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
- 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
- Feldman says "Trump has committed high crimes and misdemeanors." Karlan 'insulted' by Collins' 'suggestion I don't care about the facts.' Gerhardt says if you don't impeach Trump, impeachment has no meaning.
- But Turley says impeachment is wrong because it's being rushed, not because Trump is right, and takes issue with bribery and obstruction allegations. Who is the lone GOP witness?
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Judiciary hearing resumes after breaking for floor votes
The Judiciary Committee hearing resumed at about 2:42 p.m. following House votes. There are no additional floor votes Wednesday. Thirty-eight more members are expected to ask questions, which means the hearing is expected to continue for another three to three and a half hours.
ANALYSIS: Democrats' witnesses did what the lawmakers hoped they would
In what amounted to the first half of the House Judiciary Committee's impeachment hearing Wednesday, three of the legal scholars called by Democrats argued that Congress has a duty to impeach the president.
"If you don't impeach a president who has done what this president has done … then what you're saying is that it's fine to go ahead and do this again," Stanford Law Professor Pamela Karlan testified. "It's your responsibility to make sure that all Americans get to vote in a free and fair election next November.”
They did what Democrats on the committee needed them to do.
Whether Democratic lawmakers can figure out how to amplify their testimony effectively to persuade more of the public that Trump presents a clear and present risk to the republic remains to be seen.
Together, the trio contended that Trump was acting like a monarch, engaging in conduct that amounts to a buffet of impeachable offenses. They explained why each of Trump's separate acts amounts to an impeachable offense — freezing aid to Ukraine, pursuing investigations into a political rival and blocking Congress' investigation among them — and why they have concluded that the president met the Constitution’s standard for bribery by conditioning the money for Ukraine on the announcement of the probes.
They based their conclusions on the idea that he abused his powers as president in exactly the ways the framers of the Constitution envisioned when they gave Congress the power to impeach a president and remove him from office.
Republicans countered with Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, who testified that he had not seen "clear and convincing" evidence that the president had committed a crime, that the inquiry has been rushed, and that a crime should be at the heart of any impeachment of a president — both arguments that dovetail with Trump's defense and that of House Republicans but are not standards contained in the Constitution.
Trump press secretary Grisham weighs in...
Hearing is on break, but the news won't stop...
The Judiciary Committee has taken a break at roughly 1:31 pm. ET until after the House finishes voting. Expect this break to last until approximately 2:15-2:30 p.m.
We got through three member questions, so still 38 members to go.
Keeping a close eye on the hearings
5-minute member round of questioning begins
The staff questioning round has concluded, and the five-minute member round is beginning. The committee is still expected to break for votes at around 1:30 p.m.
Nadler notes that White House declined to participate in hearing
Turley says rushing impeachment could 'leave half the country behind'
Turley gave a measured dissent from the other witnesses, focusing on the Democrats' impeachment inquiry schedule. He argued that Democrats have not gathered enough evidence and said impeachments should inherently be protracted to give the public time to understand the process.
"Impeachments require a certain period of saturation and maturation," Turley said. "If you rush this impeachment, you’re going to leave half of the country behind."
Turley argued that the impeachment inquiry into Nixon, who resigned before a removal vote, is the "gold standard" because it lasted long enough for the public to catch up.
He said that Democrats have to build a stronger record of evidence, adding that theirs is "one of the thinnest records ever to go forward."
Trump closes NATO by yawning at impeachment hearing: 'It'll be boring'
President Donald Trump closed out his trip to London for the annual North Atlantic Treaty Organization meeting Wednesday with a focus on his political problems back home: the House impeachment inquiry.
"It's a joke," Trump told reporters during a meeting with Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte.
"I watched Hannity, Sean Hannity. I watched Laura Ingraham. I watched Tucker Carlson. I watched a lot of other legal scholars, frankly, I watched some people with great legal talent and highly respected. Alan Dershowitz and many more, many more. I watched a very terrific former special prosecutor you know Ken. And Ken is a talented man and a smart man," Trump said, rattling off Fox News hosts and guests like Ken Starr who frequently appear on the cable network. "And I will tell you it is a uniform statement that I think pretty much right down the road, that what they are doing is a very bad thing for our country. It is of no merit."