Three constitutional scholars called as witnesses by Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee outlined what they said was the constitutional justification for impeaching President Trump in their opening statements Wednesday.
In his testimony, Michael Gerhardt of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said the record indicates Trump has committed impeachable offenses including obstruction of justice, obstruction of Congress and bribery.
“The gravity of the president’s misconduct is apparent when we compare it to the misconduct of the one president who resigned from office to avoid certain impeachment, conviction, and removal,” Gerhardt said in his opening statement.
He also said that while articles of impeachment against President Richard Nixon in his view proved that Nixon nad personally and through subordinates stonewalled the investigation of the Watergate break-in, “the Mueller Report found at least five instances” of obstruction of the Justice Department investigation.”
“The president’s serious misconduct, including bribery, soliciting a personal favor from a foreign leader in exchange for his exercise of power, and obstructing justice and Congress are worse than the misconduct of any prior president,” he added.
Pamela S. Karlan of Stanford Law School, meanwhile, said in her opening statement that the evidence “shows a president who delayed meeting a foreign leader and providing assistance that Congress and his own advisors agreed served our national interest in promoting democracy and limiting Russian aggression.”
The record, she added, “shows a president who did this to strong arm a foreign leader into smearing one of the president’s opponents in our ongoing election season.”
“That is not politics as usual—at least not in the United States or any other mature democracy. It is, instead, a cardinal reason why the Constitution contains an impeachment power,” she added. “Put simply, a candidate for president should resist foreign interference in our elections, not demand it.”
Noah Feldman of Harvard Law School, meanwhile, said Trump’s conduct met the constitutional standard for “high crimes and misdemeanors,” because Trump “was using his office to seek a personal political and electoral advantage over his political rival, former vice president Joe Biden, and over the Democratic Party.”
“According to the testimony presented to the House, the solicitation sought to gain an advantage that was personal to the president. This constitutes a corrupt abuse of the power of the presidency,” he said. “It embodies the framers’ central worry that a sitting president would ‘spare no efforts or means whatever to get himself re-elected.’ ”