DemDaily: Undermining Democracy

December 4, 2019

The House Judiciary Committee today began the next stage of the impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump.

(Image: CBSNews)

The hearings followed the conclusion of the House Intelligence Committee's investigation, and its 300-page final report, released Tuesday. The report found that Trump, "to advance his personal political interests, ... subverted U.S. foreign policy toward Ukraine and undermined our national security in favor of two politically motivated investigations that would help his presidential re-election campaign."

Background
Over October and November, 2019, the House Intelligence Committee heard 17 closed-door depositions, and five days of public testimony from top state department and foreign affairs officials regarding the Ukraine corruption plot and evidence of its orchestration by the President and his advisors.

The Intelligence Committee concluded their investigation and, on Tuesday, December 3rd, voted along party lines to approve their final report. The report was done in consultation with the House Oversight and Reform Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which previously conducted their own investigations.

The Intelligence Committee's report documents the case for impeaching President Donald Trump, providing evidence he abused the power of his office to solicit political help from a foreign government to help him win re-election, and conducted an unprecedented campaign to obstruct Congress' investigation into his actions.

The report, relying heavily on testimony, details how Trump withheld $400 million in critical military aid from Ukraine, as well as a White House meeting with new Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, until Zelensky publicly declared an investigation into Trump's political opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, and his son Hunter.

The report also finds that President Trump pressured Ukraine to publicly investigate the unfounded theory that it was Kyiv and Democrats who interfered in the 2016 presidential election, not Moscow and his allies.

Read The Report/Click (Image NBC)

It further concludes that the President and advisors conspired to obstruct the Committees' investigations by blocking access to key testimony and documents, and engaging in "a brazen effort to publicly attack and intimidate" witnesses.

Chief among those implicated in the conspiracy is Trump's personal attorney and point person on Ukraine, Rudy Giuliani, who was named more than 500 times.

Others who were "knowledgable of or active participants" in the "scheme" include Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, and acting White House Chief of Staff Nick Mulvaney.

The public report also contained new evidence of phone calls between Giuliani, the White House and others, including Devan Nunes, the House Intelligence Committee's ranking Republican, and a contact referred to as "1."

In accordance with the impeachment process, the report was submitted to the Judiciary Committee, which will utilize its findings, along with information from additional hearings this week, to decide whether or not to draft articles of impeachment.

"The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors." -Article II, Section 4 of the US Constitution

The Judiciary hearings, more academic in nature, started with today's witnesses including four leading constitutional legal scholars on what constitutes grounds for impeachment. Three were chosen by the Democrats and one by the Republicans.

Witnesses
Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Professor Noah Feldman is a graduate of Harvard University and Yale Law School, and a Rhodes Scholar with a PhD from Oxford. He directs Harvard Law School's Julis-Rabinowitz Program on Jewish and Israeli Law and is considered an expert on First Amendment questions regarding the division of church and state.

(NBC News)

Highlights: "If we cannot impeach a president who abuses his office for personal advantage, we no longer live in a democracy -- we live in a monarchy or we live under a dictatorship. That's why the framers created the possibility of impeachment...I believe the framers would identify President Trump's conduct as exactly the kind of abuse of office...that they were worried about."

"On the basis of the testimony and the evidence before the House...These acts constitute impeachable High crimes and misdemeanors under the Constitution."

Professor Pamela Karlan has undergraduate, graduate and law degrees from Yale University, and clerked for US Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun. She served as US Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Voting Rights, is currently Co-Director of Stanford Law School's Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, and is recognized as a leading legal scholar on voting rights and political process. Karlan represented past Judiciary Committees in voting rights cases before the Supreme Court.

Highlights: Karlan, who was the most forceful in her testimony about Trump's violation of the Constitution, said, "Drawing a foreign government into our elections is an especially serious abuse of power because it undermines Democracy itself."

