Unlike the comparatively star-studded witnesses who testified before the House Intelligence Committee’s public impeachment hearings in November, the panel of legal experts appearing before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday is a less familiar crew — despite their rigorous qualifications. Beginning at 10 a.m., the four constitutional scholars called before the committee will provide context for whether or not Trump’s quid pro quo in Ukraine is an impeachable offense. “Our first task is to explore the framework put in place to respond to serious allegations of impeachable misconduct like those against President Trump,” Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler said last week.
Of particular note will be Article Two, Section Four of the Constitution, which lays out the groundwork for impeachment for “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” Expect the four witnesses listed below to spend considerable time on that last, hazily defined term — though the term “bribery” could make an appearance as well, considering House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s claim that it applies to Trump’s Ukraine scandal, and Republicans’ pushback to that accusation.
A Harvard Law professor specializing in constitutional studies, Feldman advised the Iraqi Governing Council on its interim constitution in 2003. A columnist at Bloomberg Opinion, he has argued that Democrats should avoid legalism in their impeachment arguments — which would “consist of the idea that Trump’s conduct can best be condemned by identifying a specific legal rule and showing that he violated it” — and wrote a piece called “Trump’s Quid Pro Quo Is Unconstitutional.”
A law professor at Stanford who served as the deputy attorney general in the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ, Karlan specializes in constitutional law and was considered a potential Obama appointee for the Supreme Court seat of Justice David Souter. (The seat eventually went to Justice Sonia Sotomayor.) To date, she has not written about or publicly commented on the Trump impeachment inquiry.
A UNC professor and the author of The Federal Impeachment Process: A Constitutional and Historical Analysis and Impeachment: What Everyone Needs to Know, Gerhardt told Slate that the president has “dismissed the rule of law as being relevant to his life.” He has argued that “those articles of impeachment that had been approved against Richard Nixon turn out to be relevant, as well, to the misconduct of President Trump. First, he has obstructed justice a variety of different ways. Second, he has asked the president of a foreign country — actually asked the presidents of a few different countries — to intervene in the next election on his behalf. And then third, he has refused to comply with more subpoenas than most people can count.”
Gerhardt has testified before Congress over a dozen times, including as the only joint witness in the Clinton impeachment proceedings in the House.
While the previous witnesses were called by the Democratic leadership of the House Judiciary, Jonathan Turley, a professor at George Washington University, is the only constitutional scholar to be called by the Republican minority on the committee. Turley also testified in the Clinton impeachment, claiming that the allegations of perjury, obstruction of justice, and abuse of office were “clear and compelling grounds” for impeachment if the House could prove them.
Earlier this year, he claimed that Trump’s interference in the Russia investigation could not be considered obstruction of justice. In an opinion piece in The Hill, Turley called Trump’s pressure in Ukraine “highly inappropriate,” but also criticized Democrats for pursuing “an impeachment that seems designed to fail with an incomplete and conflicted record.”