Nadler Says Trump’s Conduct ‘Impeachable’: Impeachment Update

Billy House
Nadler Says Trump’s Conduct ‘Impeachable’: Impeachment Update

(Bloomberg) -- The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday is holding its first hearing on whether to draw up articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump.

The panel is hearing from law professors Noah Feldman of Harvard, Pamela Karlan of Stanford, Michael Gerhardt of the University of North Carolina and Jonathan Turley of George Washington University.

Here are the latest developments:

Nadler Says Trump’s Conduct ‘Impeachable’ (6:53 p.m.)

Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler closed the hearing by saying it’s clear that Trump “committed an impeachable offense” that poses “a threat to our national security and an urgent threat to the integrity of the next election.”

“In this country the president cannot do whatever he wants,” Nadler said at the end of the all-day hearing. “If these abuses go unchecked they will only continue and grow worse.”

The committee’s top Republican, Doug Collins, repeated his contention that the committee should hear from “fact witnesses” instead of taking the Intelligence Committee’s report “almost at face value.”

“They are so obsessed about the election next year they just glossed over things,” said Collins of Georgia.

During the hearing, both Nadler and Collins made references to the committee holding another hearing next week that will focus on the evidence and conclusions in the Intelligence panel’s final impeachment report. Officials with the Judiciary Committee haven’t said what day that hearing would occur.

White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement, “Today was a good day for President Trump, and a bad day for the Democrats.”

Witness Regrets Mention of Barron Trump (6:08 p.m.)

Karlan apologized for mentioning Trump’s 13-year-old son, Barron, while discussing the president’s powers in office -- a comment that drew rebukes from First Lady Melania Trump, the president’s spokeswoman, and others.

“I want to apologize for what I said earlier about the president’s son; it was wrong of me to say that,” Karlan said late in the hearing. “I wish the president would apologize obviously for the things that he’s done that’s wrong, but I do regret having said that.”

Hours earlier, Karlan said Trump was incorrect when he once claimed the Constitution gave him broad and unchecked power, like a king. As an example, she said, “while the president can name his son Barron, he can’t make him a baron.”

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham called it a “classless move.”

First Lady Melania Trump wrote on Twitter, “A minor child deserves privacy and should be kept out of politics. Pamela Karlan, you should be ashamed of your very angry and obviously biased public pandering, and using a child to do it.”

Defense of Trump Includes Some Criticism (5:10 p.m.)

Turley at times criticized Trump while also arguing that the allegations against the president don’t meet the standard of an impeachable offense.

“I have been critical of the president in terms of crossing lines with the Justice Department,” Turley told the Judiciary Committee. “That caused considerable problems and I don’t believe it’s appropriate. But we often confuse what is inappropriate with what is impeachable.”

“Many people feel that what the president has done is obnoxious, contemptible. But contemptible is not synonymous with impeachable,” he said.

Earlier in his opening statement, Turley said he’s not a supporter of Trump and voted against him, but that his opinions aren’t relevant to his argument that the president shouldn’t be impeached.

Republican Tom McClintock of California tried to find out how the other professors voted in 2016, asking the witnesses to raise their hands if they voted for Trump.

Karlan objected that people can’t be required to disclose how they voted. Feldman added, “Not raising our hands is not an indication of an answer, sir.” McClintock dropped the matter.

Witness Scolded for Mention of Barron Trump (3:37 p.m.)

A reference by Karlan to the president’s youngest child during the hearing drew swift and angry rebukes from Trump’s campaign and his spokeswoman.

Karlan said Trump was wrong when he once claimed the Constitution gave broad and unchecked power, like a king.

“I’ll just give you one example that shows the difference between him and a king, which is the Constitution says there can be no titles of nobility,” she said. “So, while the president can name his son Barron, he can’t make him a baron,” she said.

GOP Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida chided Karlan later in the hearing. “It makes you look mean and like you’re attacking someone’s family, the minor child of the president of the United States,” he said.

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham called it a “classless move.”

“Prof Karlan uses a teenage boy who has nothing to do with this joke of a hearing (and deserves privacy) as a punchline. And what’s worse, it’s met by laughter in the hearing room. What is being done to this country is no laughing matter,” she said on Twitter.

