A constitutional law scholar told a House impeachment panel Wednesday that President Donald Trump’s attempt to solicit a foreign investigation into his political opponent and his obstruction of congressional investigations amount to the worst presidential misconduct in history.
“The president’s serious misconduct, including bribery, soliciting a personal favor from a foreign leader in exchange for his exercise of power, and obstructing justice and Congress, are worse than the misconduct of any prior president, including what previous presidents who faced impeachment have done or been accused of doing,” Michael Gerhardt wrote in his prepared opening statement to the House Judiciary Committee.
The University of North Carolina law professor ran out of time and omitted that line during his actual remarks, in which he laid out the ways Trump’s conduct aligns with historical definitions of impeachable offenses.
“If Congress fails to impeach here, then the impeachment process has lost all meaning, and, along with that, our Constitution’s carefully crafted safeguards against the establishment of a king on American soil,” he said Wednesday.
“If what we’re talking about is not impeachable, then nothing is impeachable,” Gerhardt added later, during questioning from Norm Eisen, House Democrats’ counsel. “This is precisely misconduct that the framers created a Constitution, including impeachment, to protect against. If Congress concludes they are going to give a pass to the president here, every other president will say, ‘OK, then I can do the same thing.’ And the boundaries will just evaporate, and those boundaries are set up by the Constitution. And we may be, unfortunately, witnessing their erosion. And that is a danger to all of us.”
Wednesday’s hearing featured testimony from several law professors who specialize in constitutional law and the impeachment process. Marking a new phase of the impeachment proceedings against Trump, it was the first day of hearings before the Judiciary Committee, following hearings last month before the House Intelligence Committee.
Democrats on the committee, chaired by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), released their report Tuesday, concluding Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was “stark evidence of misconduct; a demonstration of the President’s prioritization of his personal political benefit over the national interest.”
Gerhardt previously testified before Congress during the impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton in 1998, and currently serves as an impeachment analyst for CNN.