Wednesday’s Democrat stage-managed hearing before the House Judiciary Committee was mostly a forum for Leftwing academics to vent their hatred for Donald Trump and the 63 million voters who elected him President and thereby justify his impeachment.
Which is what made the testimony of Prof. Jonathan Turley stand out as a model of Solonian reason. Turley, who along with Prof. Alan Dershowitz may be one of the last sane liberals in America, asked these questions at the top of testimony: “We are all mad and where has it taken us? Will a slipshod impeachment make us less mad or will it only give an invitation for the madness to follow in every future administration?” And then he answered them by saying “That is why this is wrong.”
Turley went on to label the current impeachment charade this way: “…such misuses of impeachment would convert our process into a type of no-confidence vote of Parliament. Impeachment has become an impulse buy item in our raging political environment.”
Prof. Turley went on to knockdown the Democrats’ factual record on the case, stating, “Although criminality is not required in such a case, clarity is necessary. That comes from a complete and comprehensive record that eliminates exculpatory motivations or explanations. The problem is that this is an exceptionally narrow impeachment resting on the thinnest possible evidentiary record. During the House Intelligence Committee proceedings, Democratic leaders indicated that they wanted to proceed exclusively or primarily on the Ukrainian allegations and wanted a vote by the end of December. I previously wrote that the current incomplete record is insufficient to sustain an impeachment case.”
He also attacked the Democrats’ allegation that the President abused his power, testifying, “The principle problem with proving an abuse of power theory is the lack of direct evidence due to the failure to compel key witnesses to testify or production of key documents. The current record does not establish a quid pro quo.”
Turley also dismantled Democrat claims that the President’s Ukraine policy amounted to bribery and extortion, remarking, “Even if the ‘official act’ were clear, any bribery case would collapse on the current lack of evidence of a corrupt intent… In my view, there is no case law that would support a claim of corrupt intent in such comments to support a bribery charge.”
Prof. Turley expanded his remarks rebutting the claims of bribery testifying, “Mr. Schiff’s sudden transformation into an originalist may be short-lived. The Framers did not, in fact, view bribery as some overarching concept of corruption… [I]t is not a case of bribery, whether you are adopting the view of an eighteenth century, or of a twenty-first century prosecutor. As a criminal defense attorney, I would view such an allegation from a prosecutor to be dubious to the point of being meritless… Both forms of extortion have a coercive element, but the suggestion is that Trump was ‘trying to extort’ the Ukrainians by withholding aid until they agreed to open investigations. The problem is that this allegation is no closer to the actual crime of extortion than it is to its close cousin bribery.”
Finally, Prof. Turley put to rest the idea that the President was susceptible to a charge of obstruction of justice for exercising his executive privilege to withhold materials and witnesses from Congress, remarking, “There is no evidence that President Trump acted with the corrupt intent required for obstruction of justice on the record created by the House Intelligence Committee…. If this Committee elects to seek impeachment on the failure to yield to congressional demands in an oversight or impeachment investigation, it will have to distinguish a long line of cases where prior presidents sought the very same review while withholding witnesses and documents.”
Prof. Turley’s incisive dismantling of the factual and legal structure of the Democrats’ impeachment narrative was impressive and important resources for House Republicans and conservatives fighting this in the court of public opinion, but it was his opening questions that were the important parts of his statement.
Those questions allude to a column he wrote for The Hill back in October wherein he made this observation, “This casual unilateral approach will make impeachment more likely to become an extension of politics. The framers worked hard to avoid the use of impeachment as an impulsive or partisan device. That is what is likely to come from this new informal path created by Pelosi.”
Professor Turley was right, if a President can be impeached because a majority of the House does not agree with his policies, doesn’t like his style, or simply hates him for defeating their preferred candidate then why have another presidential election? Why not just let 218 Members of the House choose the President?
The answer is because that’s exactly the kind of oligarchy the Constitution was intended to prevent. Fortunately, the Framers recognized that the legislature was the branch of government most likely to abuse its power and splitting legislative authority into two houses was one measure taken to guard against legislative tyranny. However, were our system to begin to devolve in that direction one could expect that what the authors of the Federalist Papers called “a remedy from the people” would be in order.