First Lady Melania Trump wrote on Twitter, “A minor child deserves privacy and should be kept out of politics. Pamela Karlan, you should be ashamed of your very angry and obviously biased public pandering, and using a child to do it.”

Trump’s campaign tweeted as well.

Republicans have sought to call Hunter Biden, who served on the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma Holdings, as a witness, but Democrats have refused, and some have criticized the request by the GOP. -- Billy House

Nixon Case Was ‘Gold Standard,’ Scholar Says (1:24 p.m.)

Turley called the impeachment inquiry into President Richard Nixon the “gold standard” because Congress took time to investigate and await a Supreme Court decision ordering the president to turn over White House tapes.

By the time Nixon lost in court and resigned, “The public did catch up. Congress and courts changed their mind” and turned against the president, Turley said.

“If you rush this impeachment, you’re going to leave half the country behind,” Turley said. “This isn’t an impulse buy.”

An impeachment case is “manufactured until you build a record,” he said. “I’m not saying you can’t build a record, but you can’t do it like this.” -- Billy House

Scholar Disputes Meaning of Bribery (1:02 p.m.)

Turley, the lawyer called by Republicans, pushed back on the other professors’ argument that Trump’s pressure on Ukraine amounted to bribery and his refusal to comply with subpoenas was an obstruction of Congress.

“These crimes have meaning” and bribery isn’t subject to a “boundless interpretation” under federal law, he said. He pointed to a Supreme Court ruling in the case of former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell that narrowed the definition of official acts.

“This isn’t improvisational jazz,” Turley said. “If you’re going to accuse a president of bribery, you need to make it stick.”

It’s unfair to say that in an impeachment, Trump’s actions don’t have to meet the standards of bribery laws, he said.

Turley also said that the investigation hasn’t established obstruction by Trump, partly because the House has moved so quickly.

“Explain to me why you want to set the record for the fastest impeachment,” he said.

Trump has the right to go to court to contest subpoenas, and the House isn’t waiting for that to happen, he said, noting that Nixon resigned only after he lost at the Supreme Court.

“President Trump has gone to court. He is allowed to do that. We have three branches, not two,” Turley said. -- Billy House

‘Attempt’ Counts as Wrongdoing, Scholars Say (12:17 p.m.)

Trump isn’t cleared of wrongdoing by the fact that the U.S. military aid was ultimately sent to Ukraine and that Ukraine never announced an investigation of Joe Biden, said the three law professors called by Democrats.

“The attempt itself is the impeachable act,” said Feldman, adding that President Richard Nixon failed in his effort to cover up the Watergate break-in but still faced an impeachment process before he resigned.

Karlan likened the situation to a traffic cop asking a motorist to pay $20 to avoid a speeding ticket. Even if the motorist doesn’t have the money and the police officer drops the request, the officer is still guilty of soliciting a bribe, she said.

“Soliciting itself is an impeachable offense regardless of whether the other person comes up with it,” Karlan said.

Gerhardt said that like someone caught committing a burglary, in Trump’s case “we’ve got someone caught right in the middle of it, and that doesn’t excuse the consequences.”

Feldman also said that if getting Ukraine to announce an investigation of Biden counts as a “thing of value” aiding Trump’s re-election, it can be considered bribery.

Karlan said that if Trump had really been interested in rooting out corruption in Ukraine, he could have demanded an impartial probe of Ukrainian energy company Burisma. But the demand from the Trump administration focused on a public statement from Ukraine’s president that would have sullied the reputation of Joe Biden, one of Trump’s political opponents, Karlan said.

“Yes, you have bribery,” in this example, Karlan said, in response to a question about whether these allegations meet the constitutional threshold for impeachment, which includes bribery.

“If what we’re talking about is not impeachable, then nothing is impeachable,” Gerhardt said. If Congress gives a pass to Trump, “every other president will say ‘I can do the same thing.’” -- Billy House

Trump Abused His Office, Legal Scholars Say (11:47 a.m.)

House Democrats are seeking to build an argument that Trump should be impeached for abusing his office by pressuring Ukraine to investigate his political opponent.

Under questioning by Democratic staff attorney Norm Eisen, Feldman said abuse of power includes using political office for personal gain. Impeachment is “the only mechanism” to address a president seeking to distort the election system for his personal benefit, he told the committee.

