Dec 4, 2019

GOP's legal scholar suggests Democrats are abusing power with rushed impeachment

Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University and the sole Republican witness at Wednesday's impeachment hearing, cautioned against impeaching President Trump for obstruction and said that Democrats would be abusing their power by not allowing the courts to rule on subpoenas.

"Recently there are some rulings against President Trump, including a ruling involving Don McGahn. ... That's an example of what can happen if you actually subpoena witnesses and go to court. Then you have an obstruction case because a court issues an order. And unless they stay that order by a higher court, you have obstruction. But I can't emphasize this enough and I'll say it just one more time. If you impeach a president, if you make a high crime and misdemeanor out of going to the courts, it is an abuse of power. It's your abuse of power. You're doing precisely what you're criticizing the president for doing."
— Turley

The big picture: Turley warned in his opening statement that the impeachment inquiry has been "rushed" and could set a "dangerous" precedent. He argued that going to the courts in a dispute between two branches of government gives the winning body "legitimacy," as in the case of Nixon's impeachment.

  • By declining to go to court to enforce subpoenas for people like former White House counsel Don McGahn, former national security adviser John Bolton and current Chief of Staff, Turley says that Democrats' case for obstruction is flawed.

The other side: Democratic witness Michael Gerhardt, a professor at the University of North Carolina, argued that "obstruction isn't limited to whatever is happening on the courts." He said congressional subpoenas are "lawful subpoenas" that have the "force of law" to them.

Why it matters: House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler signaled in his opening statement that in addition to obstruction of Congress, obstruction of justice during the Mueller investigation will also likely be considered for an article of impeachment against Trump.

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