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House Judiciary Committee impeachment hearing underway

By Askia Muhammad -Senior Editor- | Last updated: Dec 11, 2019 - 11:59:31 AM

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WASHINGTON—Despite the repeated insistence of House Democrats and the testimony of dozens of witnesses that there is overwhelming and uncontested evidence that President Donald J. Trump should be impeached and removed from office for putting his own personal interests above those of the nation when he coerced the president of a foreign government to meddle in the upcoming U.S. election, doubt remains about the outcome of this impeachment. The House Judiciary Committee began its hearings as partisan tensions that have been on display throughout the process continued.

Noah Feldman, Pamela S. Karlan, Michael Gerhardt and Jonathan Turley at House Judiciary Committee Impeachment inquiry hearing.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) instructed the chairs of key house committees to begin drafting articles of impeachment against President Trump on Dec. 5. Mrs. Pelosi said Mr. Trump’s actions to seek foreign help in the 2020 election strikes at the very heart of the Constitution. “Our democracy is what is at stake,” she told reporters.

“The president leaves us no choice but to act because he is trying to corrupt, once again, the election for his own benefit. The president has engaged in abuse of power, undermining our national security and jeopardizing the integrity of our elections. His actions are in defiance of the vision of our founders and the oath of office that he takes to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,” the Speaker said. On this schedule, a full House vote could take place before the end of the year.

After he blocked access to thousands of documents and the testimony of a dozen administration officials before the House Intelligence Committee which investigated the Ukrainian incident for impeachable charges, Mr. Trump protested loudly that his side was unfairly excluded from defending him during that preliminary investigation.

As the process went to the House Judiciary Committee on Dec. 9, the committee which would eventually have to draft any impeachment resolutions however, The White House declared that it did not intend to mount a defense of Mr. Trump or otherwise participate in the House proceedings. In a sharply worded letter, the White House counsel wrote that Democrats have “wasted enough of America’s time with this charade.”

This White House’s position is a stark departure from impeachments past. Lawyers for Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton fully participated in their investigations, presenting lengthy defenses before the Judiciary Committee.

Meanwhile, more than 500 law professors signed an open letter calling the president’s conduct impeachable one day after Speaker Pelosi called for articles of impeachment to be drafted. “His conduct is precisely the type of threat to our democracy that the Founders feared when they included the remedy of impeachment in the Constitution,” the legal scholars wrote.

Their letter was published by the nonprofit advocacy group Protect Democracy. It said: “There is overwhelming evidence that President Trump betrayed his oath of office by seeking to use presidential power to pressure a foreign government to help him distort an American election, for his personal and political benefit, at the direct expense of national security interests as determined by Congress.”

There is also popular support for Mr. Trump’s impeachment and removal. In a poll, some 52 percent of voting-aged people said yes, they believe Mr. Trump was “primarily acting in his own personal and political self-interest” in regard to Ukraine, while only 35 percent said no when he insisted on an investigation by the Ukrainian government into political rival Joe Biden according to a Yahoo News/YouGov poll taken Dec. 4-6.

Still, there are many who insist that this president will never be convicted by a two-thirds majority in the Republican-dominated Senate, and that impeachment will even backfire on Democrats in vulnerable House districts, next election.

The national mood in favor of impeachment and removal has not moved since the previous Yahoo News/YouGov survey, which was conducted as impeachment hearings were televised nationally, in November.

Today, 47 percent of voters are in favor of impeaching the president, compared to 37 percent opposed, according to Yahoo News/You. The same 47 percent say he should be removed from office, which requires conviction after a trial in the Senate, while 39 percent say he should remain. Among registered voters, those numbers are even closer: 49 percent vs. 44 percent on impeachment and 47 percent vs. 45 percent on removal.

Yet that same poll also shows that Democrats have failed to translate that belief into broader support for impeachment, and that the public remains too polarized and uncertain about key details to back Trump’s removal from office.

No matter the outcome though, Mr. Trump will not get a “clean bill of health” when the process is concluded. “What he will have to confront is that he will be on the record as having been impeached, only the third president in U.S. history,” Dr. Clarence Lusane, Professor of political science, Howard University told The Final Call.

“And the facts will be out there. So as much as they want to deny what actually happened, if people actually take the time and look at the reports from Congress, they will have evidence of what the president did regardless of whether or not he gets off in the Senate,” said Dr. Lusane.

Part of the debate is over whether to include additional instances of obstruction of justice cited in the report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller in the pending articles of impeachment, or to focus narrowly on the Ukrainian incident. Mr. Trump’s critics have long accused him of multiple abuses of power. “Don’t just focus on Trump’s crimes at home,” John Feffer wrote for the Institute for Policy Studies in late November.

“Trump’s war on the law extends beyond flouting Congress and packing courts—overseas, it extends to crimes arguable crimes against humanity,” Mr. Feffer wrote.

Another Republican talking point in defense of Mr. Trump is that no matter how controversial his behavior may have been, it doesn’t justify his removal from office. His behavior does not constitute impeachable offenses, or the overturning of the 2016 election. “It certainly is impeachable,” said Dr. Lusane.

“It’s impeachable if you look at what happened in the past with Andrew Johnson and Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton, all of whom acted in actually less egregious ways than president Trump, it is simply a denial of the facts by the Republican party about what Trump actually did,” to try to defend him with such arguments, Dr. Lusane continued.

“He can stay, he can go. He can be impeached or voted out in 2020. But removing Trump will not remove the infrastructure of an entire party that embraced him; the dark money that funded him; the online radicalization that drummed his army; nor the racism he amplified and reanimated,” said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, via social media.