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George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley has been “highly critical” of President Trump and has consistently voted for Democratic presidents, but he has a strong warning for the House Judiciary Committee on the first day of its impeachment hearings: While President Trump’s July 25 phone call with his Ukrainian counterpart was “anything but perfect,” the Democrats have simply failed to obtain the adequate evidence to make a case for such a serious action as removing the sitting president of the United States. To push this impeachment forward, Turley warns, is “dangerous.”
The four impeachment witnesses for the Judiciary Committee-led hearing Wednesday are all law professors, and three of them, selected by Democrats, are expected to heartily endorse the Democrats’ impeachment effort.
Only the lone Republican-selected witness allowed by the Democrats to testify Wednesday, Turley — a self-described Trump critic and Democratic voter — will push back agains the Democrats’ impeachment campaign.
The impeachment “is not wrong because President Trump is right,” says Turley in his 53-page opening statement. While Trump’s famous call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was “anything but perfect,” Turley argues, and a case for impeachment “could be made,” “it cannot be made on this record,” as all of the evidence has been second-hand at best.
After explaining that he’s been “highly critical of President Trump, his policies, and his rhetoric, in dozens of columns,” and voted against him in the 2016 election — and for both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama before that — Turley makes the case that what the Democrats are doing by pushing forward with the partisan impeachment of Trump is actually “dangerous”:
I would like to start, perhaps incongruously, with a statement of three irrelevant facts. First, I am not a supporter of President Trump. I voted against him in 2016 and I have previously voted for Presidents Clinton and Obama. Second, I have been highly critical of President Trump, his policies, and his rhetoric, in dozens of columns. Third, I have repeatedly criticized his raising of the investigation of the Hunter Biden matter with the Ukrainian president. These points are not meant to curry favor or approval. Rather they are meant to drive home a simple point: one can oppose President Trump’s policies or actions but still conclude that the current legal case for impeachment is not just woefully inadequate, but in some respects, dangerous, as the basis for the impeachment of an American president.
To put it simply, I hold no brief for President Trump. My personal and political views of President Trump, however, are irrelevant to my impeachment testimony, as they should be to your impeachment vote. Today, my only concern is the integrity and coherence of the constitutional standard and process of impeachment. President Trump will not be our last president and what we leave in the wake of this scandal will shape our democracy for generations to come. I am concerned about lowering impeachment standards to fit a paucity of evidence and an abundance of anger. 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.7 That does not bode well for future presidents who are working in a country often sharply and, at times, bitterly divided.
Of course, Turley’s fellow expert witnesses called to testify by Democrats Wednesday disagree. In fact, University of North Carolina’s Michael Gerhardt believes that not only are Trump’s actions impeachable, they’re “worse than the misconduct of any prior president.”
“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,” the law professor asserts in his prepared remarks, as reported by Politico.
“If Congress fails to impeach here, then the impeachment process has lost all meaning,” Gerhardt declares.