Jonathan Turley delivers opening statement at impeachment hearing

The professor at The George Washington University Law School argued that the facts presented by the House Intelligence Committee don't meet the necessary standard for impeachment.
9:20 | 12/04/19

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Transcript for Jonathan Turley delivers opening statement at impeachment hearing
Thank you chairman Nadler ranking member Collins members of the Judiciary Committee. It's an honor to appear before you today. To discuss one of the most consequential functions you were given by the framers. And that is the impeachment of a president of the United States 21 years ago I set before you chairman that there. And this committee to testify at impeachment of president. William Jefferson Clinton. I never thought that I would have to appear a second time to address the same question. With regard to another sitting president. Yet here we are. The elements. Are strikingly similar. Intense Rinker and rage of the public debate is the same. The atmosphere that they framers anticipated. The stifling and tolerance of opposing views as the saying. I'd like to start there for perhaps incongruous Lee. I stating an irrelevant that. I'm not a supporter of president Trout. I voted against him. My personal views of president trump. Or is a relevant to my impeachment testimony. As they should be to your impeachment vote. Prison trump will not be our last president. And while we leave in the wake of this scandal. Will shape our democracy. For generations to come. I'm concerned about lowering impeachment standards to fit. A paucity of evidence. An abundance of anger. I believe this impeachment not only fails to satisfy. The standard of past impeachment. But would create a dangerous precedent for future impeachment. My testimony lay's about the history of impeachment from early English cases to colonial cases to the present day. The early impeachment for raw political exercises. Using fluid definitions of criminal and noncriminal acts. When the framers meant in Philadelphia they were quite familiar with impeachment and it's abuses. Including the Hastings case which was discussed. In the convention a case it was still pending for trial in England. Unlike Phoenix English impeachment the American model was more limited not only in its application to judicial. And executive officials but its grounds. The framers rejected a proposal to add mail administration. Because Madison objected that so vague a term would be equivalent to a ten year during the pleasure of the senate. In the end various standards that had been used in the past were rejected. Corruption. Obtaining office by improper means betraying the trust of a foreign to a foreign power negligence perfidy. Speculation and oppression. Perfidy or a lying and speculation self dealing are particularly relevant to our current controversy. My testimony explores the impeachment cases of Nixon. Johnson. And Clinton. The close is of these three cases is to the 1868. Impeachment of Andrew Johnson. It is not a model or an association that this committee should relish. In that case a group of opponents of the president's call the radical Republicans. Created a trap door crime. In order to impeach the president they even. To find it is a high. Misdemeanor. There was another shared aspect besides the atmosphere of an impeachment and also the unconventional. Style of the two presidents. And that shared element to speed. This impeachment. Would rival the Johnson impeachment as the shortest in history depending on how one counts the relevant days. Now there are three distinctions when you look at these are three commonalities when you look at these past cases. All involved established crimes. This would be the first impeachment in history. Where there would be considerable debate in in my view not compelling evidence of the commission of a crime second is the abbreviated period. Of this. Investigation which is problematic and puzzling. This is officially incomplete and inadequate records in order to impeach a president. Allow me to be candid in my closing remarks because we have limited time. We are living in the very period described. By Alexander Hamilton. A period of agitated passions. I give it. Your man. The president's man and my Republican friends are mad my democratic friends. Are Mann act. My wife is man. My kids are may. It might dogs seems a man. In loon is a golden doodle and and they don't get me. So we're all mad. Where's that taken us. Well and the slipshod impeachment make us less mad. Will it only invite an invitation for the man is to follow every future administration. That is why this is wrong. It's not wrong because president trump is right is call was anything but perfect. It's not wrong because the house has no legitimate reason to investigate. Ukrainian controversy. It's not wrong because we're in an election year there is no good time for an impeachment. No. It's wrong because this is not how we do in peach an American prison. This case is. Not a case of the unknowable. The case of the peripheral. We have a record. Of conflicts. Defenses that have not been fully considered and subpoenaed witness with material evidence. To impeach a president on this record we expose every future president to the same type of in Kuwait impeachment. Principal often takes us to a place we would prefer not to be. That was the place seven Republicans found themselves in the Johnson trial. When name saved the president from acquittal that they despised. For generations they've been celebrated as profiles of courage. Senator Edmund Ross said it was like looking down into his open grave then. He jumped. Because he didn't have any alternative. It's easy to celebrate those people. From the distance of time and circumstance and age of rage it's appealing. To listen to those saying forget the definitions of crimes just do it. Like this is some impulse buying Nike snippets a sneaker. You certainly do that you can declare the definitions of crimes alleged are immaterial or just an exercise of politics. Not the law. However those legal definitions and standards which I've addressed in my testimony or the very thing that divided rage from reason. This all brings up to me in I will conclude with this have a scene from. Man for all seasons by eight with sir Thomas More went his son a law William roper. Put the law. To suggest that that more was putting the law ahead of morality. He said more would give the devil the benefit of the law when Moore asks a roper. Which he instead cut a great road through the law to get after the devil roper proudly declares yes. I cut down every law of England to do that. More responds. And when the last laws cut down. And the devil turned around on you. Where would you hide roper. All the laws being flak. He said this country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws not God's. And if you cut them down and then you're just the man to do it. Do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then. And he finished by saying yes I'd give that they that doubled the benefit of law for my own sake. So I will conclude within us. Both sides of this controversy have demonize the other. To justify any measure. In their defense much like roper. Bergkamp stance the saddest part of all of this. We have forgotten the common article of faith it by means each of us. To each other in our constitution. However before we cut down the trees so carefully planted by the framers. I hope you will consider what you will do when the wind blows again. Perhaps for a democratic president. Ware will you stand then. When all the laws. Being flat. Thank you again for the honor of testifying today and I'd be happy to answer any questions.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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