The House Judiciary Committee launched its phase of the impeachment hearings this morning with a bevy of constitutional scholars testifying about the historical precedents for the impeachment process and its basis in our founding document.
After three of the law professors who testified that the presidential actions uncovered in the first set of hearings before the House Intelligence Committee certainly rose to the level of impeachable offenses, Republicans were counting on their own star witness — Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University — to come up with a convincing counter-argument against that fairly unassailable point of view.
Turley did his best to paint the Democrats’ efforts to impeach Donald Trump as an exercise of partisan anger based on insufficient evidence compared to prior impeachments.
“I am concerned about lowering impeachment standards to fit a paucity of evidence and an abundance of anger,” Turley testified. “To impeach a president on such a record would be to expose every future president to the same type of inchoate impeachment.”
Unfortunately, Turley’s argument that the House has not uncovered enough evidence of the president’s wrong-doing to initiate impeachment ignores the fact that at least one reason for his perceived paucity of supporting details is Trump’s own obstruction of the investigation by ordering his executive branch officials to unconstitutionally ignore legally-valid congressional subpoenas and withhold any documentation and records.
That obstruction alone would be considered by most other legal scholars to be overwhelming grounds for bringing Trump to trial before the Senate.
In the end, however, even the GOP’s handpicked witness couldn’t quite bring himself to say that the President shouldn’t be impeached for his actions, and all that he could be persuaded to say was that the investigation should be prolonged to hear from additional witnesses before a decision was made to proceed.
Some members of the Republican minority were surely frustrated that Turley wouldn’t parrot their fantastical claims that the House inquiry was a baseless witch hunt but in a sense the professor’s argument fit right into Trump’s strategy to distract, delay, and distort to prevent impeachment from moving forward by forcing Congress to wage lengthy legal battles over access to witnesses and documents until the entire procedure is rendered moot by the rapidly approaching 2020 elections.
Democrats for their part feel that the testimony that they already have in hand is more than enough to begin the impeachment process and will continue to hold hearings and obtain testimony from additional witnesses while simultaneously moving forward with the drafting of articles of impeachment.
Professor Turley’s refusal to rebut the substance of the Democrats’ allegations towards the president — saying that Trump’s infamous phone call with Ukraine President Zelensky was far from perfect and worthy of congressional investigation — made him a less than a fully effective witness for the Republicans as some observers on Twitter pointed out.
Prof. Turley states that the investigation is incomplete, rebutting the claim that it's a waste of time.
He just exploded the Republicans' claim that there is no evidence that justifies a probable cause to believe a crime has been committed.https://t.co/YRIInG4dFG
— Monty Boa (@MontyBoa99) December 4, 2019
If Turley is the best the GOP can do to try to stop the impeachment steamroller, expect a landscape of flattened carcasses on the road ahead.
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Vinnie Longobardo is a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music and art.