A key witness has snapped during US President Donald Trump’s impeachment hearing, saying she felt “insulted”.
Stanford law professor Pamela Karlan was reacting to House Judiciary Committee ranking member Doug Collins, who criticised the hearing during his opening statement.
He said the hearing did not include any fact witnesses, rather law professors who would likely only theorise about impeaching Mr Trump because they were too busy to digest all of the facts at issue.
It comes as the Democratic case for impeaching Mr Trump mounts with three legal experts testifying that the US President’s conduct amounts to “impeachable high crime and misdemeanour of abuse of power”.
The first House Judiciary Committee hearing opened on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday to debate the constitutional basis for impeachment and whether Mr Trump’s actions meet those standards.
Law professors Noah Feldman, Pamela Karlan and Michael Gerhardt all agreed that Mr Trump committed “the impeachable high crime and misdemeanour of abuse of power” by allegedly attempting to withhold a White House meeting and critical funding from Ukraine as leverage for political favours. He is also accused of soliciting foreign assistance on a phone call with the country’s leader.
Harvard professor Noah Feldman testified that Mr Trump has “committed impeachable high crimes and misdemeanours by corruptly abusing the office of the presidency”.
Mr Feldman also described how Mr Trump’s comments about being able to “do whatever I want as president” under Article 2 of the Constitution had “struck a horror” in him.
University of North Carolina professor Michael Gerhardt told the hearing that Mr Trump had “committed several impeachable offences … worse than the misconduct of any prior president”.
“If left unchecked, the President will likely continue his pattern of soliciting foreign interference on his behalf in the next election,” he said.
“I just want to stress that if what we’re talking about is not impeachable, then nothing is impeachable. This is precisely the misconduct that the framers created a Constitution including impeachment to protect against.”
Stanford law professor Pamela Karlan testified that the President’s alleged attempt to “strong arm a foreign leader” would not be considered acceptable politics historical standards.
“It is, instead, a cardinal reason why the Constitution contains an impeachment power,” she said. “Put simply, a candidate for president should resist foreign interference in our elections, not demand it. If we are to keep faith with the Constitution and our Republic, President Trump must be held to account.”
The hearing follows the release of a report on Tuesday detailing the findings of the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation last month.
The report alleges the probe into Mr Trump “uncovered a months-long effort by President Trump to use the powers of his office to solicit foreign interference on his behalf in the 2020 election”.
The House Intelligence Committee voted to send its landmark report on Mr Trump’s conduct to the Judiciary Committee, which will write the articles of impeachment against the President.
At its heart, the 300-page report produced by chairman Adam Schiff’s panel lays out the case that Mr Trump misused the power of his office for personal political gain and obstructed Congress by stonewalling the proceedings like no other president in history.
The report does not offer a judgment on whether Mr Trump’s actions stemming from a July 25 phone call with Ukraine rise to the level of “high crimes and misdemeanours” warranting impeachment. The entire House will decide that question as soon as this month.
The Republicans’ sole witness to testify Wednesday, Jonathan Turley, a professor at the George Washington University Law School, said “we’re all mad” — but that doesn’t mean impeachment is the answer.
“I get it. You’re mad. The President’s mad. My Republican friends are mad. My Democratic friends are mad. My wife is mad. My kids are mad. Even my dog seems mad — and Luna is a golden doodle and they don’t get mad,” he said.
“So we’re are all mad, and where has it taken us? Will a slipshod impeachment make us less mad? Will it only give an invitation for the madness to follow in every future administration?” he added. “This is not how you impeach an American president.
“President Trump will not be our last president and what we leave in the wake of this scandal will shape our democracy for generations to come.
“I am concerned about lowering impeachment standards to fit a paucity of evidence and abundance of anger.”
Mr Trump slammed the case for his impeachment as a “joke” and lambasted his opponents for proceeding with hearings during his trip to a NATO summit in Britain.
“What they are doing is a very bad thing for our country,” he said when asked about the report from the House Intelligence Committee. “It’s a joke.”
Mr Trump said it was a “disgrace” that the House Judiciary Committee was holding a hearing Wednesday to consider drawing up articles of impeachment “when we are in London”.
House Judiciary Committee ranking member Doug Collins criticised Wednesday’s hearing during his opening statement by noting that it did not include any fact witnesses, only law professors who he claimed would likely just theorise about impeaching Mr Trump because they were too busy to digest all of the facts at hand.
One of the witnesses, Stanford Law Professor Pamela Karlan, took umbrage with Mr Collins’ statement, stating that she is quite familiar with the facts of the case, and would not be there otherwise.
“Here Mr Collins, I would like to say to you, sir, that I read transcripts of every one of the witnesses who appeared in the live hearing, because I would not speak about these things without reviewing the facts,” she said during her opening remarks. “So I’m insulted by the suggestion that as a law professor I don’t care about those facts.”
Democrats claim Mr Trump held back nearly $400 million in military aid from the Ukraine as part of an alleged bribe for political gain. The President is also accused of soliciting foreign interference in the 2016 US election.
The inquiry focuses on a July 25 phone call in which Mr Trump asked Ukraine’s new president Volodymyr Zelensky to carry out two investigations that would benefit him politically, including one targeting Democratic political rival Joe Biden.
During the call, the President asked Mr Zelensky to do him a “favour” and investigate the origins of the Russia probe, which by July had already ended, and to investigate Mr Biden and his son Hunter, who served on the board of a Ukrainian natural gas company.
The requests came immediately after the Ukrainian President thanked Mr Trump for America’s defence support and said his country was “almost ready” to buy more US military technology. Mr Trump has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and described the inquiry as a “witch hunt”.
Republicans on the Intelligence Committee released their own report, exonerating Mr Trump for his actions with Ukraine by saying the military aid was never used as leverage and was eventually released on September 11.
Mr Trump’s impeachment by the Democratic-controlled House would place the President on trial in the Senate, where a Republican majority could protect him from removal.
Originally published as ‘I’m insulted’: Trump witness snaps