It is tempting to describe Wednesday’s impeachment hearing before the House Judiciary Committee as a farce. But it was worse than that. It made a travesty of fairness.
With Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y. at the helm of the Judiciary Committee, there was no real chance that President Trump would be treated equitably. After all, Nadler’s confederate and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., had already obliterated any semblance of due process in impeachment hearings before his committee.
The Schiff hearings were a lollapalooza of hearsay, opinion and grotesque speculation. So there was no reason to believe that Nadler’s Judiciary Committee hearing would be anything less than a theater of the absurd.
Sure enough, Nadler assembled a team of three liberal law professors who were already on record as antagonistic to President Trump. During their daylong testimony, the hostility was palpable.
There was little effort to disguise the relentless Democratic agenda to remove Trump from office by hell or high water. Obsessions are like that. They know no bounds and defy all sensibility.
Republicans were afforded just one witness. Fortunately, his sagacity and eloquence offered a persuasive counterbalance. For one day at least, numerical superiority did not prevail.
Here is a summary of what unfolded, looking at the testimony of the four law professors who testified.
Harvard University Law Professor Noah Feldman
Feldman had already prejudged Trump’s guilt on an impeachable offense when he penned a column two months ago declaring that Trump had committed an unconstitutional “quid pro quo” in asking Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to look into the conduct of former Vice President Joe Biden.
This, of course, conveniently ignored the fact that no evidence of a quid pro quo exists anywhere in the record of the Trump-Zelensky phone call of July 25.
In his opening statement, Feldman stated with absolute certainty that he knew President Trump was acting for “personal gain” – as if he had magically divined Trump’s intent.
Yet, Feldman gave no consideration to the president’s stated explanation that Trump wanted to know whether a U.S. public office holder, then-Vice President Biden, might have committed a corrupt act. Does this mean that it’s corrupt for a president to ask about corruption, regardless of the context or circumstances? The professor didn’t say.
Feldman’s bias and enmity should come as no surprise to anyone who has followed his Twitter rants against the president, as the White House was quick to point out.
Barely two months into office, Trump publicly questioned whether intelligence agencies might have wiretapped him. The president’s tweet to that effect constituted “the risk of impeachment,” according to the good professor. Truly, you have to laugh at such a ludicrous claim.
Feldman seems to see the impeachment boogeyman behind just about everything Trump does. He penned a pulpy piece of comedy a few months later contending that Trump should be removed from office for exercising his constitutionally authorized power to pardon Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County in Arizona for a contempt of court conviction.
Feldman condemned the pardon as “an abuse of power” and “an impeachable offense.”
Apparently, it was OK for President Bill Clinton to pardon his brother, but it’s an impeachable act when Trump pardoned a sheriff in Arizona … because, you know, he’s a Republican. No serious person gave the argument credence, not even Democrats in Congress.
Stanford University Law Professor Pamela Karlan
Karlan vented her visceral anger from the outset of the Judiciary Committee hearing by claiming she was insulted at a Republican member’s suggestion that the learned professors hadn’t sufficiently digested all the evidence – especially Schiff’s 300-page report released the night before that was approved only by Democrats and rejected by Republicans.
But after scolding Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., Karlan’s officious manner persisted. She seemed to seethe at the mere mention of Trump, resurrecting a statement he made in jest during the 2016 campaign as if it was a death penalty crime.
Karlan asserted – without evidence– that Trump had “demanded foreign involvement in our upcoming election.” But how could she know that? She presumed a motive and ascribed it to the president.
Nowhere in the transcript of the Trump-Zelensky call is there a demand for anything. Zelensky has repeatedly stated that no demand was ever made of him. There is no mention of the 2020 U.S. presidential election.
There was little effort to disguise the relentless Democratic agenda to remove Trump from office by hell or high water
To the contrary, Trump’s interest seemed to center on Biden’s potential wrongdoing as vice president when Biden demanded the firing of a prosecutor who was investigating the Ukrainian natural gas company that was paying his son Hunter an exorbitant amount of money every month to serve on its board.
