(CNN)A trio of legal scholars argued at the first House Judiciary Committee impeachment hearing Wednesday that President Donald Trump’sunprecedented conductwas evidence of impeachable offenses, amid vocal protests and repeated procedural roadblocks thrown up by Republicans protesting impeachment proceedings.
The opening impeachment hearing held by the panel expected to draft articles of impeachment against the President was contentious from the moment Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler gaveled the hearing into session. Republicans repeatedly forced procedural votes and quizzed Nadler on committee rules as they dismissed the impeachment proceeding as a sham.
The hearing marked an important step forward for Democrats in the impeachment proceedings, which have shiftedfrom the House Intelligence Committee-led investigationto the Judiciary panel. Democrats are on track for an impeachment vote on the House floor by the end of the year, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi held a closed-door, members-only meeting Wednesday morning where Democrats agreed to continue moving forward with the inquiry.
At the hearing, Democrats pushed past the Republican objections to elicit testimony from the three of the four legal experts they invited to explain why Trump’s actions constituted impeachment offenses.
Those three professors, Harvard University’sNoah Feldman, Stanford University’sPamela Karlanand North Carolina’sMichael Gerhardt, were all asked, based on the House Intelligence Committee evidence, “Did President Trump commit the impeachable high crime and misdemeanor of abuse of power?” All said that he did.
“If what we’re talking about is not impeachable, then nothing is impeachable,” Gerhardt said. “This is precisely the misconduct that the framers created a Constitution, including impeachment, to protect against.”
While the three Democratic-invited law professors backed impeachment, the law professor called by Republicans to testify, George Washington’sJonathan Turley, argued that Democrats were making a mistakethat would
“I am concerned about lowering impeachment standards to fit a paucity of evidence and an abundance of anger. I believe this impeachment not only fails to satisfy the standard of past impeachments but would create a dangerous precedent for future impeachments, “Turley said.
Nadler vowed to move swiftly to impeach Trump if his committee concludes that Trump committed impeachable offenses.
“Never before, in the history of the republic, have we been forced to consider the conduct of a president who appears to have solicited personal, political favors from a foreign government, “said Nadler, a New York Democrat. “When we apply the Constitution to those facts, if it is true that President Trump has committed an impeachable offense – or impeachable offenses – then we must move swiftly to do our duty and charge him accordingly.”
Republicans slammed the Democratic impeachment inquiry, which Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, the top Republican on the committee, dismissed as a “railroad job.”
“This is not an impeachment. This is simply a railroad job , “Collins said. “And today is a waste of time.”
From the moment Nadler started the hearing, Republicans launched their protests of the including forcing votes on motion for House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff to testify, to have the whistleblower testify and to postpone Wednesday’s hearing.
The move to the Judiciary Committee has ratcheted up the partisan temperature in the committee room, as the committee has some of the most vocal partisans in Congress on both sides of the aisle.
But the law professors made clear they weren’t going to just be props for a partisan fistfight.
Karlan pushed back against Collins, who said in his opening statement the professors “couldn’t have possibly actually digested the Adam Schiff report from yesterday or the Republican response in any real wa y. “
” Mr. Collins, I would like to say to you, sir, that I read transcripts of every one of the witnesses who appeared in the live hearing because I would not speak about these things without reviewing the facts, so I’m insulted by the suggestion that as a law professor I don’t care about those facts, “she said.
The President’s attorneyswere invited to participate in the hearing, but they declined, arguing that the process was unfair and they were given no details about the hearing itself .
Nadler has given the President’s lawyersuntil Friday to say whether they will participatein future impeachment proceedings in the committee, which is expected to include a presentation from the Intelligence Committee on its findings.
Democrats are making the Ukraine investigation a focal point of the questioning of the academic But several Democratic so urces say to expect discussion of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s report to come up as well, which they hope will exhibit a pattern of behavior showing Trump abused his power in office.
This story has been updated with additional developments Wednesday.