"When President Trump invited, indeed demanded, foreign involvement in our upcoming election, he struck at the very heart of what makes this a Republic to which we pledge allegiance...If we are to keep faith with our Constitution and with our Republic, President Trump must be held to account."

Calling it "the most chilling line for me," Karlan referred to the testimony of Ambassador Sondland that Trump cared only that Zelensky publicly announce an investigation of the Bidens, and not about pursuing the investigation itself.

Karlan: "What I took that to mean was that this was not about whether Vice President Biden actually committed corruption or not, but this was about injuring somebody that the President thinks of as a particularly hard opponent...It is only in the President's interest, not the national interest."

Nadler, quoted George Washington's warning of future "cunning, ambitious and unprincipled men (who) will be able to subvert the power of the people to usurp for themselves the reigns of government." (Pic: PBS)

Professor Michael Gerhardt is a graduate of Yale University, received his graduate degree from the London School of Economics, his law degree from the University of Chicago, and is Director of the Center on Law and Government at the University of North Carolina. Considered an expert on constitutional law and separation of powers, Gerhardt previously testified before the House Judiciary Committee, including as the only joint witness in the 1998 Clinton impeachment hearings.

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

The impeachment power requires this Committee, this House, to to be able to investigate presidential misconduct. If a president can block an investigation, undermine it, stop it, then the impeachment power itself, as a check against misconduct, is undermined completely."

"If Congress fails to impeach here, then the impeachment process has lost all meaning. I stand with the Constitution, and I stand with the Framers, who were committed to ensure that no one is above the law."

"If left unchecked, the President will likely continue his pattern of soliciting foreign interference on behalf of our next election and, of course, his obstruction of Congress."

Professor Jonathan Turley is a graduate of the University of Chicago with a law degree from Northwestern University, and an honorary Doctorate of Law from John Marshall Law School. Turley holds the Shapiro Chair for Public Interest Law at George Washington University Law School where he teaches torts, criminal procedure, and constitutional law, and has served as a legal analyst for NBC News, CBS News and the BBC.

Highlights: In contrast to the individual testimony of Feldman, Karlan and Gerhardt that Trump unequivocally committed crimes and misdemeanors under the definition of the constitution, Turley countered that the evidence presented in the report was insufficient to warrant impeachment charges.

Turley: "This is wrong. It's not wrong because President Trump was right. His call was anything but perfect. It is not wrong because the House has no legitimate reason to investigate the Ukrainian controversy. It is not wrong because we are in an election year. There is no good time for impeachment. It is wrong because this is not how you impeach an American President."

On Trump's claim that the Constitution allows him to "do whatever he wants," Karlan said the impeachment clause "blows it out of the water."

Turley maintained that you can't impeach a president on obstruction of Congress without a Supreme Court ruling citing contempt of Congress.

Next Steps
At the close of the eight and a half-hour hearing, Chairman Nadler said Committee members will have five legislative days to submit additional written questions to the witnesses.

A second hearing before the Judiciary Committee will provide a forum for Intelligence Committee lawyers to formally present their report.

Under the House rules, the President has the right to participate in the Judiciary Committee hearings, and to present a defense, but White House counsel has indicated that will not happen. Nadler has given the administration until Friday to tell the committee whether they will call witnesses or present evidence.

Upon completion of the hearings, the Judiciary Committee will vote on articles of impeachment and, if passed, will send them to the full House for debate.

If a majority (50%+1) of the House voted to approve articles of impeachment, the president would be officially impeached or "indicted." The proceedings would then move to the US Senate for a "trial," where it would require a two-thirds vote to "convict" Trump and remove him from the presidency.

DemList will keep you informed.

Related
DemDaily: "Everyone Was in The Loop" The Impeachment Hearings: Day Four and Five 11/22/19
DemDaily: "Here, Right Matters" The Impeachment Hearings: Day Three 11/20/19
DemDaily: "The Corruption Buster" The Impeachment Hearings: Day Two 11/15/19

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