Michael Gerhardt delivers opening statement at impeachment hearing

The University of North Carolina School of Law professor said the context and the gravity of a president's conduct are a big part of whether it fits the definition of "high crimes and misdemeanors."
10:33 | 12/04/19

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Transcript for Michael Gerhardt delivers opening statement at impeachment hearing
Oh thank you mr. chairman ranking member or other distinguished members of the committee. It's an honor and a privilege. To join the other distinguished witnesses to discuss the matter. Of grave concern to our Kong country and to our constitution. Because this house the people's house as the sole power of impeachment there is no better forum to discuss the constitutional standard for impeachment. And whether that standard has been met in the case that the current president of the United States. As I explained in the remainder and balance of my opening statement the record compiled thus far shows the president has committed several impeachable offenses. Including bribery and abuse of power and soliciting a personal favor from a foreign leader to been event. Himself per slowing obstructing justice. And obstructing congress. Are hearing today should serve as a reminder. But one of the fundamental principles. That drove the founders are the founders of our 'cause of our constitution. To break from England and to draft their own constitution. The principle that in this country no one is king. We have followed that principle since before the founding of the constitution. Is recognized around the world as a fixed inspiring. American ideal. It was third message to congress in 1903 president Theodore Roosevelt delivered one of the finest articulation of this principle he said. No one is above the law and no man has below. Nor do we ask any man's permission we require him to Obey it obedience to the law is demanded as a right. Not ask for as a favor. Three features of our constitution protect the fundamental principle that no one not even the president is above the law. First and the British system. The public had no choice over the monarch who ruled them and our constitution the framers allow elections to service a crucial means. For ensuring presidential accountability. Second in the British system the king could do no wrong. And no other parts of the government could check his misconduct. And our constitution. The framers developed the concept of separation of powers which consists of checks and balance is designed to prevent any branch including the presidency. From becoming tyrannical. Third in the British system everyone but the king was impeachable. Our framers generation pledge their lives and fortunes to rebel against the monarch whom they saw as corrupt tyrannical and entitled. To do no wrong. And our declaration of independence the framers set forth a series of impeachable offenses that the king had committed against American colonists. When the framers later convene in Philadelphia to draft or constitution. They were united. Around a simple indisputable principle that was a major safeguard for the public. We the people against tyranny of any kind. The people who had overthrown a king we're not going to turn around just after securing their independence from corrupt monarch old tyranny. And create an office that like the king was above the long period and could do no wrong the framers created a chief executive. To bring energies of the administration federal laws but to be accountable to congress. For treason. Bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors. The framers concerned about the need to protect against a corrupt president was evident throughout convention. And here I must thank you. My prior to friends who have spoken and referred to a north carolinian William Davey. I will refer to another north Carolinians. In an constitutional convention. James iron hill whom president Washington later reported to the Supreme Court. Shortest fellow delegates the president quote is of a very different nature for monarch. Is to be personally responsible. For any abuse of the great trust placed in him. And quote. This brings is of course of the crucial question we're here to talk about today the standard for impeachment. The constitution defines treason. And the term bribery. Basically means using. Office for personal gain. Or should say misusing office for men who have for personal game. As professor Palo Feldman pointed out these terms derive from the British. Who understood the class of cases that would be impeachable to refer to political crimes which include a great offenses against the United States' attempts to subvert the constitution. When the president deviates from his duty or dare see views the power invested in him by the people reaches the public trust is serious injuries to the republic. In his info entrusting the Federalist papers Alexander Hamilton declared. That impeachable offenses are those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men or other words the abuse or violation of some public trust. And relate chiefly to injuries done immediately. This is a society itself. Several themes emerge. And is that framers discussion of the scope of impeachable offenses and impeachable and impeachment practice. We know than not all impeachable offenses are criminal. And we know that not all felonies are impeachable offenses we no further than what matters in determining whether particular misconduct constitutes a high crime. Mr. greener is ultimately the context. And the gravity. Of the misconduct in question. After reviewing the evidence that's been made public. I cannot help but conclude this president has attacked each of the constitution's. Safeguards. Against establishing a monarchy. In this country. But the context and gravity of the president's misconduct are clear. The favor he requested from Ukraine's president. Was to receive in exchange for his use of presidential power Ukraine's announcement of a criminal investigation of a political rival. Investigation was not the important action for the president. The announcement was. Because good can be used in this country to manipulate the public and the casting aside the president's political rival because of concerns about his corruption. The gravity of the president's misconduct is apparent when compare it to the misconduct of the one president resigned from office to avoid impeachment conviction and removal. The House Judiciary Committee in 1974 approved three articles of impeachment. A government against Richard Nixon who resigned to few days later the first article charged him with obstruction of justice. If you read the mullah report. It identifies a number facts I won't lay them out here right now that suggest the president himself has obstructed justice. It look at the second article of impeachment approved against Richard Nixon. It charged him with abuse of power for ordering the heads of the FBI and I arrests in CIA. Correct to harass this political enemies in the present circumstance the president has engaged in a pattern of abusing the trust placing him. By the American people by soliciting foreign countries. Including China. Russia and Ukraine. To investigate his political opponents and in fear on his behalf in elections in which he is a candidate. The third article approved against President Nixon charts and he'd had failed to comply with four legislative subpoenas. The present circumstance the president has refused to comply with and directed at least ten others and is it is adminstration. Not to comply with lawful congressional subpoenas including secretary of state Mike Pompeo. Energy secretary Rick Perry and acting chief of staff and headed the office management and bondage budget. McMillan molding. As senator Lindsey Graham now chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee said when he was a member of the house on the verge of impeaching President Clinton. The day Richard Nixon failed to answer that subpoena is the day he was subject to impeachment. But as he took the power from congress over the impeachment process away from congress and he became. The judge injury. That that is a perfectly good articulation. Of wife destruction of congress. Is impeachable. The president's defiance of congress. Is all the more probably due to the record to troubling. Due to the rationale. He claims for his obstruction. His arguments and those of this importance including as what else council. And is October 8 letter to the speaker and three committee chairs boils down to the assertion that he is above the law. I won't re read that letter here but I do want to disagree. That's with the characterization in the letter. But these proceedings. Sense the constitution expressly says and does bring in the Supreme Court has unanimously affirmed. But the house has the sole power of impeachment. And like that like the senate. The house as a parted to determine the rules for its proceedings. The president and isms as subordinates have argued further that the president is entitled absent immunity from from a procedure. Your investigation for any criminal wrongdoing including she shooting someone on Fifth Avenue. President's claim further he's entitled to maps of executive privilege. Not to share any information he doesn't want to share with another branch. He's also claimed the entitlement. To be able to order the executive branch has as he's done. Not to cooperate. With this body. When it conducts an investigation. Of the president. If left unchecked the president will likely continue his pattern of fullest slew of soliciting foreign interference on behalf the next election. And a force is obstruction of congress. The fact that we can easily transpose the articles of impeachment against President Nixon on to the actions of this president speaks volumes. And that does not even include the most serious national security concerns and election interference concerns. At the heart of this president's misconduct. No much misconduct as more and methodical toward democracy and nothing injures the American people more. That a president uses his power to weaken their authority under their constitution. As well as the authority of the constitution itself. And read one more sentence or I'm so doing these candidates answer to the page thank you. If congress fails to impeach here in the impeachment process has lost all meaning. Along with that our constitution's carefully crafted safeguards against establishment McCain. An American soil and therefore. I stand with the constitution. And I stand with the framers were committed to ensure that no one is above the law.

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

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