Prof. Feldman: Trump Was 'Corruptly Abusing The Office Of The Presidency' | NBC News

Channel: NBC News
Published: 12/04/2019 04:24 PM

Prof. Noah Feldman outlined the case that President Trump committed impeachable offenses "by corruptly abusing the office of the presidency" in his opening statement to the House Judiciary Committee. » Subscribe to NBC News: » Watch more NBC video:

My job is to study and to teach the constitution from its origins until the present, i'm here today to describe three things why the framers of our constitution included a provision for the impeachment of the president. What that provision providing for impeachment for high crimes and misdemeanors means and last how it applies to the question before you and for the american people, whether preside ...
t trump has committed impeachable offenses under the constitution. Let me begin by stating my conclusions: the framers provided for the impeachment of the president, because they feared that the president might abuse the power of his office for personal benefit, to corrupt the electoral process and ensure his re-election or to subvert thenational security of the united States, high crimes and misdemeanors are abuses of power and of public trust connected to the office of the presidency. 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. Specifically, president trump has abused his office by corruptly soliciting president vladimir's zalenski of ukraine to announce investigations of his political rivals in order to gain personal advantage, including in the 2020 presidential election. Let me begin now with the question of why the framers provided for impeachment. In the first place, the framers borrowed the concept of impeachment from england, but with one enormous differencethe house of commons and the house of lords could use impeachment in order to limit the ministers of the king, but they could not impeach the king and in that sense The king was above the law in stark contrast. The framers from the very outset of the constitutional convention in 1787, made it crystal clear that the president would be subject to impeachment in order to demonstrate that the was subordinate to the law. If you will, i would like you to think now about a specific date in the constitutional convention july 20th. 1787. It was the middle of a long hot summer and on that day two members of the constitutional convention actually moved to takeout the impeachment provision from the draft constitution, and they had a reason for that and the reason was they said well, the president will have to Stand for re-election and if the president has to stand for re-election, that is enough. We don't need a separate provision for impeachment when that proposal was made.

Significant disagreement ensued. The governor of north carolina, a man called william davey, immediately said. If the president cannot be impeached quote, he will spare no efforts or means whatever to get himself re-elected following davy george mason of virginia a fierce republican critic of executive power said no point is more important than that impeachment be included in the constitution. Shall any man beabove justice? He asked thus expressing the core concern that the president must be subordinate to the law and not above law, james madison, the principle. Draftsman of the us constitution then spoke up. He said it was quote indispensable that some provision be made for impeachment. Why? Because he explained standing for reelection was quote not a sufficient security, close quote against presidential misconduct or corruption. A president he said might betray his trust to foreign powers, a president who, in a corrupt fashion, abused the office of the presidency, said james madison quote, might be fatal to the republic close quote, and then a remarkable thing happened in the convention governor morris of pennsylvania. One of the twopeople who had introduced the motion to eliminate impeachment from the constitution got up and actually said the words i was wrong. He told the other framers present that he had changed his mind on the basis of the debate on july 20th and that it was now his opinion that, in order to avoid corruption of the electoral process, a president would have to be subject to impeachment. Regardless of the availability of a further election, the upshot of this debate is that the framers kept impeachment in the constitution, specifically in order to protect against the abuse of office with the capacity to corrupt the electoral process or lead to personal gain. Now, turning to the language ofthe constitution, the framers use the words high crimes and misdemeanors to describe those forms of action that they considered impeachable.

These were not vague or abstract terms to the framers high crimes and misdemeanors were very the words. High crimes and misdemeanors represented very specific language that was well understood by the entire generation of the framers. Indeed, they were borrowed from an impeachment trial in england that was taking place as the framers were speaking, which was referred to, in fact by george mason. The words high crimes and misdemeanors referred to abuse of the office of the presidency for personal advantage or to corrupt. The electoral process, or to subvert the national security of the united statesthere's, no mystery about the words high crimes and misdemeanors the word high modifies both crimes and misdemeanors. So they're, both high and high means connected to the office of the presidency connected to office. The classic form that was familiar to the framers was the abuse of office for personal gain or advantage, and when the framers specifically named bribery as a high crime and misdemeanor, they were naming one particular version of this abuse of office. The abuse of office for personal or individual game, the other forms of abuse of office abuse of office to affect elections and abuse of office to compromise national security were further forms that were familiar to the framers. Now, how doesthis language of high crimes and misdemeanors apply to president trump's alleged conduct? Let me be clear: the constitution gives the house of representatives that is the members of this committee and the other members of the house quote sole power of impeachment. It'S 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. My comments will therefore follow my role, which is to describe and apply the meaning of impeachable offenses to the facts described by the testimony and evidence before the house.

President trump's conduct, as described in the testimony and evidence, clearly constitutes impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors under the constitution. Inparticular, the memorandum and other testimony relating to the july 25th 2019 phone call between the two presidents, president trump and president solinsky more than sufficiently indicates the president trump abused his office by soliciting the president of ukraine to investigate his political rivals. In order to gain personal political advantage, including in relation to the 2020 election again, the words abuse of office are not mystical or magical, they are very clear. 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 american public, but to serve his personal, individual, partisan electoral interests. That is what the evidence before the house indicatesfinally. Let me be clear that on its own soliciting, the leader of a foreign government, in order to announce investigations of political rivals and perform those investigations would constitute a high crime in this demeanor. But the house also has evidence before it that the president committed to further acts that also qualify as high crimes and misdemeanors. In particular, the house heard evidence that the president placed a hold on critical us aid to ukraine and conditioned its release on announcement of the investigations of the biden's and of the discredited crowdstrike conspiracy theory. Furthermore, the house also heard evidence that the president conditioned a white house visit desperately sought by the ukrainian president on announcement of theinvestigations. Both of these acts constitute impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors under the constitution. They each encapsulate the framers worried that the president of the united states would take any means whatever to ensure his re-election, and that is the reason that the framers provided for impeachment.

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