment:

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

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

From CNN's Ariane De Vogue

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.