Legal experts duel over Trump impeachment effort

Legal experts duel over Trump impeachment effort

As the focus of work in Congress on the impeachment of President Donald Trump shifted to the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, a panel of constitutional experts became the proxies for both parties in this impeachment fight, as Republicans did their best to slow the process and decry the effort by Democrats.

"President Trump has committed impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors," said Harvard law professor Noah Feldman.

"If we are to keep faith with the Constitution and our Republic, President Trump must be held to account," said Stanford law professor Pamela Karlan.

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"If what we're talking about is not impeachable, then nothing is impeachable," added University of North Carolina law professor Michael Gerhardt.

While Democrats focused their questions on their three witnesses, Republicans gravitated to their sole invitee, George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley.

"If you rush this impeachment, you're going to leave half the country behind," Turley warned, comparing the Trump impeachment to that of President Andrew Johnson after the Civil War.

"This is the narrowest impeachment in history," Turley added, urging Democrats to take extra time to bolster the investigative record related to President Trump.

At one point, Turley questions about possible impeachment charges centering on abuse of power by President Trump on Democrats.

"It is an abuse power," Turley said. "It's your abuse of power."

While Turley said he was no supporter of President Trump, his testimony against impeachment drew interest - because he had testified 21 years ago for the impeachment of President Bill Clinton.

"In my view, President Clinton's conduct demands an open and deliberative review under the conditions created for that purpose by the Framers," Turley testified in November of 1998.

"Allegations of criminal acts in office by a president are perhaps the greatest threat to the perceived legitimacy of government," Turley told the same House Judiciary Committee twenty one years ago before the Clinton impeachment.

In the hearing, GOP lawmakers belittled today's proceedings.

"What a waste," said Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH).

"This is not an impeachment, this is a simple railroad job," argued Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA).

At the start of the hearing, Republicans forced a series of procedural votes which slowed proceedings, as they demanded testimony from the original Intelligence Community whistleblower who raised questions about the President's actions regarding Ukraine, and demanded the right to question Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the head of the House Intelligence Committee.

With Christmas just three weeks away, it was not immediately clear when the Judiciary Committee would move to draw up actual articles of impeachment against the President, or when those votes would take place.

"What are we doing for the next two weeks?" asked Rep. Collins with an aggravated tone. "I have no idea!"

It was a similar situation in December of 1998, when there was talk from GOP leaders - exactly 21 years ago - of not voting on impeachment until the next year.

Ultimately, the House Judiciary Committee, and the House, worked through two weekends, holding an impeachment vote in the full House on the Saturday before Christmas.