Four constitutional law experts testified before the House panel as Democrats outlined an impeachment road map
Public impeachment hearings moved on Wednesday to the House judiciary committee, where four constitutional law experts testified about whether alleged misconduct byDonald Trumpinvestigated in previous impeachment hearings rises to the level of impeachable offenses.
Here are five key takeaways from this next step of the process:
Trump provides extreme example of impeachable conduct – witnesses
Three witnesses called by Democrats said that the president’s use of official acts for personal gain in defiance of US national security interests was clearly an impeachable offense.
“If what we’re talking about is not impeachable, then nothing is impeachable,” said witness Michael Gerhardt, a University of North Carolina law professor. “If Congress fails to impeach here, then the impeachment process has lost all meaning and, along with that, our constitution’s carefully crafted safeguards against the establishment of a king on American soil.”
Democrats lay out impeachment road map
The Democrats outlined three alleged offenses that could form the basis for formal articles of impeachment that the full House would vote on. The three offenses were: abuse of power and bribery; obstruction of Congress; and obstruction of justice. ******
“Never before has a president engaged in a course of conduct that included all the acts that most concerned the framers,” said the committee’s chairman, Jerry Nadler.
Republicans call evidence ‘wafer-thin’
Echoing a protest made for weeks by their colleagues on the intelligence committee as evidence pointing to misconduct by Trump piled up, Republicans on Wednesday accused Democrats of moving forward on impeachment without gathering sufficient evidence.
“If the House proceeds solely on the Ukrainian allegations, this impeachment would stand out among modern impeachments as the shortest proceeding, with the thinnest evidentiary record, and the narrowest grounds ever used to impeach a president,” said the George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley, a witness called by Republicans.
In reply to the Republican charge that they were moving forward on slim evidence, Democrats pointed again to the 30 hours of public hearings just concluded, the testimony of 17 witnesses including many Trump appointees, and to public statements by Trump and aides, as well as to public documents including a White House summary of a 25 July phone call between Trump and the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
Where one side saw a molehill, the other saw a mountain. At Wednesday’s hearing, the two sides talked perfectly past one another, with Democratic members posing questions to the witnesses called by Democrats and Republican members addressing their witness. The split pointed to the strong possibility of a straight party-line vote on the impeachment, should it come to that.
While the judiciary committee has not announced additional hearings, the White House has until Friday 6 December to notify the committee whether lawyers for Trump wish to participate in the proceedings. The White House declined to participate in the hearing on Wednesday.
If the judiciary committee forges ahead with drafting formal articles of impeachment, Democratic party leaders expect a committee vote on them as soon as next week. By this timeline, the full House could vote on impeaching Trump near the end of the year, although there is no set calendar. If he is impeached, Trump’s trial would be held in the Republican-controlled Senate early next year, where most observers expect him to be acquitted.