George Washington University Law School professor Jonathan Turley warned members of the House Judiciary Committee that impeaching President Donald Trump would set a “dangerous precedent” and be an “abuse of power.”
In his opening statement, Turley made clear he was not testifying on behalf of the president but in support of the rule of law and the future of the country.
“I’m not a supporter of President Trump. I voted against him,” he said. “My personal views of President Trump are as irrelevant to my impeachment testimony, as they should be to your impeachment vote.”
“I’m not a supporter of President Trump. I voted against him… What we leave in the wake of this scandal will shape our democracy for generations to come,” Prof. Jonathan Turley, @GOP witness tells Jerrold Nadler.#JudiciaryCommittee https://t.co/d9kNEFmBcx pic.twitter.com/qqxASpYqhZ
— Newsmax (@newsmax) December 4, 2019
“President Trump will not be our last president, and what we leave in the wake of this scandal will shape our democracy for generations to come,” Turley said.
The professor then argued the case against the president is lacking.
“I’m concerned about lowering impeachment standards to fit a paucity of evidence and an abundance of anger,” Turley said. “I believe this impeachment not only fails to satisfy the standard of past impeachments but would create a dangerous precedent for future impeachments.”
Turley — who also testified during the impeachment proceedings for President Bill Clinton 21 years ago — told lawmakers unlike past instances when a president faced impeachment, there are no underlying crimes at issue.
“There are three commonalities when you look at these past cases,” he said. “All involved established crimes. This would be the first impeachment in history where there would be considerable debate and, in my view, not compelling evidence of the commission of a crime.”
“This is a facially incomplete and an inadequate record to impeach a president,” he added.
The three instances where the president was impeached or faced impeachment were Andrew Johnson in 1868, Richard Nixon in 1974 and Bill Clinton in 1998.
The primary crime Johnson was accused of was failing to follow the law when he sought to replace his war secretary.
For Nixon, the allegation was he obstructed justice by covering up White House connections to a break-in at the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C.
Finally, Clinton admitted to lying under oath during a sexual harassment lawsuit regarding his relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
Democratic leaders, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler have tried to argue that Trump has obstructed justice by not fully complying with their witness and document demands.
The legal expert contended that Trump and members of his administration, as part of the co-equal executive branch of government, have every right to allow the courts to decide if they are immune from congressional demands.
Turley said until the president or his administration officials defy a court order, Congress has no right to impeach him for obstructing justice.
“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.
— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) December 4, 2019
“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’re doing precisely what you’re criticizing the president of doing,” he said.
Turley also shot down the notion that Trump committed bribery by asking the Ukrainian president to look into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden’s alleged shady dealings in Ukraine.
“The reference to the Hunter Biden deal with Burisma should never have occurred and is worthy of the criticism of President Trump that it has unleashed. However, it is not a case of bribery,” the professor said, according to Fox News.
He argued the “issue is not whether these comments are correct, but whether they are corrupt.”
Turley pointed out if 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, notwithstanding its inappropriateness.”
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