WASHINGTON — The House Judiciary Committee began its part of the impeachment inquiry Wednesday with a hearing from constitutional scholars.
Not all of them agreed the president had committed an impeachable offense.
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As expected, the House on Tuesday night approved a 300-page report detailing its impeachment investigation. The vote was straight down party lines.
The House Judiciary Committee needs to draw up specific articles of impeachment based on that report. That is why it is holding hearings with experts to determine what legally could be considered.
Four constitutional scholars are taking questions about the report and if, legally, the information uncovered meets the complex and ambiguous benchmarks for impeachment.
Three of the four experts backed impeachment. Harvard Law School professor Noah Feldman said it was clear the president's conduct met the definition of "high crimes and misdemeanors," while Stanford Law School professor Pamela Karlan, a former Justice Dept. official under the Obama administration, said the president's actions were a serious abuse of power.
However, George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley, a Republican witness, said the Democrats' case against the president was "slipshod."
“It is not wrong because President Trump is right," according to Turley. “A case for impeachment could be made, but it cannot be made on this record," he said.
Despite President Donald Trump being out of the country, he was still trading barbs with democrats all day Tuesday.
True! https://t.co/Mr1L4Vv3eA— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 3, 2019
However, Democratic leaders feel that they have a case against the president.
"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," said U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (D) chairman of the House Intel Committee.
Meanwhile, Trump called the process "an investigation in search of a crime. There was no ... not only was there crime, it's not even a word that should be used."
"The Democrats have gone nuts. They're crazy. And it's very bad for our country," he said.
The House-approved report includes two sections, one dealing with the July 25, phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
In the phone conversation, Trump asked for a "favor," according to an account provided by the White House. He wanted an investigation into both Democrats and Biden, a possible 2020 rival. Later it was revealed that the administration was also withholding $400 million in military aid from Ukraine.
Republicans argue the money was given to Ukraine without any investigation, and there was no quid pro quo, or favor for a favor.
Trump also wanted Hunter Biden, the former vice president's son, looked into. Hunter Biden sat on the board of the Ukrainian gas company called Burisma while his father was vice president.
The second section is on what Democrats call the president's obstruction of Congress in the investigation.
Articles of impeachment could be drafted on both.
The judiciary hearings will follow the same format as the public testimony last month. Staff attorneys are getting 45 minutes to ask questions followed by a lightning round of questions from committee members.
It appears Democrats are still pushing for an impeachment vote before Christmas.
Out of all the impeachment testimony, the most controversial came from U.S. Ambassador to the EU Gordon, a big Trump donor. On November 20, he gave the now famous "quid pro quo" account.
"I know that members of this committee have frequently framed these complicated issues in the form of a simple question: Was there a 'quid pro quo?' As I testified previously, with regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes," Sondland said.
The deal, he said, involved arranging a White House visit for Ukraine's new president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in return for Zelenskiy's announcing investigations of Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company, and a discredited conspiracy theory that Ukraine had interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Democrat Joe Biden's son Hunter was a Burisma board member.
However, Sondland also testified that Trump told him in a phone call, "'I want nothing. I want nothing. I want a no quid pro quo. Tell Zelenskiy to do the right thing.' Something to that effect."