Deflated Turley: Democrats and Witnesses Strengthen Case for Impeachment in Judiciary Committee



Today, the House Judiciary Committee met for the first time to consider the undeniable body of evidence gathered by the Intelligence Committee in the impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump. Three Constitutional experts, Prof. Noah Feldman of Harvard Law, Prof. Michael Gerhardt of UNC School of Law, and Prof. Pamela Karlan of Stanford Law strongly found that Donald Trump’s actions qualify as bribery and thus impeachable, while the lone Republican witness, Prof. Jonathan Turley of George Washington University Law School, dissented.

Turkey's dissent relied far more on the timing and speed of the inquiry, however, than the incontrovertible facts of the case, as found by the report in the House Intelligence Committee. In other words, Turley expressed concerns that the impeachment inquiry is moving too fast and needed to slow down. But even Turley admitted that Trump’s actions were, as he called it, ‘not perfect.’

Turley strained constitutional credulity, however, when he claimed that the House is abusing its Article I powers by refusing to take Donald Trump to court over his refusal to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry. He argued that holding those refusals themselves were obstructions of Congress was wrong.

Democrats and other witnesses on the panel pointed out that Article I of the Constitution grants the House the sole power of impeachment, and that the suggestion that this power must be subjugated to the Courts was preposterous. In response to a question by Chairman Nadler, all other experts on the panel agreed that a court review is not automatically in order for an impeachment inquiry as long as the president asserted a made-up privilege like “absolute immunity.”

For a moment, the Republicans seemed to made some headway during the exchange between the Republican Counsel and Prof. Turley in which they go back and forth using a contemporary, 1790s dictionary to define words in the Constitutional phrase defining the reasons for impeachment and removal of a Constitutional officer (including the president): “treason, bribery, and high crimes and misdemeanors.” Turley argued - in what would have been a convincing case had it been left unchallenged - that words have meaning. They even read some definitions from a contemporary dictionary.

But then Prof. Karlan came down like a ton of bricks. Having previously pointed out that the Constitutional case for bribery would have transcended and superceded what is in the law since bribery in the US code wasn’t even defined for high executive officials until almost 100 years after the founding of our country, Karlan read from a 1792 dictionary the actual definition of bribery, “accepting or soliciting a reward for bad practice.” Turley was left reeling, haphazardly trying to claim that now that it was inconvenient to the Republicans, words no longer had literal meaning.

Republicans and their star witness never recovered from that moment. Lots of things happened between the end of the counsel questioning and the end of the hearing, but none of it changed the basic premise that factually and legally speaking, Trump’s goose was cooked.. At one point Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz getting red in the face and pointing fingers and yelling at Prof. Karlan - the only woman on the witness panel - as he then proceeded to accuse her of being mean.

Rep. Eric Swalwell, Democrat from California, went directly at Turley, pointing out that Turley sounded like a defense attorney with the facts stacked against his client. Swalwell also exposed that Turley represented a federal judge in an impeachment proceeding in 2010. At the time, Turley made the same arguments, and the judge was convicted on several charges by the Senate.

And as usual, there’s always a tape. Toward to end of the hearing, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) dropped a tape of Turley’s holding Bill Clinton’s impeachment to a wholly different standard than the one he insists on for Trump.

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One should be reminded here that by the time he was impeached, Bill Clinton had won two elections, and in both, he won both the popular vote and the electoral college.

By the end of the hearing, Democrats had well established that Donald Trump solicited a personal political favor in order to perform an official act (meeting with the Ukrainian president in the White House) and disburse US taxpayer financial aid approved by Congress.

The full video of today’s hearing is available here:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MUSQaYHJAiI&w=560&h=315]

C-Span’s YouTube page also has individual videos of the opening statements and questioning.