“The president did commit an impeachable abuse of office,” said Feldman.

Asked the same question by Eisen, Karlan responded, “Same answer.”

“We three are unanimous,” said Gerhardt.

Karlan said seeking foreign interference in an election is an abuse “that cuts to the heart of democracy.” If the House doesn’t impeach Trump, “then what you’re saying is it’s fine to go ahead and do this again,” she said.

“It’s your responsibility to make sure that all Americans get the opportunity to vote in a free and fair election next November,” Karlan said.

Trump’s pressure on Ukraine also amounts to bribery, she said. -- Billy House

Pelosi Says No Deadline Set for House Action (10:59 a.m.)

House Democratic leaders insist they have no deadline for drawing up or voting on articles of impeachment against Trump despite concerns from some members about dragging it into the election year.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi gathered Democratic House members into a closed door meeting Wednesday as a Judiciary Committee hearing on impeachment was getting underway.

“We’ll be watching the hearing and see how that goes today,” Pelosi said in an interview. “One step at a time. We saw the report last night and we’ll see the hearing today then we’ll make some decisions after that.”

Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said they will give time for the House Judiciary Committee to complete its work, after the House Intelligence panel yesterday released its 300-page report that concludes Trump worked to coerce the President of Ukraine to probe political foe Joe Biden and then obstructed a congressional investigation. -- Billy House

Trump Calls Inquiry a ‘Disgrace’ to Country (10:55 a.m.)

Trump criticized House Democrats’ report on his effort to pressure Ukraine’s government to investigate his political rivals, calling it a “joke” and unpatriotic.

“These people, you almost question whether or not they love our country,” Trump said Wednesday in a meeting with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte at a NATO summit in London. “It’s a disgrace to our country.”

Trump again insisted he’d done nothing wrong, saying his conduct didn’t rise to the level of the “high crimes and misdemeanors” the Constitution says merit impeachment.

“In this case there was no crime whatsoever,” he said. “Not even a little tiny crime.”

He predicted that many Democrats would vote against articles of impeachment and his removal from office, if there’s a Senate trial. “If they don’t, they’re going to lose their race,” he said. -- Justin Sink

Inquiry Stems From ‘Hatred,’ GOP Member Says (10:33 a.m.)

The committee’s top Republican, Doug Collins, said Democrats are pursuing impeachment “because you just don’t like the guy” and have wanted to remove Trump since he was elected.

“Don’t tell me this is about new evidence,” Collins said.

“We have a deep-seated hatred of a man who came to the White House and did what he said he was going to do,” said Collins of Georgia.

The GOP lawmaker said the committee should be hearing from “fact witnesses” instead of law professors, and he disputed Nadler’s statement that the facts are not in dispute.

“This is not an impeachment, this is just a simple railroad job,” said Collins. -- Billy House

Trump ‘Invited’ Interference, Nadler Says (10:18 a.m.)

Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler opened the hearing by saying that Trump has displayed a “clear” pattern of misbehavior and that the facts are “undisputed.”

“President Trump welcomed interference for the 2016 election,“ Nadler said, referring to Russian election meddling. “He demanded it for the 2020 election. In both cases he got caught.”

Nadler said that when some government officials defied Trump’s orders not to testify, “He attacked them viciously, calling them traitors and liars.”

”President Trump did not merely seek to benefit from foreign interference in our elections,” Nadler said.“He directly and explicitly invited foreign interference in our elections. He used the powers of his office to try to make it happen. He sent his agents to make clear that this what he wanted,” the chairman said.

Nadler said the committee’s next hearing will be to receive information from “the committees that worked to uncover the facts before us.” -- Billy House

Democratic Scholars Say Trump Abused Power (9:08 a.m.)

Legal scholars called to testify Wednesday by Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee assert that Trump’s actions outlined by evidence and witness testimony constitute impeachable offenses.

“President Trump’s conduct described in the testimony and evidence clearly constitutes an impeachable high crime and misdemeanor under the Constitution,” Feldman, who serves as the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at the Harvard Law School, said in prepared remarks.

“Specifically, President Trump abused his office by corruptly soliciting (Ukraine) President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to announce investigations of his political rivals in order to gain personal advantage, including in the 2020 presidential election,” Feldman will say.

