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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Nadler urges GOP to uphold constitutional oath; Collins blasts process

After more than eight hours of member questions and witness testimony, Nadler closed the hearing by detailing the alleged abuse of power by the president and urging Republican members to "stand behind" their oath of office. 

Nadler, D-N.Y., said the three scholars Democrats invited to testify clearly established that soliciting foreign interference in American elections and obstructing a formal congressional probe are both impeachable offenses. 

He argued that Republicans, however, have not mounted a vigorous defense of the president's actions, but instead have focused on the process. He called them out, however, for what he suggested was their hypocrisy, noting that they complained over time about not having a floor vote, not being able to call witness and not extending an invitation to the president for this hearing — all of which he said the Democrats have since done. 

Nadler also conceded that Democrats need to bring a number of Trump supporters over to their side of the aisle as the process continues, but noted that polling shows a majority of Americans support the process. 

Collins, the ranking member, continued to excoriate Democrats for the way in which he said the hearings have been conducted, saying Wednesday's hearing only included expert witnesses, not fact witnesses. 

Collins, R-Ga., also said Democrats have not revealed sufficient evidence to support the impeachment inquiry. 

"This is not a time to play hide the ball," he said. "The facts talked about have not been delivered."

Collins called on Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, to testify about his panel's report on its findings in the impeachment inquiry, which it voted to send to the Judiciary Committee on Tuesday night. 

Pence: Impeachment reaches 'new low' after joking about Barron Trump

Dems 'scraping the bottom of the barrel,' Trump campaign says; White House declares win

“Democrats are scraping the bottom of the barrel by rolling out a bunch of liberal professors who worked for or donated to Obama or Clinton and who supported impeachment since the moment Donald Trump was elected," Brad Parscale, Trump's campaign manager, said Wednesday night about the Judiciary Committee's first impeachment hearing. "They have nothing to offer but opinions on a transcript of a phone call that the whole world can read for itself. Not one of them has any personal knowledge of any events regarding Ukraine and not one can add anything substantive to the already-ridiculous impeachment farce. The sham continues.”

White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham declared the hearing a win for the president.

“Today was a good day for President Trump, and a bad day for the Democrats," Grisham said. "The only thing the three liberal professors established at Chairman Nadler’s hearing was their political bias against the President. It did nothing to change the fact that, despite weeks of hearings in this sham process, the President did nothing wrong. Congress should get back to working for the American people. The United States–Mexico–Canada trade agreement,  infrastructure, and drug pricing all await action from Speaker Pelosi. Instead, House Democrats continue to ignore their constituents by focusing on this pathetic and desperate charade.” 

Melania Trump says Democratic impeachment witness should be 'ashamed' for mentioning son, Barron

First lady Melania Trump slammed a witness in the House Judiciary Committee impeachment hearing on Wednesday, saying she should be "ashamed" about a quip involving her son, Barron.

"A minor child deserves privacy and should be kept out of politics. Pamela Karlan, you should be ashamed of your very angry and obviously biased public pandering, and using a child to do it," the first lady tweeted of her 13-year-old son.

The tweet was later added into the official record by Republicans at the impeachment hearing.

Pamela Karlan, one of four law professors to testify before the panel, had referred to the Trump's youngest son while noting that presidents aren't kings. She said the Founding Fathers included impeachment in the Constitution to ensure leaders can be held accountable.

"The Constitution doesn’t allow titles of nobility," Karlan testified. "The president can name his son Barron, but he can’t make him a baron."

Karlan later apologized.

Read more about the blowback.

Rand Paul flip-flops stance on 'political' subpoenas

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., took to Twitter during Wednesday's hearings to decry Schiff's "political" usage of subpoenas to obtain phone records of Rudy Giuliani and Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., among other figures involved in the impeachment inquiry. 

This seems to be a change in tune from last month when Paul publicly called for Congress to subpoena Hunter Biden and the Ukraine whistleblower. 

Witness Karlan apologizes for mentioning Barron Trump amid conservative backlash

Karlan apologized for mentioning Barron Trump, the president's teenage son, earlier in the hearing after receiving backlash from Republicans on the committee, the president's allies and the first lady. 

"I want to apologize for what I said earlier about the president's son. It was wrong of me to do that," Karlan said. "I wish the president would apologize, obviously, for the things that he's done that's wrong, but I do regret having said that." 

Earlier, the Stanford law professor tried to detail the difference between American democracy and the bygone powerful British monarchy, saying that the founders did not want a king when forming the constitution. 

"The Constitution doesn’t allow titles of nobility," she said earlier. "The president can name his son Barron, but he can’t make him a baron."

Scalise: 'Why are we wasting time' on these witnesses?

Hearing update: About seven lawmakers left to ask questions

All Republican members have asked their five-minutes of questions. There are just seven Democrats left to question the witnesses, and then Collins and Nadler can give closing remarks. So the hearing should wrap up in about 45 minutes or so. 

Intelligence ranking member Nunes enters the hearing room

Rep. Devin Nunes, the ranking member of the Intelligence Committee, came into the hearing room and gathered on the side of the dais with a couple of other Republican lawmakers.

Nunes, R-Calif, then sat next to fellow Trump ally Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., a member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, in the audience seats reserved for lawmakers. The two chatted quietly, and after a short time Nunes left. Meadows also sat in on the Intelligence panel's hearings despite not sitting on that committee either.

McClintock causes fireworks after asking scholars who they voted for

A fiery exchange erupted during the hearing when Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., asked the scholars who they voted for in the 2016 election.

Turley voluntarily testified earlier that he did not vote for Trump, but when asked during the tail end of the hearing the other witnesses vehemently pushed back at the question. 

Karlan shot back that she would not disclose that information because she has the right to cast a private ballot.

Chairman Nadler also chimed in, telling the witnesses that they did not have to answer the question. McClintock then asked again, telling them to raise their hands if they voted for Trump. Feldman then interjected telling McClintock that refusing to raise their hands was not an answer because secret ballots are the cornerstone of voting in America.