WASHINGTON (CBS SF/AP) — The House Judiciary Committee’s first impeachment hearing quickly burst into partisan infighting Wednesday as Democrats charged that President Donald Trump must be removed from office for enlisting foreign interference in U.S. elections and Republicans angrily retorted there were no grounds for such drastic action.
The Judiciary Committee heard from legal experts, delving particularly into the issue of whether Trump’s actions stemming from the July 25 phone call with Ukraine’s president rose to the constitutional level of “bribery” or “high crimes and misdemeanors” warranting impeachment.
The report laid out evidence that the Democrats say shows Trump’s efforts to seek foreign intervention in the U.S. election and then obstruct the House’s investigation.
Caught in the crosshairs of the debate were four Constitutional law experts including Stanford law professor Pamela Karlan who took exception to comments by Ranking member Doug Collins (R-Ga.) who inferred that lawyers did not know the facts of the case against Trump.
“Today you’re being asked to consider whether protecting those elections requires impeaching a president. That is an awesome responsibility, that everything I know about our Constitution and its values and my review of the evidentiary record, and here Mr. Collins I would like to say to you sir that I read transcripts of every one of the witnesses who appeared in the live hearing because I would not speak about these things without reviewing the facts.”
“So I am insulted by the suggestion that as a law professor, I don’t care about those facts. But everything I read on those occasions tells me that when President Trump invited indeed demanded foreign involvement in our upcoming election, he struck at the very heart of what makes this a republic to which we pledge allegiance.”
Among Karlan’s other testimony was:
Karlan later quoted President George Washington’s farewell address to tell the committee how dangerous any foreign influence was to the democratic process.
“Indeed, as I want to explain in my testimony, drawing a foreign government into our elections is an especially serious abuse of power because it undermines democracy, itself…The very idea that a president might seek the aid of a foreign government in his reelection campaign would have horrified them, but based on the evidentiary record, that is what President Trump has done. ”
On foreign meddling in the U.S. elections.
“You know, a president who cared about the Constitution would say ‘Russia if you’re listening butt out of our elections.’ And it shows a president who did this to strong arm a foreign leader into smearing one of the president’s opponents in our ongoing election season. That is not politics as usual – at least not in the United States or any other mature democracy.”
“It is, instead, a cardinal reason why the Constitution contains an impeachment power. Put simply, a president should resist foreign interference in our elections, not demand it and not welcome it. If we are to keep faith with the Constitution and with our Republic, President Trump must be held to account.”
© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.