Where the Trump defense goes too far
By Jonathan Turley
This defense is anything but nuanced. It appears premised on two highly contested points.
First, there is the position that there was nothing even remotely inappropriate in the president asking a foreign country to investigate a political rival. This position can be accepted or not accepted by senators.
However, the second point presents a far more difficult problem for senators concerned about the interpretation of the Constitution. The White House is arguing that you cannot impeach a president without a crime.
It is a view that is at odds with history and the purpose of the Constitution. While Framers did not want terms such as “maladministration” in the standard as dangerously too broad, they often spoke of impeachable conduct in noncriminal terms, such as Justice Joseph Story referring to “public wrongs,” “great offenses against the Constitution” or acts of “malfeasance or abuse of office.” Alexander Hamilton spoke of impeachment trials as addressing “the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust.”
In the impeachment trials of Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, both sides accepted that the presidents had committed criminal acts.
In this impeachment, the House has decided to go forward on the narrowest articles with the thinnest record of a presidential impeachment in history. However, many senators may be legitimately leery of buying what the White House is selling with its categorical approach. There is a vast array of harmful and corrupt acts that a president can commit outside of the criminal code.
While I believe that articles of impeachment are ideally based on well-defined criminal conduct, I do not believe that the criminal code is the effective limit or scope of possible impeachable offenses. If some of the president’s critics are adopting a far too broad understanding of impeachable offenses, the White House is adopting a far too narrow one.
The GOP own impeachment expert takes issue with the White House’s defense. Writes Op-Ed and Nadler just quoted from this piece on the floor. Hah.