Jonathan Turley: 'This is not how you impeach an American president'

Jonathan Turley: 'This is not how you impeach an American president'

In his opening statement at today’s impeachment hearing, Professor Jonathan Turley made it clear that he has no personal interest in defending President Trump. “I’m not a supporter,” Turley said. He added, “I voted against him. My personal views of President Trump are as irrelevant to my impeachment testimony as they should be to your impeachment vote.”

From there, Turley issued a warning that “President Trump will not be out last president” and therefore it matters how this impeachment is carried out. “I’m concerned about lowering impeachment standards to fit a paucity of evidence and an abundance of anger,” Turley said. “I believe this impeachment not only fails to satisfy the standard of past impeachments but would created a dangerous precedent for future impeachments.”

The core of Turley’s argument was that the founders rejected a loose standard for impeachment, one which might include such vague crimes as “maladministration” and instead settled on a stricter standard let the Congress be given power to remove any president it disagreed with. “In the end various standards that had been used in the past were rejected: Corruption, obtaining office by improper means, betraying trust to a foreign power, negligence, perfidy, peculation, and oppression,” he said.

Turley then pointed out that a common factor in previous impeachments was that they “all involved established crimes.” “This would be the first impeachment in history where there would be considerable debate and in my view not compelling evidence of the commission of a crime,” he said.

After saying that everyone involved in the process is “mad” (including his dog) Turley asked where that had taken us. “Will a slipshod impeachment make us less mad? Will it only invite an invitation for the madness to follow every future administration? That is why this is wrong…It’s wrong because this is not how you impeach an American president,” Turley said.

His full opening remarks are below, but before you get to that consider watching this segment of testimony from later in the hearing. In this segment, Turley politely disagreed with the other three witnesses (who he describes as “friends”) over the legal standard for bribery. He said that the founders offered a specific example of what they had in mind by bribery. That example involved “accepting actual money as the head of state.”

“Louis XIV…gave Charles II a huge amount of money as well as other benefits, including apparently a French mistress, in exchange for the secret treaty of Dover of 1670. It also was an exchange for his converting to Catholicism. But that wasn’t some broad notion of bribery. It was actually quite narrow. So I don’t think that dog will hunt in the 18th century and I don’t think it will hunt today. Because if you take a look at the 21st century, bribery is well defined. And you shouldn’t just take our word for it, you should look to how it’s defined by the United States Supreme Court.”

Turley then pointed to a case called McDonnell vs. United States in which the court unanimously overturned a conviction saying the crime of bribery could not be viewed under a “boundless interpretation.” Turley concluded, “You can’t accuse a president of bribery and then when some of us note that the Supreme Court has rejected your type of boundless interpretation say ‘Well, it’s just impeachment. We really don’t have to prove the elements.’ That’s a favorite manta, that it’s sort of close enough for jazz. This isn’t improvisational jazz. Close enough is not good enough.”

Here’s Turley’s opening statement:

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