Trump impeachment hearing: Live updates as House Judiciary Committee hears testimony from constitutional law experts today
Latest updates on the impeachment inquiry
The House Judiciary Committee is holding its first hearing of the impeachment inquiry, featuring testimony from four constitutional law experts.
On Tuesday, the House Intelligence Committee voted 13-9 to adopt a 300-page report by Democrats on President Trump’s actions toward Ukraine, accusing him of abusing his office and endangering national security.
Washington — The House Judiciary Committee is taking the reins of the impeachment inquiry, holding its first hearing with testimony on the constitutional grounds for impeachment.
The committee, which will be responsible for drafting potential articles of impeachment, is hearing from four constitutional law experts: Noah Feldman, Pamela Karlan, Michael Gerhardt and Jonathan Turley, who is also a CBS News legal analyst.
Chairman Jerry Nadler said the president “directly and explicitly invited foreign interference in our elections.”
“Never before in the history of the republic have we been forced to consider the conduct of a president who appears to have solicited personal political favors from a foreign government,” Nadler said. “Never before has a president engaged in a course of conduct that included all of the acts that most concerned the framers.”
Feldman, Karlan and Gerhardt were called to testify by the Democratic members, and Turley was called by the Republicans.
On Tuesday, the House Intelligence Committee voted to endorse a 300-page report written by the Democratic majority on President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, accusing the president of abuse of power.
The vote fell along party lines, with 13 Democrats voting to endorse the report and nine Republicans dissenting. The report was written by Democratic staffers on the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight Committees.
“This report chronicles a scheme by the president of the United States to coerce an ally, Ukraine, that is at war with an adversary, Russia, into doing the president’s political dirty work,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said on Capitol Hill.
3 of 4 witnesses say Trump committed impeachable offenses
10:40 a.m.: Three of the witnesses appearing before the committee said in their written opening statements that the evidence and constitutional precedent dictate Mr. Trump should be impeached, while the fourth argued impeachment would be divisive and unnecessary. Each is being given 10 minutes to summarize their testimony.
Feldman says in his opening statement that Mr. Trump “committed impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors by corruptly abusing the office of the presidency” in asking the Ukrainian president to investigate a political rival. He says the July 25 call alone was enough justification to impeach the president, although he adds that withholding aid to Ukraine and dangling a White House visit to the Ukrainians were also impeachable offenses.
Gerhardt argued that Mr. Trump’s behavior was comparable to that of Richard Nixon, who resigned ahead of an impeachment vote in the House.
“The president’s serious misconduct, including bribery, soliciting a personal favor from a foreign leader in exchange for his exercise of power, and obstructing justice and Congress are worse than the misconduct of any prior president, including what previous presidents who faced impeachment have done or been accused of doing,” Gerhardt wrote. He noted that unlike Nixon, Mr. Trump was refusing to provide documents to the House committees conducting the inquiry.
The third witness called by Democrats, Karlan, argued Mr. Trump’s actions had aided Russia, the country which interfered in the 2016 election. Karlan said Mr. Trump’s behavior “shows a president who delayed meeting a foreign leader and providing assistance that Congress and his own advisors agreed served our national interest in promoting democracy and limiting Russian aggression.”
“Put simply, a candidate for president should resist foreign interference in our elections, not demand it. If we are to keep faith with the Constitution and our Republic, President Trump
must be held to account,” Karlan said.
However, Turley, the witness called by Republicans, disagreed that Mr. Trump’s actions constituted impeachable offenses. He said the evidence collected by the Intelligence Committee was based on testimony from witnesses who had second-hand knowledge of the situation.
“I do not believe that this impeachment will be viewed as bringing credit upon this body. It is possible that a case for impeachment could be made, but it cannot be made on this record,” Turley said. — Grace Segers
Collins condemns impeachment process: “This is sad”
10:31 a.m.: Ranking Member Doug Collins, an ally of the president, slammed the impeachment inquiry in his opening statement. Collins accused Democrats of pursuing impeachment because of their animus towards the president.
“You just don’t like the guy. You didn’t like him since he was elected November 2016,” Collins said. “So don’t tell me this is about new evidence and new things and new stuff … but this is nothing new, folks. This is sad.”
Collins did not mention Mr. Trump’s call with the Ukrainian president or other aspects of the investigation, instead choosing to focus on the process. He said this hearing was essentially useless because it featured academic experts, not fact witnesses.
“The American people are really going to look at this and say, ‘Huh? What are we doing?'” Collins said. He said “the president has nothing to ask” the academic experts.
Collins also made a motion to require the testimony of Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff before the committee, which was tabled by a vote. — Grace Segers
Nadler opens hearing: “I do not wish this moment on the country”
10:20 a.m.: Nadler opened the hearing by summarizing the House Intelligence Committee’s report on the president’s intervention in Ukraine, as well as Russia’s interference in 2016 and how, Nadler said, Mr. Trump welcomed that assistance. Nadler’s opening remarks set up the possibility that the House could consider the president’s conduct beyond just Ukraine.
“President Trump welcomed foreign interference in the 2016 election,” Nadler said. “He demanded it for the 2020 election. In both cases, he got caught. And in both cases, he did everything in his power to prevent the American people from learning the truth about his conduct.”
