Transcript for Noah Feldman delivers opening statement at impeachment hearing
The chairman before we get to chairman and members of the committee mr. chairman of the motion. The general it is not in order to be or to a promotion to mr. chairman I seek recognition for privileged motion. Isn't mister chairman and members of the committee thank you very much for the opportunity to appear. My name is Noah Feldman I serve as the wind is focusing our. I serve as the Felix Frankfurter professor of law the Harvard Law School I seek recognition my job but most study. The gentleman will suspend the time is the witnesses it was a privilege mercenaries be recognized. River you can make in Colorado River in Victoria and new witnesses and it may be recognized not well once they recognize the witness so apparently witnessed so proceed. We'll entertain a motion after the first witness or. My job is to study and to teach the constitution from its our actions until the president 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 president 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 benefits. To corrupt the electoral process and in short his reelection. Or to subvert the national security of the United States. And high crimes and misdemeanors. Our 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 present below to Mears a Lansky of Ukraine. To announce investigations. Of his political rivals. In order to gain personal advantage. Including in the 20/20 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 difference. The house of commons on the House of Lords could use impeachment. In order to limit the ministers. Of the king. But they could not impeach the king at 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 president was subordinate to. The law. If you will. I would like you to think now about a specific date in the constitutional convention July 20 1787. It was the middle of a long hot summer and I'm not day to members of the constitutional convention actually moved. To take out of the impeachment provision from the draft constitution. And they had a reason for that and their reason was they said will the president will have to stand for reelection. And if the president has to stand for reelection that is enough we don't need a separate provision for impeachment. When that proposal was made significant disagreements in suit. The governor of North Carolina man called William. If the president cannot be impeached quote he will spare no efforts or means what ever to get himself re elected. Following Davey George Mason of Virginia a fierce Republican critic of executive power. Said no point is more important. Then that impeachment be included in the constitution. Show any men be above justice he asked. Thus expressing the core concern that the president must be subordinate to the law and not above the law. James Madison the principal 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 present 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. Closed quote. And then a remarkable thing happened in the convention. Near Morris of Pennsylvania one of the two people who would introduced the motion to eliminate impeachment from the constitution. Got up and actually set the words I was wrong. He told the other framers present but he changed his mind on the basis of the debate on July 20. And that it was now his opinion that in order to avoid corruption of the electoral process a president would cost to be subject to impeachment regardless of the availability of the 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 a lead to personal gain. Now turning to the language of the constitution. The framers used the words high crimes and misdemeanors to describe those forms of action and that they considered impeachable. These were not a big or abstract terms to the framers high crimes and misdemeanors words Barry's. 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. War to corrupt the electoral process. Or to subvert the national security of the United States. There's no mystery about the words high crimes and misdemeanors the word high it modifies both crimes and misdemeanors. They're both high. Anaheim 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 we're further forms that were familiar to. The framers. Now. How does this language of high crimes and misdemeanors applied a 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 an applied the meaning of impeachable offenses to the facts described by the testimony and evidence before the house. President trumps conduct as described in the testimony and evidence clearly constitutes. Impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors under the constitution. In particular. The memorandum and other testimony relating to the July 25 2019 phone call between the two presidents president trump and presents a Lansky. 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 20/20 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. Knots to serve the interests of the American public but to serve his personal individual. Partisan electoral world interests. That is what the evidence before the house. Indicates. Finally. Let me be clear. That on its own soliciting the leader of a foreign governments. In order to announce investigations. Of political rivals and perform those investigations. Would constitute a high crime and misdemeanor. But the house also has evidence before it that the president committed to further acts but 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 crowd strike conspiracy theory. Furthermore. The house also heard evidence that the present conditions a White House visit desperately sought by the Ukrainian president on announcement of the investigations. Both of these acts constitute impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors under the constitution. They each encapsulate the framers worry that the president of the United States would take any means what ever to ensure his re election. And that is the reason that the framers provided for impeachment a case like this one.
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