A video of US President Donald Trump is shown on a television screen during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on the impeachment of Trump on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, December 4, 2019. The next phase of impeachment begun December 4 in the US Congress, as lawmakers weigh charges against Donald Trump, after the high-stakes inquiry into the president detailed "overwhelming" evidence of abuse of power and obstruction. Four constitutional scholars will testify before the House Judiciary Committee in the first of a series of hearings to establish the gravity of Trump's alleged crimes.
AFP/Brendan Smialowski
Trump committed impeachable crimes, scholars tell Congress
Michael Mathes, Paul Handley (Agence France-Presse) - December 5, 2019 - 10:22am

WASHINGTON, United States — Three constitutional scholars on Wednesday bolstered Democrats' case for impeaching Donald Trump by saying the president's actions seeking foreign interference in US elections were clear grounds for removal, as the inquiry kicked into high gear in Congress.

But reflecting the Washington political divide, a fourth expert strongly dissented, saying there was "woefully inadequate" evidence that Trump committed high crimes and misdemeanors necessary for removal.

Democrats have made a forceful case that Trump should be impeached for trying to leverage a White House meeting and military aid to pressure Ukraine for dirt on an election rival.

In a sometime theatrical hearing of the House Judiciary Committee -- now tasked with weighing impeachment charges against the president -- lawmakers listened to damning testimony from constitutional law professors.

"On the basis of the testimony and evidence before the House, President Trump has committed impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors by corruptly abusing the office of the presidency," Harvard Law School professor Noah Feldman told the hearing.

"We three are unanimous" in that view, jurisprudence professor Michael Gerhart of the University of North Carolina stated, referring to himself and fellow witnesses Feldman and Stanford Law School professor Pamela Karlan.

The trio was invited by Democrats to testify.

Americans tuning in to the eight-hour live broadcast witnessed clashes between Democrats and Republican Trump loyalists on the panel, who repeatedly forced procedural votes to stall the process.

The new phase of impeachment began a day after a congressional report on the high-stakes inquiry detailed "overwhelming" evidence of abuse of power and obstruction by the president.

The report mapped out a months-long scheme by Trump, his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, senior diplomats and White House staffers to pressure Ukraine's president into investigating Joe Biden, the current favorite to win the Democratic nomination for the 2020 election.

Trump "was willing to compromise our security and his office for personal, political gain," said Judiciary Committee chairman Jerry Nadler.

'Proof, not presumptions'

Trump's alleged political crimes, including bribery and obstruction of justice and Congress, "are worse than the misconduct of any prior president," Gerhart said.

"If what we're talking about is not impeachable, then nothing is impeachable."

Feldman added that if Trump is not held to account for his offenses "we live under a dictatorship."

White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham hit back on Twitter, claiming that "3 of 4 'experts' in this sham hearing have known biases" against Trump.

The fourth, George Washington University Law School professor Jonathan Turley, the only expert invited by Republicans, argued there was "no evidence" that Trump acted with corrupt intent.

He warned that partisan "rage" was compromising the inquiry.

"Impeachments have to be based on proof, not presumptions," he said, adding that Democrats were rushing the process so quickly that they were not hearing from key players in the Ukraine scandal.

Turley and Republicans failed to acknowledge the White House's stonewalling. Despite Democratic requests, 12 current or former administration officials have refused to testify.

'Impeachable offense'

The president himself, in London for a NATO summit, lambasted his opponents for proceeding with impeachment hearings.

"What they are doing is a very bad thing for our country," Trump said. "It's a joke."

Karlan asserted that Trump's alleged effort to withhold military aid until Ukraine committed to investigating Biden was grounds for removal -- even though Kiev never conducted the probe.

"Soliciting itself is the impeachable offense," she said.

But Karlan found herself in hot water when she invoked Trump's 13-year-old son Barron when differentiating between monarchical and presidential power.

"While the president can name his son 'Barron', he can't make him a baron," Karlan said. 

The remark drew stiff blowback from First Lady Melania Trump, and Karlan apologized.

The House Intelligence Committee report is expected to form the basis for the Judiciary Committee to draw up formal charges -- articles of impeachment -- that could include bribery, abuse of power, obstruction and contempt of Congress.

Democrats reportedly aim to have the articles presented for a vote to the entire House of Representatives by late December.

If the House impeaches Trump, he would then stand trial for removal in the Republican-controlled Senate, where he is likely to be exonerated.

The Senate meanwhile released its 2020 schedule, and the entire month of January is blocked off, signalling preparations for a trial.

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: February 6, 2020 - 10:24am

Monitor updates on the impeachment investigation into US President Donald Trump.

February 6, 2020 - 10:24am

Democratic House speaker Nancy Pelosi denounces the Senate's acquittal of President Donald Trump and says he remains "an ongoing threat to American democracy."

"Today, the President and Senate Republicans have normalized lawlessness and rejected the system of checks and balances of our Constitution," Pelosi says in a statement issued after the Senate acquitted Trump of both impeachment articles passed by the House.

"The President remains an ongoing threat to American democracy, with his insistence that he is above the law and that he can corrupt the elections if he wants to," Pelosi says. — AFP

February 6, 2020 - 9:12am

Democratic House speaker Nancy Pelosi denounced the Senate's acquittal of President Donald Trump on Wednesday and said he remains "an ongoing threat to American democracy."

"Today, the President and Senate Republicans have normalized lawlessness and rejected the system of checks and balances of our Constitution," Pelosi said in a statement issued after the Senate acquitted Trump of both impeachment articles passed by the House.

"The President remains an ongoing threat to American democracy, with his insistence that he is above the law and that he can corrupt the elections if he wants to," Pelosi said.

The Republican-majority Senate voted 52-48 to acquit Trump of abuse of power and 53-47 to acquit him of obstruction of Congress. — AFP

February 6, 2020 - 8:06am

US President Donald Trump drew on staunch Republican support to defeat the gravest threat yet to his three-year-old presidency on Wednesday, winning acquittal in the Senate on impeachment charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

Only the third US leader ever placed on trial, Trump readily defeated the Democratic-led effort to expel him from office for having illicitly sought help from Ukraine to bolster his 2020 re-election effort.

Trump immediately claimed "victory" while the White House declared it a full "exoneration" for the president — even as Democrats rejected the acquittal as the "valueless" outcome of an unfair trial. — AFP

January 26, 2020 - 1:43pm

Donald Trump demanded the dismissal of Marie Yovanovitch, the ambassador to Ukraine and a key figure in the president's impeachment trial, according to a video recording released to US media on Saturday. 

The footage was reportedly taken during an April 2018 donor dinner at a hotel and released to news outlets by an attorney for Lev Parnas, an indicted associate of Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani. 

Parnas and his business partner Igor Fruman are key players in Trump's alleged campaign to pressure the government of Ukraine to dig up dirt on Joe Biden, a potential election opponent for the president. 

The issue is central to Trump's ongoing impeachment trial in the US Senate. — AFP

January 25, 2020 - 3:39pm

Donald Trump's lawyers prepare to deliver his first full-throated defense Saturday in the Senate's historic impeachment trial, after Democratic prosecutors spent three days making their case for the US president's removal from office.

Capping 24 total hours of arguments, Democrats tell the 100 senators that Trump abused the power of the presidency in pressuring Ukraine to launch investigations that would help him politically, and then sought to block efforts by Congress to investigate.

Democrats say they had met that burden of proof, as lead House impeachment manager Adam Schiff warned that Trump would remain an "imminent threat" to American democracy if he stays in power. — AFP

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