(CNN)For two tumultuous months, Washington has been fixated on what President Donald Trump did. Now it’s time to work out what should happen to him.
Four renowned law professors showed up before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday to conduct an intellectual and rigorous constitutional seminar — while ducking the partisan crossfire from Democratic and Republican lawmakers. They had been called to explain the arcane business of impeachment — the investigation, trial and possible removal of a president — to Americans watching on TV.
Does the Constitution justify impeaching Trump over his attempted manipulation of Ukraine? Three of the high-powered legal quartet — the experts chosen by Democrats — agreed the President had crossed a line. The Republican witness did not rule out such a verdict — but cautioned against rushing a process that could countermand the 2016 election.
On that central question, Pamela Karlan of Stanford Law School had no doubts:
- “The list of impeachable offenses the Framers included in the Constitution shows that the essence of an impeachable offense is a president’s decision to sacrifice the national interest for his own private ends.”
What about how Trump’s behavior compares with the actions of other Presidents — including the two who were impeached before him and Richard Nixon, who resigned before the House could get to him? It leaves them in the dust, argued Michael Gerhardt, of the University of North Carolina Law School:
- “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…”
But Trump is not just in trouble for his dealings with Ukraine. He’s been blocking the investigation all along, refusing to allow key White House officials to testify and ignoring 71 separate requests for documents by Democrats. Is this also grounds for impeachment? You bet, said Harvard Law School’s Noah Feldman.
- “A president who will not cooperate in an impeachment inquiry is putting himself above the law. Now, putting yourself above the law as president is the core of an impeachable offense because if the president could not be impeached for that, he would in fact not be responsible to anybody,”
But wait — could Democrats be a little ahead of themselves here? Sure, the White House is stalling and trying to mire the process in months of legal challenges. But removing a President is the most consequential act in Congress’ power, and Democrats have not yet used the full extent of the law to force key witnesses to testify. George Washington University’s Jonathan Turley — that Republican-called witness — worries that things are going too fast and not far enough:
- “Fast and narrow is not a good recipe for impeachment. … If you rush this impeachment, you’re going to leave half the country behind.”
- “This isn’t an impulse-buy item. You’re trying to remove a duly elected president of the United States.”
‘We’re all mad, and where has it taken us?’
In his opening statement, Turley said, “I get it. You’re mad. The President’s mad. My Republican friends are mad. My Democratic friends are mad. … So we’re 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? This is not how you impeach an American president.”
Trump vs. Trudeau
Yes, Trump was the unwitting subject of a chuckle-filled chat among other NATO leaders, copped Justin Trudeau on Wednesday. But the Canadian Prime Minister insists they’ve still got a good relationship.
It doesn’t look like a good one — Trump, after all, accused Trudeau of being “two-faced” and hastily stormed off from the London gathering. Their relationship didn’t seem that great even before Trudeau was caught gossiping — Trump had earlier skewered Canada as “slightly delinquent” in its fiscal duty to NATO. And last year, they clashed after a G7 meeting in Quebec, with Trudeau calling US tariffs “insulting” and Trump tweeting from Air Force One that the Canadian princeling was “very dishonest and weak.”
This is bad news for Trudeau’s bid to repair relations with the mercurial US leader — who can make life very difficult since the North American neighbors share the world’s most lucrative bilateral commercial relationship. But since both men have a common goal in getting Congress to pass the US-Canada-Mexico trade deal, they’ll have to bury the hatchet.
And there may be a political upside for both: Feuding with liberal leaders like Trudeau and French President Emmanuel Macron is all good for Trump’s brand as the politically incorrect, foreigner-baiting America First bulldog. And showing some steel to the bully down south might be just what the PM needs, as he tries to earn back the Canadians’ trust after a scandal-tainted couple of years and only just winning reelection by the skin of his teeth.
‘That’s the way I like it’
US President Donald Trump met Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the NATO meeting in London. “We discussed Syria. We discussed the Kurds,” Trump said, adding that “the border and the safe zone is working out very well and I give Turkey a lot of credit for that. The ceasefire is holding.”
In October, the US withdrew forces from northern Syria to make way for a Turkish attack on the US’s Kurdish allies. Syrian Kurdish and US officials have said that the attacks continue, despite a nominal ceasefire.
“We have soldiers where the oil is and that’s the way I like it,” Trump also noted.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office released the Senate schedule for 2020 with just 11 months displayed. January is conspicuously absent. Pencil in a possible Senate impeachment trial.