Karlan lost all credibility when she took a boorish stab at President Trump’s teenage son and said: “The Constitution says there can be no titles of nobility … so, while the president can name his son Barron, he can’t make him a baron.” The remark set a new low for gratuitous cheap shots.
The Stanford professor is a decided partisan who took aim at Trump before he ever assumed the presidency. In remarks published by the San Francisco Chronicle she compared the president-elect to his predecessors: “I can’t think of one who had such an across-the-board combination of ignorance, indifference and defiance.”
As I noted in an earlier column, Karlan signed an open letter predicting that Trump would fail to take his “constitutional oath seriously” and urged him to reverse his positions on social issues.
Within months of Trump being sworn in, Karlan told the web publication Salon: “If we had a series of presidents like Trump, we wouldn’t have a United States of America.” Karlan wears her disdain of Trump on her sleeve. It showed during Wednesday’s hearing.
University of North Carolina Law Professor Michael Gerhardt
Gerhardt won the “exaggeration of the day” award when he declared: “If Congress fails to impeach here, then the impeachment process has lost all meaning.”
Gerhardt accused Trump of assaulting the Constitution and compared him to a monarch, resurrecting the almost forgotten Mueller Report as evidence. In Gerhardt’s judgment, Trump is former President Richard Nixon in disguise. Only worse.
Gerhardt careened from one point to another as he stumbled through a statement that he seemed not to have read beforehand. He denounced Trump’s exercise of a legally recognized executive privilege as “obstruction,” ignoring that past presidents – including Barack Obama – had done the same in response to congressional subpoenas.
The testimony of Gerhardt was predictable, if not dull. He had already authored a column last month condemning Trump for “trashing the Constitution.” In an interview, he accused the president of having “dismissed the rule of law as irrelevant in his life.” Enough said.
George Washington University Law Professor Jonathan Turley
Turley was the only witness Republicans were permitted to call. Despite the stacked deck, he came across as the most earnest and objective witness among the four professors.
Turley began by making it clear that he is not a partisan.
“I am not a supporter of President Trump,” Turley said. “I voted against him in 2016 and I have previously voted for Presidents Clinton and Obama.”
Turley added that “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.”
Turley warned that Congress would further divide and alienate the nation by pursuing impeachment without merit.
“If you rush this impeachment through, you will leave half of the American public behind and certainly that is not what the framers wanted,” the professor said.
Turley cautioned that an expedited impeachment without clear and convincing evidence, especially on the question of obstruction, would be an abuse of power by Congress. “You’re doing precisely what you’re criticizing the president for doing,” he said.
The professor called the current effort to impeach Trump “slipshod” and driven by rage instead of reason.
“Impeachment must be based on proof, not presumptions,” Turley observed. “I don’t see proof of a quid pro quo.” He argued that there is “a paucity of evidence and an abundance of anger” driving Democrats. He criticized them for rushing the process based on “wafer thin evidence”.
President Trump’s action asking Ukraine to investigate Biden “does not make this a plausible case for bribery,” Turley said.
The professor distilled the contentious issue to its essence: “If President Trump honestly believed that there was a corrupt arrangement with Hunter Biden that was not fully investigated by the Obama administration, the request for an investigation is not corrupt.”
In both his written statement and his oral testimony, Turley took apart all of the allegations leveled against Trump: bribery, extortion, obstruction and campaign finance violations. He explained why they did not apply to the known facts.
Turley then offered his own impassioned analysis of how we got here.
“We are living in the very period described by Alexander Hamilton –a period of agitated passions,” Turley said. “I get it. You’re mad. The president is mad. My Republican friends are mad. My Democratic friends are mad. My wife is mad. My kids are mad. Even my dog seems mad, and Luna is a goldendoodle and they don’t get mad. So we’re all mad. Where has that taken us? Will a slipshod impeachment make us less mad? That’s why it is wrong.
“It’s wrong because this is not how you impeach an American president,” Turley continued. “To impeach a president on this record would expose every future president to the same type of inchoate impeachment.”
This was the clearest explanation yet for how the current impeachment hysteria has raged out of control. Sadly, it will make no difference. Democrats are determined beyond reason to impeach President Trump.
Neither logic nor the law seem to matter.