Key takeaways on the House Judiciary Committee’s 1st hearing

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The impeachment inquiry moved to the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday with a panel of constitutional scholars tackling the million dollar question in the debate: Do President Donald Trump’s actions warrant impeachment under the Constitution?

Three of the witnesses were lawyers handpicked by the Democratic majority: Pamela Khan, a professor at Stanford Law School; Michael Gerhardt a professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law; and Noah Feldman, a professor at Harvard Law School.

The lone Republican-picked witness was Jonathan Turley, a professor at the George Washington University Law School.

Here’s what you need to know about the hearing:

Among the three Democratic-picked lawyers, there was no doubt: Trump, they testified, abused his power in office by pressuring Ukraine to investigate his political rival. And soliciting a foreign power for personal and political gain was exactly what the framers had in mind when they tucked impeachment powers into the Constitution, they said. If left unchecked, the president could continue to invite foreign powers to help his upcoming election, the lawyers argued.

“We three are unanimous,” Gehardt said, when they were asked if Trump’s actions amount to a “high crime and misdemeanor,” as identified in the Constitution.

“If Congress fails to impeach here, then the impeachment process has lost all meaning, and, along with that, our Constitution’s carefully crafted safeguards against the establishment of a king on American soil,” Gerhardt said in his opening statement. “No one, not even the president, is beyond the reach of our Constitution and our laws.”

The most colorful examples came from Karlan, who described being so riveted by witness testimony in the impeachment hearings that she opted for a mail-order turkey this Thanksgiving so that she could spend her time combing through the details. One “chilling line” by Ambassador Gordon Sondland’s testimony, she said, was that Trump didn’t need Ukraine to pursue a corruption case against Democrat Joe Biden, but rather just announce one.

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