“Never before in the history of the republic have we been forced to consider the conduct of a president who appears to have solicited personal political favors from a foreign government,” he said. “Never before has a president engaged in a course of conduct that included all of the acts that most concerned the framers.”
Nadler also emphasized the president’s resistance towards complying with Congress and congressional subpoenas. Democrats haven’t ruled out an obstruction of justice article of impeachment.
“I do not wish this moment on the country. It is not a pleasant task that we undertake today,” Nadler said.
But weighing the president’s conduct, Nadler said, is their duty under the Constitution. If the Congress does not hold the president in check now, he might repeat his behavior, Nadler said. — Kathryn Watson
How the hearing will play out
9:53 a.m.: The hearing will follow the same procedure as the hearings before the House Intelligence Committee. Chairman Jerry Nadler and Ranking Member Doug Collins will both deliver opening statements, speaking for about 10 minutes each. Then the witnesses will be sworn in and given the opportunity to deliver their own statements.
The hearing then moves to two 45-minute rounds of questioning controlled by Nadler and Collins, who can delegate questioning to staff. Nadler will rely on Norm Eisen, a prominent Democratic attorney and former Obama administration official, for some questions.
Members will then be given five minutes each to question the witnesses, alternating between parties. There are 41 members on the committee, nearly twice as many members as the Intelligence Committee. — Rebecca Kaplan
Read the witnesses’ opening statements
9:15 a.m.: The Judiciary Committee released the prepared testimony from the four witnesses:
Who is Jonathan Turley?
8:15 a.m.: Turley is the J.B. and Maurice C. Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at The George Washington University Law School, which he joined as a faculty member in 1990. He is also a CBS News legal analyst and one of the country’s most recognized legal commentators.
A witness during the Clinton impeachment proceedings, Turley has been critical of the Democrats’ handling of the current inquiry, as well as the White House’s arguments against cooperating with the probe. Turley has written and testified extensively on executive privilege.
He has testified before Congress on a number of other occasions, including the Senate confirmation hearings of Attorneys General Loretta Lynch and William Barr, as well as the Supreme Court nomination of Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch.
Who is Michael Gerhardt?
8:00 a.m.: Gerhardt is the Burton Craige Distinguished Professor of Jurisprudence at the University of North Carolina School of Law, where he has been a faculty member since 2005.
Who is Pamela Karlan?
7:18 a.m.: Karlan is the Kenneth and Harle Montgomery Professor of Public Interest Law and co-director of the Supreme Court Litigation Clinic at Stanford Law School, where she has been on faculty since 1998. According to her Stanford biography, she holds three degrees from Yale University and clerked for Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun. Karlan was also a deputy assistant attorney general in the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department.
Karlan has written “leading casebooks on constitutional law, constitutional litigation, and the law of democracy, as well as numerous scholarly articles,” according to Stanford.
Who is Noah Feldman?
6:30 a.m.: Feldman is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law and director of the Julis-Rabinowitz Program on Jewish and Israeli Law at Harvard Law School. A Rhodes scholar, Feldman graduated summa cum laude from Harvard University and earned his law degree at Yale, according to his Harvard biography.
Feldman clerked for Supreme Court Justice David Souter in the late 1990s and served as a senior constitutional adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq after the U.S. invasion in 2003, where he then helped Iraqi officials draft an interim constitution.
How to watch Wednesday’s impeachment hearing
Date: Wednesday, December 4, 2019
Time: 10 a.m. ET
Who: Four constitutional law experts: Noah Feldman, Pamela Karlan, Michael Gerhardt and Jonathan Turley
Key findings from the Democratic impeachment report
5:00 a.m.: The report released Tuesday laid out nine findings of the investigation, including:
The president “solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, in the 2020 U.S. presidential election” and “sought to undermine the integrity of the U.S. presidential election process.”
Mr. Trump “sought to pressure and induce Ukraine’s newly-elected president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to publicly announce unfounded investigations” to benefit the president politically.
“President Trump ordered the suspension of $391 million in vital military assistance” to Ukraine “without any legitimate foreign policy, national security, or anti-corruption justification.
“Faced with the revelation of his actions, President Trump publicly and repeatedly persisted in urging foreign governments, including Ukraine and China, to investigate his political opponent.”
“President Trump ordered and implemented a campaign to conceal his conduct from the public and frustrate and obstruct the House of Representatives’ impeachment inquiry.”
— Stefan Becket
Democrats to focus on “ABCs of high crimes and misdemeanors” at hearing
4:30 a.m.: Democratic staffers working on the impeachment inquiry held a conference call to preview the party’s strategy heading into Wednesday’s hearing before the Judiciary Committee. Four legal experts will appear for questioning before lawmakers to “explain the scope of that constitutional standard of impeachment.”
“The hearing tomorrow will explore the extent to which this powerful, powerful evidence we now have of the president’s conduct implicates all of these dangers,” one of the staffers said. “You can think of them as the ABCs of high crimes and misdemeanors: abuses of power, betrayal of national security connected to foreign interest and corruption of our elections.”
Asked whether the questions will be limited to the material in the House Intelligence Committee’s report, one staffer said, “We will certainly have a primary focus on the Intelligence Committee report but we will see what other information comes up tomorrow,” suggesting Democrats may raise questions related to actions by the president described in the Mueller report. — Rebecca Kaplan