‘My Republican friends are mad. My Democratic friends are mad. My wife is mad. My kids are mad. Even my dog seems mad…’
(Ben Sellers, Liberty Headlines) In what appeared to be an unexpected twist, one of the four legal scholars invited by House Democrats to testify at the Judiciary Committee‘s impeachment hearing Wednesday issued a stunning rebuke.
The opening statement from Jonathan Turley, a law professor at Washington, DC’s George Washington University, followed predictable testimony from colleagues at Harvard, Stanford and the University of North Carolina that delved into the nuanced intentions of the Constitution’s framers.
But Turley—who also testified 21 years ago, during the Bill Clinton impeachment, before a panel that included current Judiciary Chair Jerrold Nadler, D-NY—broke rank with his fellow academics by opposing the partisan proceedings against President Donald Trump and the dangerous precedent they might set.
Turley began by acknowledging that he, personally, disagreed with Trump’s politics.
“I’m not a supporter of President Trump—I voted against him,” Turley said. “My personal views of President Trump are as irrelevant to my impeachment testimony as they should be to your impeachment vote.”
However, he said his principled stand against the Democrats’ effort was based largely on the impact it would have in shaping future political battles.
“I’m concerned about lowering impeachment standards to fit a paucity of evidence and an abundance of anger,” Turley said. “I believe this impeachment not only fails to satisfy the standard of past impeachments, but would create a dangerous precedent for future impeachments.”
Turley noted that the politics of rage presently consuming the country had been anticipated by many of the Founding Fathers.
He observed that the Constitution’s framers had deliberately narrowed the scope of impeachable offenses for that reason. They ruled out things like maladministration, perfidy (lying) and peculation (self-dealing) as being too vague and easily swayed by factional rancor.
“We are living in the very period described by Alexander Hamilton—a period of agitated passions,” Turley said.
“I get it. You’re mad. The president’s mad,” he continued. “My Republican friends are mad. My Democratic friends are mad. My wife is mad. My kids are mad. Even my dog seems mad.”
Turley said the “facially incomplete and inadequate record” from Democrats’ hasty, politically motivated process “would rival the [Andrew] Johnson impeachment as the shortest in history, depending on how one counts the relevant days.”
Of the three past historical impeachments, he added, Johnson’s 1868 trial, in the aftermath of the Civil War and the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, bore the closest parallels due to the speed and the “unconventional style” of the presidents involved.
“It is not a model or an association that this committee should relish,” Turley said. “In that case, a group of opponents of the president called the Radical Republicans created a trap-door crime in order to impeach the president.”
Trump’s supporters have accused House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff of doing the same thing by colluding with deep-state, partisan bureaucrats to concoct a scandal following the failures of the Mueller Report and other attempts to establish an impeachable offense.
The president’s July 25 phone call with his Ukrainian counterpart—which prompted the ‘whistleblower‘ complaint at the heart of the probe—came a day after Mueller’s testimony destroyed Democrats hopes of establishing Russia collusion.
On July 26, Nadler declared that impeachment proceedings in the House were already underway.
Echoing earlier comments by the committee’s ranking GOP minority member, Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, Turley said the current effort might also blaze new territory as the first impeachment to proceed with no clear sign of illegal activity and no bipartisan consensus on claims of misconduct.
“This would be the first impeachment in history where there would be considerable debate and, in my view, not compelling evidence of the commission of a crime,” he said.
He cautioned that going forward with the “slipshod” case for impeachment not only would fail to placate the Left’s outrage—it would, in fact, exacerbate the political rift even more.
“We have a record of conflicts, defenses that have not been fully considered, unsubpoenaed witnesses with material evidence,” Turley said. “To impeach a president on this record would expose every future president to the same type of inchoate impeachment.”
Invoking a scene from the play “A Man for All Seasons” about the martyrdom of Sir Thomas More at the hands of England’s Henry VIII, Turley cautioned Democrats against revising legal standards and procedures, “the very thing that divide rage from reason” to serve what they may consider to be a greater moral purpose.
“Both sides of this controversy have demonized the other to justify any measure in their defense,” he said. “Perhaps that’s the saddest part of all of this—we’ve forgotten the common article of faith that binds each of us to each other and our constitution,” he continued.
Turley closed with a warning that the political pendulum may swing the other way, and warping the impeachment process to fit the Left’s current agenda would likely backfire.
“Before we cut down the tree so carefully planted by the framers, I hope you will consider what you will do when the wind blows again—perhaps for a Democratic president,” he said. “Where will you stand then?”