The Judiciary Committee Is Not Messing Around

What to write about — the way le grand bébé orange just humiliated himself at the NATO meeting in London (see also), or the impeachment hearings? As juicy as the NATO episode was, let’s go with the hearings.

The Juiciary Committee chose to begin by clarifying what an impeachable offense is. Three law professors and constitutional scholars — Noah Feldman of Harvard, Pamela S. Karlan of Stanford, and Michael Gerhardt of the University of North Carolina — strongly argued that Trump’s actions were impeachable. “If what we are talking about is not impeachable, nothing is impeachable,” Gerhardt said.

Professor Karlan offered this analogy:

Imagine living in a part of Louisiana or Texas that’s prone to devastating hurricanes and flooding. What would you think if you lived there and your governor asked for a meeting with the president to discuss getting disaster aid that Congress has provided for? What would you think if that president said, “I would like you to do us a favor? I’ll meet with you, and send the disaster relief, once you brand my opponent a criminal.”

Wouldn’t you know in your gut that such a president has abused his office? That he’d betrayed the national interest, and that he was trying to corrupt the electoral process? I believe the evidentiary record shows wrongful acts on those scale here.

A high point was this exchange between Ranking Member Doug Collins and Professor Karlan:

Republicans called Jonathan Turley, who seems determined to take over the Alan Dershowitz niche of famous contrarian for hire. His arguement boiled down to the claim that the Democrats were rushing into impeachment with slipshod evidence, but even he conceded that “a quid pro quo to force the investigation of a political rival in exchange for military aid can be impeachable, if proven.”

So what evidence does Turley want? The evidence being kept hidden by Trump and his cronies, of course.

Calling “the abbreviated period of this investigation” both problematic and puzzling, Mr. Turley said Congress had assembled “a facially incomplete and inadequate record in order to impeach a president.” The evidence has gaps because of “unsubpoenaed witnesses with material evidence,” he argued, and it is wrong to move forward without hearing from them.

To get this evidence, Turley thinks the House must go to the courts to argue for compliance. However long that takes. Even Fox News’s Judge Napalitano said that was bogus.

Napolitano said that the House has power of impeachment which supersedes the president’s executive privilege. … “It doesn’t need to go to a court for approval, it doesn’t need to go to court to get its subpoenas enforced.” Napolitano continued. “When the president receives a subpoena—or in this case, Mick Mulvaney, Mike Pompeo receive a subpoena—and they throw it in a drawer, they don’t comply or challenge because the president told them to, that is the act of obstruction.”

CNN National Security and Legal Analyst Susan Hennessey called Turley’s claims “nonsense” and worse.

Charles Pierce pointed out that Turley was singing a different tune when the subject of impeachment was Bill Clinton.

Impeach a president* for shaking down an ally for personal political advantage?

Everybody calm down before something gets broken.

Impeach a president for lying about an affair?

If not, anarchy!

See also:

While the other witnesses laid out the case that Trump abused his power by trying to strong-arm Ukraine into caving to his personal demands while withholding vital military aid and a White House meeting, Turley argued there was no evidence that Trump broke a specific federal statute and that impeaching him would set a dangerous precedent.

But 20 years ago, Turley made the opposite case. At the time, he was one of several GOP legal analysts pushing for President Bill Clinton to be impeached and removed from office.

“If you decide that certain acts do not rise to impeachable offenses, you will expand the space for executive conduct,” Turley testified in 1998 during Clinton’s impeachment hearings. He added that Clinton’s actions didn’t need to break any laws in order to be considered impeachable conduct.

This is the only hearing scheduled for the Judiciary Committee this week.