Pamela Karlan delivers opening statement at impeachment hearing

The Stanford Law professor stated that the current case is unprecedented because the president has "doubled down" on his actions to undermine American elections.
8:58 | 12/04/19

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Transcript for Pamela Karlan delivers opening statement at impeachment hearing
Mr. chairman and members of committee. Thank you so much for the opportunity to testify. Twice I have had the privilege of representing this committee. And its leadership in voting rights cases before the Supreme Court. Once when it was under the leadership of chairman sensenbrenner and speak to see you again star. And with mr. shy about as one of my other clients. And once under the leadership of chairman Conyers. It was a great honor for me to represented this committee. Because of this committee's key role over the past fifty years. In insuring that American citizens have the right to vote in free and fair elections. Today you're being asked to consider whether protecting those elections requires impeaching a president. That is an awesome responsibility. Everything I know about our constitution and its values. And my review of the evidentiary record and here mister Collins I would like to say to use our. That I read transcripts of every one of the witnesses who appeared in the life hearing because I would not speak about these things without. Reviewing the facts so I'm insulted by that suggestion that as a law professor I don't care about those facts but everything I read up on those occasions. Tells me that when president trump invited indeed demanded foreign involvement in our upcoming election he struck at the very heart. Of what makes this a republic to which we pledge allegiance. That demand as professor Feldman just explained constituted an abuse of power. Indeed as I want to explain in my testimony. Draw any foreign government into our elections is an especially the beat at a serious abuse of power because it undermines democracy itself. Our constitution begins with the words we the people for a reason. Our government in James Madison's words derives all its powers directly or eaten directly from the great body of the people. And the why don't why is these powers is through elections. Elections matter. Still the legitimacy of our government and to all of our individual freedoms because as the Supreme Court declared more than a century ago. Voting is preservative of all rights. So what is hardly surprising that the constitution is marbled with provisions governing elections and guaranteeing governmental accountability. Indeed a majority of the amendments to our constitution since the civil war. Have dealt with voting. Or with terms of office and among the most important provisions of our regional constitution is the guarantee of periodic elections for the presidency. One every four years. America has kept that promise for more than two centuries and it has done so even during war time. For example we invented the idea of absentee voting so the union troops who supported president Lincoln could stay in the field during the election of 1864. And since then countless other Americans have fought and died to protect our right to vote. But the for our constitution realized that elections alone could not guarantee that the United States would remain a republic. One of the key reasons for including the impeachment power was a risk that unscrupulous officials might try to rig the election process. If you've already heard two people give William Davey his props. You know Hamilton got a whole musical and William Davey is just gonna get this committee hearing. But he warned that unless the constitution. Contains an impeachment provision. A president might spare no effort or means whatsoever to get himself reelected. And George Mason insisted. The president Cooper cured his appointment in the first instance through improper and corrupt acts should not escape punishment by repeating his guilt. And may send was the person responsible for adding high crimes and misdemeanors to the list of impeachable offenses so we know old from back. That the list was designed to reach a president who acts to subvert an election. Whether that election is the one that brought him into office or it's an upcoming election where he seeks an additional term. Moreover the founding generation like every generation of American stance. Was especially concerned to protect our government and our democratic process from outside interference. For example John Adams during belt ratification. Expressed concern of the very idea of having elected president right into Thomas Jefferson that. You're apprehensive a foreign interference in treat influence so mind. But as often as elections happen the danger of foreign influences were occurs. And in his farewell address. President Washington Warren to history and experience proved that aren't influence is one of the most painful foes of Republican government. And he explained that this was in part because foreign governments would try and for only disagreement among the American people and influence what we thought. The very idea that a president might seek to eight of a foreign government in his reelection campaign would have horrified them. Based on the evidentiary record that is what president trump has done. The list of impeachable offense says that the framers included. In the constitution shows at the essence. Of an impeachable offense is they president's decision to sacrifice the national interest for his own private ends. Treason the first thing listed. Lane in individuals giving aid to a foreign enemy that is putting a foreign enemies and adversaries. Interest above the interests of the United States. Right the rape occurred when an official solicited received or offered a personal fever benefit to influence official election. Risking that he would put his pride that welfare above the national interest and high crimes and misdemeanors captured the other ways in which a high official might. As justice Joseph story explained disregard public interests in the discharge of the duties of political office. Based on the evidence she record before you do what has happened in the case today is something that I do not think we have ever seen before. A president who has doubled down on violating his oath to faithfully execute the laws and to protect and defend the constitution. The evidence reveals a president who used the powers of his office to demand that a foreign government participate. In undermining a competing candidate for the presidency. As president John Kennedy declared the right to vote in a free American election. Is the most powerful and precious right in the world. But our elections become less free when they are distorted by foreign interference. What happened in 2016. Was bad enough. There is widespread agreement that Russian operatives intervened to manipulate our political process but that distortion is magnified. If a sitting president abuse of the powers of his office actually to invite foreign intervention. To see why imagine living in a part of Louisiana. Or Texas. That's prone to devastating hurricanes and flooding. Would you think if you lived there. And you're governor asked for a meeting with the president to discuss getting disaster aid that congress has provided for what would you think. If that president said. I would like to do you know I would like you to do us a favor. Meet with you and all send a disaster relief once you brand my opponent criminal. You know in your gut. That such a president had abused his office. That he betrayed the national interest and that he was trying to come dropped at electoral process. I believe that that rep at evidentiary record shows wrongful acts on that scale here. It shows a president who delayed meeting a fine leader and providing assistance that congress in his own advisors agreed. Serves our national interest in promoting democracy and in limiting Russian aggression. Saying Russia if you're listening. You know all a president who cared about the constitution's impression you're listening but out of our elections. And it shows a president who did this to strong arm a foreign leader in to smear in one of the president's opponents are ongoing election season. That's not politics as usual at least not in the United States are not in any mature democracy. It is instead a cardinal reason why the constitution contains an impeachment power. Put simply a president should resist. Foreign interference in our elections not to man dead and not welcome met. If we're to keep faith with our constitution. And with our republic president trump must be held to account thank you.

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

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