The House Judiciary Committee kicked off the second phase of the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump by inviting four legal scholars to discuss whether the evidence collected by the House Intelligence Committee was grounds for impeachment.
Three of the four constitutional experts agreed that by withholding military aid from Ukraine in exchange for an investigation into Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, Trump committed impeachable offenses.
Harvard law professor Noah Feldman told the committee that Trump abused the power of his office by asking a foreign leader to launch an investigation into his political rival. He said this is precisely the type of conduct the Founding Fathers were worried about when they gave Congress the power to remove a sitting president.
"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," Feldman said.
Stanford law professor Pamela Karlan testified that she believes Congress must act now and impeach President Trump to prevent foreign interference in the 2020 election.
"If you conclude, as I think the evidence to this point shows, that the President is soliciting foreign involvement in our election, you need to act now to prevent foreign interference in the next election like the one we had in the past," Karlan said.
The Democrats' third witness, University of North Carolina law professor Michael Gerhardt, told the committee that "impeachable offenses do not have to be crimes" and said that if Trump's actions are "not impeachable, then nothing is impeachable."
"I just want to stress that if what we're talking about is not impeachable, then nothing is impeachable. This is precisely the misconduct that the framers created a Constitution, including impeachment to protect against. And if there's no action, if Congress concludes they're going to give a pass to the President here, as Professor Karlan suggested earlier, every other president will say, okay, then I can do the same thing, and the boundaries will just evaporate," Gerhardt said.
The Republican's only witness, George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley, disagreed with his colleagues, telling the committee that they must have direct evidence of a quid pro quo over the military aid in order to impeach President Trump.
"There's a difference between requesting investigations and a quid pro quo. You need to stick the landing on the quid pro quo. You need to get the evidence to support it. It might be out there, I don't know. But it's not in this record," Turley said.
Photo: Getty Images