The House Judiciary Committee’s Democratic counsel outlined three possible articles of impeachment against President Trump during the committee’s first impeachment hearing on Wednesday, an early suggestion of what charges against President Trump the party may settle on when they make their case before the Senate.
The three constitutional lawyers Democrats brought before the committee agreed that Trump has committed the three impeachable offenses Democratic counsel Norman Eisen suggested, namely abuse of power and bribery, obstruction of Congress, and obstruction of justice.
Harvard Law School constitutional law scholar Noah Feldman argued that “putting yourself above the law as president” is an impeachable offense.
Feldman told lawmakers that Trump’s remark that Article 2 of the Constitution gives him the right “to do whatever I want as president” actually “struck a horror” in him.
Democrats did not ask the only Republican witness Jonathan Turley, a George Washington University law professor, whether he thinks Trump committed impeachable offenses.
Turley cautioned Democrats about the speed at which the impeachment inquiry is moving, saying neither the case for bribery nor the case for obstruction against the president is airtight.
“The record does not establish obstruction in this case,” Turley said. “If you accept all of their presumptions, it would be obstruction. But impeachments have to be based on proof, not presumptions.”
He went on to reject the Democrats’ “boundless” definition of bribery, which he argued has been rejected by the Supreme Court.
“You can’t accuse a president of bribery and, then, when some of us note that the Supreme Court has rejected your type of boundless interpretation, say, ‘Well, it’s just impeachment; we really don’t have to prove the elements,’” Turley said. “This isn’t improvisational jazz. Close enough is not good enough. If you’re going to accuse a president of bribery, you need to make it stick, because you’re trying to remove a duly elected president of the United States.”
Democrats are also reportedly considering including additional obstruction of justice charges based on the Mueller report.
“It is important to include the Mueller obstruction evidence to uphold the principles of separation of powers,” said Rep. Ro Khanna, a California Democrat and member of the House Oversight Committee.
The House Intelligence Committee heard from 17 witnesses during its impeachment hearings last month and released a summary report on Tuesday accusing Trump of abusing his power and undermining national security by coercing Ukraine to announce two politically motivated investigations, before obstructing Congress to cover-up his behavior.