US & Canada

Viewpoint: Evidence for impeachment of Trump looks thin

Trump speaks to reporters Image copyright Getty Images

The articles for impeachment unveiled by House Democrats against President Donald Trump suggest this is a party putting haste before justice, says law professor Jonathan Turley, who appeared before the judiciary committee last week as a Republican witness.

For three years, Democratic members have pledged to unleash the dogs of impeachment to devour a president despised by their base.

Today, the doors finally opened and the public found itself staring not at a multi-headed Cerberus from Hades but a couple of underfed Chihuahuas.

In my testimony before the House Judiciary Committee last week, I focused on the crimes like bribery that Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff declared repeatedly were now well-established.

Those claims were legally unfounded and untenable, though the other witnesses and members vociferously insisted that they were clear and established.

The response was all too familiar. For three years, the same Democratic leadership told the public that a variety of criminal and impeachable acts were proven in the Mueller investigation. None of those crimes are now part of this impeachment.

Why? Because it would have been too easy an impeachment? Hardly.

Instead, the House will go forward on the only two plausible grounds that I outlined in my testimony - abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Unlike the other claims, the problem is not with the legal basis for such impeachable offences but the evidentiary record.

This record remains both incomplete and conflicted. The Democrats have insisted on impeaching by Christmas rather than build a record to support such charges. They have burned three months without trying to compel witnesses like former national security adviser John Bolton.

Image copyright Getty Images

That is longer than it took for the critical case in Nixon to go from the ruling in the district court to the Supreme Court for a final decision to force him to release the famous tapes. Nixon resigned shortly after that ruling.

This is now the fastest investigation with the thinnest record supporting the narrowest impeachment in modern history. It is precisely what President Trump (who not surprisingly has supported the Democratic move for a fast impeachment) would relish. This schedule driven more by the Iowa caucuses in February than impeachment criteria.

The Democrats just gave Trump the best Christmas gift he could hope for under these two circumstances - two anaemic Chihuahuas with barely the energy to make the walk over to the Senate.

Jonathan Turley is professor of constitutional law at George Washington University

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