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Analysis after the Judiciary Committee impeachment hearing

Image: Noah Feldman, Pamela Karlan, Jonathan Turley, Michael Gerhardt
Harvard Law School professor Noah Feldman, Stanford Law School professor Pamela Karlan, University of North Carolina Law School professor Michael Gerhardt and George Washington University Law School professor Jonathan Turley are sworn in before testifying during a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on Dec. 4, 2019.Alex Brandon / AP

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The House Judiciary Committee kicked off its first hearing of the impeachment inquiry on Wednesday with an exploration of the constitutional grounds for impeachment, including what constitutes bribery, high crimes and misdemeanors and whether President Donald Trump's actions meet those definitions.

The witnesses included Harvard law professor Noah Feldman; Stanford law professor Pamela Karlan; University of North Carolina law professor Michael Gerhardt; and George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley. The first three witnesses were asked to testify by the committee's Democrats, and Turley was called by the panel's Republican members.

Highlights from the Judiciary hearing:

Read our 10 takeaways from the impeachment hearing so far — in plain English

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  • There has been talk of originalism, the Founding Fathers, King George III and the Secret Treaty of Dover — and someone used the word "necromancy."

GOP lawmakers trash impeachment process

  • Rep. Gaetz and witness Karlan trade barbs, while Rep. Buck questions whether other presidents should have been impeached.

Three of four witnesses say Trump committed impeachable offenses

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Live Blog

Giuliani responds to revelations of calls to OMB

First Read: Giuliani and Nunes star in latest Ukraine saga

The more we continue to learn from the Ukraine scandal, the more Rudy Giuliani and Devin Nunes continue to pop up.

That was the new revelation from the 300-page impeachment-inquiry report that Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee released on Tuesday.

The report contains call records — as early as from April — with Giuliani speaking with the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, and with Nunes, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, speaking with Giuliani, plus recently indicted Lev Parnas.

Get First Read's take.

Dem thinking ahead of Judiciary impeachment inquiry hearing

Democratic staffers working on the impeachment inquiry told reporters Tuesday night what they expect  to explore in the Judiciary Committee's impeachment inquiry hearing on Wednesday:

"The framers established a standard for impeachment in the Constitution: treason bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors, and the purpose of the hearing tomorrow is to hear from some of our nation's top legal experts," the aides said. "We're going to explain the scope of that constitutional standard of impeachment, and how it applies to the president's conduct on the undisputed and extremely grave facts that have been found here.

"The hearing tomorrow will explore the extent to which is a powerful, powerful evidence we now have of the president's conduct implicates all of these dangers. 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.

"We will certainly have a primary focus on the Intelligence Committee report but we will see what other information comes up tomorrow."

Counsel Norm Eisen will ask the questions on the Democratic side.

House GOP leadership criticizes Democrats ahead of Judiciary hearing

Top House Republicans made statements ahead of the Judiciary hearing on impeachment and answered several questions on the hearing, the majority report released Tuesday and Rep. Devin Nunes' phone calls. 

"It doesn’t raise any concerns,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said when asked about the communication between Nunes, Giuliani and others that was revealed in Tuesday's report from the House Intelligence Committee. He later added, "There's nothing wrong with Devin has done except once again, try to get accused of something, it is a simple smokescreen."

Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, the House Judiciary Committee's ranking member, said impeachment should have been in the Judiciary committee from the first place.

"If they're going to do an impeachment it should have been in our committee to start with, but the committee failed miserably on so many counts this year that it was actually taken from us, but it's coming back tomorrow," Collins said.

Collins added that Wednesday's hearing "adds nothing besides a dreary eyed, drowsy approval for this country to watch as the impeachment process, slowly drags on with no direction, no focus because they're having one big problem. And the big problem is the president did nothing wrong."

Who are the witnesses in the House Judiciary impeachment hearing?

The House Judiciary Committee’s Wednesday hearing, "The Impeachment Inquiry into President Donald J. Trump: Constitutional Grounds for Presidential Impeachment," will feature four witnesses.

Here’s a look at all four:

Noah Feldman

Feldman is Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, where he’s also the director of the Julis-Rabinowitz Program on Jewish and Israeli Law. A Rhodes scholar who got his law degree from Yale Law School, Feldman once clerked for Supreme Court Justice David Souter. He’s also written eight books, including one on James Madison, a founding father who advocated for including an impeachment clause in the U.S. Constitution.

In addition to being an expert on the U.S. Constitution, Feldman was an adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq in 2003, advising on the drafting of an interim constitution. 

He’s written opinion articles on the impeachment proceedings for Bloomberg View, where he’s called Trump’s actions in dealing with Ukraine "brazen" and an "abuse of power."

Pamela S. Karlan 

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. A Yale Law School graduate, she's worked for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and was a Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Justice Department's civil rights division. She clerked for Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun. She teaches constitutional law and his written numerous books and articles on the subject.

Michael Gerhardt 

Gerhardt is the Burton Craige Distinguished Professor of Jurisprudence at the University of North Carolina School of Law, and is the author of the book, "Impeachment: What Everyone Needs to Know." Gerhardt, who got his law degree from the University of Chicago, has testified more than a dozen times in Congress and was called as a joint legal expert in the impeachment proceedings against Bill Clinton. He has written in defense of how the House has handled the impeachment proceedings against Trump and criticized the White House's decision not to cooperate with the inquiry. 

Jonathan Turley                          

Turley is the J.B. and Maurice C. Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University Law School. He's the witness that was requested by the committee's Republican minority. Turley, who got his law degree from Northwestern University, represented House Speaker John Boehner and House Republicans in a lawsuit against then-President Barack Obama. Turley, who's appeared as a legal commentator on NBC and MSNBC, also once represented workers who'd been injured while working at the secret military base Area 51 in Nevada. Turley, who's written on constitutional law, has been a frequent critic of the House impeachment inquiry and written that what's been found so far doesn't reach the level of an impeachable offense.