Feldman will point to testimony and the publicly released memorandum of the July 25, 2019, telephone call between the two presidents as an act of solicitation that on its own qualifies as an impeachable offense.

“By freezing aid to Ukraine and by dangling the promise of a White House visit, the president was corruptly using the powers of the presidency for personal political gain. Here, too, the president’s conduct described by the testimony embodies the framers’ concern that a sitting president would corruptly abuse the powers of office to distort the outcome of a presidential election in his favor,” Feldman, who is also a Bloomberg Opinion columnist, will say.

Karlan, a professor of public interest law and co-director of the Supreme Court Litigation Clinic at Stanford Law School, will argue that, “If we are to keep faith with the Constitution and our Republic, President Trump must be held to account.”

“Based on the evidentiary record, what has happened in the case before you is something that I do not think we have ever seen before: a president who has doubled down on violating his oath to ‘faithfully execute’ the laws and to ‘protect and defend the Constitution,’” Karlan will say, according to her advanced testimony.

Karlan will add that “everything I know about our Constitution and its values, and my review of the evidentiary record, tells me that when President Trump invited -- indeed, demanded -- foreign involvement in our upcoming election, he struck at the very heart of what makes this country the ‘republic’.”

Gerhardt will argue that Trump’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, including what previous presidents who faced impeachment have done or been accused of doing.”

“Even President Nixon agreed to share information with Congress, ordered his subordinates to comply with subpoenas to testify and produce documents (with some limited exceptions), and to send his lawyers to ask questions in the House’s impeachment hearings,” Gerhardt will state.

Those witness testimonies are expected to contrast with the arguments of the scholar called by Republicans. -- Billy House

GOP Witness to Decry ‘Thinnest’ Evidence (8:20 a.m.)

A legal expert who is the first Republican-requested impeachment witness is set to tell the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday the case against Trump would represent the “thinnest evidentiary record, and the narrowest grounds ever used to impeach a president.”

“That does not bode well for future presidents who are working in a country often sharply and, at times, bitterly divided,” Turley, the George Washington University law professor, will say, according to a copy of his prepared opening remarks.

“No, it is wrong because this is not how an American president should be impeached,” Turley plans to say.

Turley will say it’s possible that a case for impeachment could be made but that the House was rushing to a vote without having subpoenaed “a host of witnesses who have direct knowledge of any quid pro quo.” Instead, he will say the House is moving forward “on a record composed of a relatively small number of witnesses with largely second-hand knowledge of the position.”

“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,“ he plans to say. -- Billy House

Judiciary Panel Opens New Phase in Inquiry (7 a.m.)

The four law professors will be questioned by Judiciary Committee members on the constitutional requirements for impeachment in the panel’s first public meeting that may lead to articles of impeachment against the president.

Feldman, Karlan and Gerhardt were called to testify by the committee’s majority Democrats, while Turley was called by the GOP. The hearing is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m.

Catch Up on Impeachment Coverage

Key Events

The report by Intelligence Committee Democrats accuses Trump of abusing his office by pressuring Ukraine’s government to deliver a political favor, then trying to hide his conduct and obstruct a congressional investigation.The House Intelligence Committee Democrats’ impeachment report is here.Gordon Sondland’s transcript is here and here; Kurt Volker’s transcript is here and here. Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch’s transcript is here and here; the transcript of Michael McKinley, former senior adviser to the secretary of State, is here. The transcript of Holmes, a Foreign Service officer in Kyiv, is here.The transcript of William Taylor, the top U.S. envoy to Ukraine, is here and here. State Department official George Kent’s testimony is here and here. Testimony by Alexander Vindman can be found here, and the Hill transcript is here. Laura Cooper’s transcript is here; Christopher Anderson’s is here and Catherine Croft’s is here. Jennifer Williams’ transcript is here and Timothy Morrison’s is here. Philip Reeker transcript is here. Mark Sandy’s is here.

--With assistance from Justin Sink, Jordan Fabian, Laura Litvan and Steven T. Dennis.

To contact the reporter on this story: Billy House in Washington at bhouse5@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Joe Sobczyk at jsobczyk@bloomberg.net, Laurie Asséo

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