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Surrounded by a crowd of United States Representatives and reporters, Harvard Law School Professor Noah R. Feldman ’92 testified in the first House Judiciary Committee hearing into the Trump impeachment inquiry on Wednesday.
The hearing, which featured several law professors’ testimony on the constitutional landscape of impeachment, followed the first round of hearings regarding President Donald Trump held by the House Intelligence Committee.
After a months-long investigation, the Intelligence Committee produced a report Tuesday charging Trump of soliciting the Ukrainian government’s aid in the 2020 presidential election and attempting to obstruct the congressional investigation into his connections with Ukraine.
In his testimony, Feldman said Trump abused his office through corrupt solicitation of Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate his political rivals, including during the 2020 presidential election.
“On the basis of the testimony and the evidence before the House, President Trump has committed impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors by corruptly abusing the office of the presidency,” Feldman said.
He said the words abuse of power are neither “mystical” nor “magical” and are applicable to Trump’s actions with Ukraine.
“The abuse of office occurs when the President uses a feature of his power, the awesome power of his office, not to serve the interests of the Americna public but to serve his personal, individual, partisan, electoral interests,” Feldman said. “That is what the evidence before the House indicates.”
Alongside Feldman, law school professors Pamela S. Karlan, Michael J. Gerhardt, and Jonathan Turley also served as witnesses in the inquiry. The four professors discussed the constitutional history of impeachment and opined on whether Trump’s communications with Ukraine warranted impeachment.
The three scholars invited by Democrats — including Feldman — testified that Trump’s attempt to coerce Ukraine was an impeachable offense. The fourth professor, who was invited by Republicans, said there was not sufficient evidence for impeachment.
Feldman began his opening statement citing his role at Harvard, which includes teaching a course about the U.S. Constitution from its origins to the present.
He said the Constitution’s framers included impeachment out of fear that the President of the United States might abuse the power of the office to attempt to corrupt the electoral process and ensure reelection or to subvert national security.
When addressing the Judiciary Committee, he said that Congress has the sole power of impeachment.
“Let me be clear,” Feldman said. “It is not my responsibility or my job to determine the credibility of the witnesses who appeared before the House thus far. That is your constitutional responsibility.”
Feldman said the provision for impeachment was included for instances such as the one before the House.
“The framers were not prophets, but they were very smart people with a very sophisticated understanding of human incentives,” Feldman said. “They understood that a president would be motivated naturally to try to use the tremendous power of office to gain personal advantage, to keep himself in office, corrupt the electoral process, and to potentially subvert the national interest.”
— Michelle G. Kurilla can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @MichelleKurilla.
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