- An expert witnesses in Wednesday's impeachment hearing employed an analogy about a hypothetical disaster in Texas or Louisiana to explain why President Donald Trump should be impeached.
- Pamela Karlan, a Stanford law professor, asked what people would think if a president withheld congressionally-approved aid from a state facing a disaster in exchange for its governor branding his political opponent a criminal.
- Trump in July urged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and a bogus conspiracy theory about Ukraine interfering in the 2016 election.
- At the time, Trump had put on hold millions in congressionally-approved military aid to Ukraine, which is contending with an ongoing, bloody war against pro-Russian separatists.
- Karlan was one of three expert witnesses on Wednesday who said Trump should be impeached.
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Pamela Karlan, a Stanford law professor, employed an analogy about a hypothetical disaster in a US state like Texas or Louisiana to explain why she believes President Donald Trump's conduct in his dealings with Ukraine is worthy of impeachment.
Serving as one of several expert witnesses in the first public impeachment hearing in the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, Karlan said:
"Imagine living in a part of Louisiana or Texas that's prone to devastating hurricanes and flooding. What would you think if you lived there and your governor asked for a meeting with the president to discuss getting disaster aid that Congress has provided for? What would you think if that president said, 'I would like you to do us a favor? I'll meet with you, and send the disaster relief, once you brand my opponent a criminal.'
Wouldn't you know in your gut that such a president has abused his office? That he'd betrayed the national interest, and that he was trying to corrupt the electoral process? I believe the evidentiary record shows wrongful acts on those scale here."
Karlan used this analogy to contextualize Trump's broad efforts to urge Ukraine into launching investigations that would aid his reelection campaign.
—Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) December 4, 2019
Trump urged Ukraine to launch investigations into his political rivals, as he simultaneously withheld aid from the country
During a July 25 phone call, Trump urged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch an inquiry into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, regarding the latter's work for a Ukrainian natural gas company, Burisma Holdings. Trump also pushed Zelensky to launch an inquiry into a debunked conspiracy theory about Ukraine interfering in the 2016 election.
At the time, Trump had placed roughly $400 million in congressionally-approved military aid on hold. According to testimony from impeachment witnesses, Ukraine might have known about the aid freeze at the time of the call and US officials were confused about why the security assistance wasn't being released.
Impeachment witnesses have also testified that Trump conditioned the release of the aid, as well as a White House meeting Zelensky wanted, on the public announcement of investigations.
In other words, witnesses have said under oath that there was an explicit quid pro quo linking the military aid and a White House meeting to the inquiries Trump wanted.
Zelensky, a former comedian and TV star who was elected less than a year ago, wanted the meeting in Washington to help boost his credentials as a world leader. And he needed the aid because Ukraine relies heavily on US assistance as it contends with an ongoing, bloody conflict against pro-Russian separatists in the Donbas region (eastern Ukraine). Ukraine is considered the frontline against Russian aggression in Europe.
There's no evidence of illegal activity or wrongdoing on the part of either Biden in relation to Ukraine or Burisma.
But if Zelensky had moved forward with publicly announcing an investigation into Biden, a top contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, it could have had negative consequences on Biden's campaign for the presidency. It would've amounted to his name being dragged through the dirt by a foreign leader, and this conceivably could've boosted Trump's chances of winning should Biden become the 2020 nominee.
'The essence of an impeachable offense is a president's decision to sacrifice the national interest for his own private ends'
In Karlan's analogy, Texas and Louisiana represent Ukraine, and the disaster is akin to the ongoing war in the eastern part of the country. Her analogy essentially painted Trump's pressure campaign on Ukraine as an effort to "brand" Biden a "criminal" in exchange for much needed aid and a meeting.
This is why she, along with two other expert witnesses on Wednesday, made the case for Trump's impeachment.
"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,'" she testified.
"The list of impeachable offenses the Framers included in the Constitution shows that the essence of an impeachable offense is a president's decision to sacrifice the national interest for his own private ends," Karlan added.
Trump has denied any wrongdoing amid the escalating impeachment inquiry, offering an inconsistent series of defenses as to why he froze the aid to Kiev. After months of being withheld, the military aid was ultimately released to Ukraine on September 11, less than a week after three House committees launched investigations into Trump's dealings with the former Soviet republic.
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