The investigation into President Donald Trump enters a historic next phase on Wednesday as the House Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on the constitutional grounds for drafting articles of impeachment.
The process of drawing up any articles, now becoming increasingly likely, could begin shortly after members question legal experts about the “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors” the Constitution requires.
Among the key questions: Are Trump’s actions the danger the Founders warned about? Is impeachment the remedy thy envisioned?
Much of the focus now will be on the Judiciary Committee’s Democratic chairman, Jerry Nadler, and whether he can control Republican objections and maintain the momentum of the Democrats’ impeachment drive — an effort that Trump on Tuesday once again called a “hoax.”
This is how the hearing is unfolding. Please refresh for updates.
Chairman Jerry Nadler gavels the hearing open.
“The facts before are us are undisputed,” the New York Democrat says, adding that President Trump has attacked witnesses who’ve testified previously.
Members and witnesses are starting to take their seats in the hearing room.
President Donald Trump has cancelled his conference in London scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Washington time, shortly after the hearing was supposed to get underway.
A GOP member of the Judiciary Committee and vocal critic of the impeachment inquiry, Rep. Matt Gaetz. told ABC News Senior Washington Reporter on ABC News Live that Republicans will continue to push to call their own witnesses to defend Trump, but said he sees the result of the House impeachment inquiry as a “foregone conclusion.”
As for Wednesday’s hearing, Gaetz said Republicans don’t have anything to prove and that Democrats think the testimony from “liberal law professors” will support their conclusions.“Today will largely be legal analysis that I think will bore the country to death,” he said.
Three witnesses have been called by Democrats: Noah Feldman of Harvard Law School, Pamela Karlan of Stanford Law School, and Michael Gerhardt of the University of North Carolina School of Law.
Testifying for Republicans will be Jonathan Turley of The George Washington University Law School.
Their opening statements have been made public.
Feldman says his analysis is that President Trump’s actions fit the constitutional definition of “high crimes and misdemeanors.”
“On the basis of the testimony and evidence before the House, President Trump has committed impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors by corruptly abusing the office of the presidency,” Feldman said in his prepared remarks, specifically citing his request for Ukrainian President Voldymyr Zelenskiy to announce investigations into the Bidens and the 2016 election.
Feldman said the idea of impeachment is critical to the basis of American democracy, specifically the idea that unlike a king, the president is not above the law and there should be checks on a president.
“The framers believed that elections were not a sufficient check on the possibility of a president who abused his power by acting in a corrupt way. They were especially worried that a president might use the power of his office to influence the electoral process in his own favor. They concluded that the Constitution must provide for the impeachment of the president to assure that no one would be above the law,” he said.
Gerhardt compared Trump’s behavior to former President Richard Nixon, who famously resigned as Congress was considering whether to impeach him.
He says the president’s actions correspond which each of the three articles of impeachment against Nixon – obstruction of justice, abuse of power, and failure to comply with legislative subpoenas.“The president’s serious misconduct, including bribery, soliciting a personal favor from a foreign leader in exchange for his exercise of power, and obstructing justice and Congress are worse than the misconduct of any prior president, including what previous presidents who faced impeachment have done or been accused of doing,” he said in his opening statement, adding that even Nixon cooperated with congressional investigations.
Karlan speaks of the constitutional threshold.
“The list of impeachable offenses the Framers included in the Constitution shows that the essence of an impeachable offense is a president’s decision to sacrifice the national interest for his own private ends. “Treason” lay in an individual’s giving aid to foreign enemies—that is, putting a foreign adversary’s interests above the United States’. “Bribery” occurred when an official solicited, received, or offered a personal favor or benefit to influence official action—that is, putting his private welfare above the national interest. And “high Crimes and Misdemeanors” captured the other ways in which a high official might, as Justice Joseph Story explained, “disregard . . . public interests, in the discharge of the duties of political office,” she says in her prepared remarks.