Law & the Courts

Turley Calls Case for Impeachment ‘Woefully Inadequate,’ Says Trump–Ukraine Call ‘Was Anything But Perfect’

Jonathan Turley, professor of law at George Washington University Law School, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., December 4, 2019. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

George Washington University Law School professor Jonathan Turley, the Republican witness called in Wednesday’s House Judiciary Committee impeachment hearing, dissented from the other witnesses and voiced concerns that “lowering impeachment standards to fit a paucity of evidence and an abundance of anger” would create “a dangerous precedent.”

Turley, who emphasized that he was not a Trump supporter and voted against him in 2016, nevertheless urged a measured and cautious approach to impeachment, warning of potential repercussions for future administrations if a less rigorous approach was followed.

“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,” Turley said in his opening statement. “That does not bode well for future presidents who are working in a country often sharply and at times, bitterly divided.”

Turley’s argument centered on process concerns and the divisive effects of impeachment rather than on the merits of Trump’s behavior.

“Will a slipshod impeachment make us less mad? Will it only give an invitation for the madness to follow every future administration? That is why this is wrong,” Turley stated.

“It is not wrong because President Trump is right — his call was anything but ‘perfect.’ It’s not wrong because the House has no legitimate reason to investigate Ukrainian controversy,” he said. “It’s not wrong because we are in an election year — there is no good time for an impeachment. No, it’s wrong because this is not how you impeach an American president.”

During his testimony, Turley also took issue with Democrats’ “boundless” definition of bribery and their insistence that Trump’s decision to fight congressional subpoenas in the courts amounts to an abuse of power.

“President Trump has gone … to the courts. He’s allowed to do that — we have three branches, not two,” Turley said. “If you impeach a president, if you make a high crime and misdemeanor out of going to the courts, it is an abuse of power. It’s your abuse of power. You are doing precisely what you’re criticizing the president for doing.”

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