Today, one thing became crystal clear: Donald Trump is exactly the president the Founding Fathers sought to protect the American people from. Americans got a history lesson and a reminder of what's at stake.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and Ranking Member Doug Collins (R-GA) have finally agreed on something. Both said that the facts at hand are not in dispute. The newly released House Impeachment Report laid bare the plot to extort Ukraine into investigating President Trump's political targets, and Republicans no longer appear to be contesting that. Now, their only remaining defense is that what Trump did is not impeachable.
The witnesses today were law professors Pamela Karlan, Noah Feldman, and Michael Gerhardt, who were picked by the Democratic majority, and Republican-picked Professor Jonathan Turley. While Democrats sought to depict a bird’s-eye view of President Trump's misconduct and the impeachment clause, Republicans sought to move goalposts that would set a precedent for future presidential lawlessness.
After Republicans on the committee trolled Chairman Nadler with interruptive parliamentary inquires, House Democrats were finally able to allow the professors to read their opening statements. Democratic Counsel Norm Eisen's subsequent questioning focused on defining a few key areas: abuse of power, high crimes and misdemeanors, bribery, and obstruction.
Professor Feldman summarized his thoughts on Trump's conduct succinctly in his opening statement. After stating that the Founding Fathers feared a president who might abuse his power for personal gain, Feldman continued: "On the basis of the testimony and evidence before the House, President Trump has committed impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors by corruptly abusing the office of the presidency."
Feldman also made a point that many of us have been screaming from the rooftops. Feldman asserted that Trump's act alone of soliciting foreign election interference from Ukraine on that July 25 phone call constitutes an impeachable offense. The hold on military aid and the White House meeting are just additional impeachable offenses.
Professor Karlan began her opening statement by powerfully calling out Rep. Collins for insinuating that she did not read or care about the impeachment evidence. In that moment, and throughout her fiery opening statement, Karlan channeled the frustration most Americans have felt over the last three years during this substandard presidency.
Professor Gerhardt's testimony made the key point that Trump's obstruction of Congress is impeachable and that an act does not have to be a federal crime to be impeachable. Gerhardt stated: "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."
Karlan, Feldman, and Gerhardt all agreed that what Trump did was impeachable bribery. Karlan made sure to make a distinction between bribery in the impeachment clause and the bribery statute that wasn't created until decades later. All three also agreed that it doesn't matter that Trump eventually released the military aid. They argued that if the president even attempts to abuse his office, that is an impeachable offense.
Then came Professor Turley. Turley's central argument landed as well as his joke about his dog being mad. Turley argued that there's not enough evidence to impeach and more witnesses need to be called. It seems that one of Turley's arguments as to why impeachment can’t proceed holds within itself an impeachable offense, because Trump has obstructed witnesses and document releases.
Another component of Turley's argument was that there was no underlying crime, so Trump shouldn't be impeached. I could write a paragraph debunking Turley's claim by citing various legal experts who disagree with him, including those who testified today. But why do that when I can simply quote him contradicting himself?
Today’s Turley should have a coffee with 2014 Turley, who wrote an article in The Washington Post headlined "The Five Myths of Impeachment." One of the myths he cites is literally the myth he stated in his testimony today. Under the myth entitled "An impeachable offense must involve a violation of criminal law," Turley wrote:
“While there’s a high bar for what constitutes grounds for impeachment, an offense does not have to be indictable. Serious misconduct or a violation of public trust is enough.”
Donald Trump has violated the public trust his entire life. As a businessman, he has a well-documented history of fraudulent behavior. As a president, he has utilized authoritarian tactics, endeavored to obstruct justice, abused his power, and solicited foreign election interference on multiple occasions. Like an orange bull in a Constitution-themed China shop, Trump can't help but break anti-corruption clauses written by the Founding Fathers. Though he continues to deny any wrongdoing, it's my firm opinion that such brazenness is simply in his nature.
But what will actually be done about it? The Democrat-controlled House will likely impeach and the Republican-controlled Senate will likely acquit — that much seems clear. While many might see this as "both sides" moving to their corners, the history books will not be as falsely equivocating. There is one side clearly existing in a fact-based reality while the other is not. This will surely be remembered as Democrats signing their names on the right side of history, and Republicans doing the opposite.
As for the American people, it remains to be seen. Only 2020 will tell.