More Than 500 Legal Scholars Say Trump Committed Impeachable Acts

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Their open letter comes as House Democrats are drawing up articles of impeachment for a full floor vote.

A group of more than 500 legal scholars has signed an open letter to Congress declaring that President Donald Trump “engaged in impeachable conduct” as the impeachment proceedings against him continue.

“We do not reach this conclusion lightly,” stated the letter, dated Friday.

Trump “betrayed his oath of office” by attempting to pressure Ukrainian leaders to help him “distort” the 2020 election “at the direct expense of national security interests as determined by Congress.”

“The Founders did not make impeachment available for disagreements over policy, even profound ones, nor for extreme distaste for the manner in which the President executes his office. Only ‘Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors’ warrant impeachment,” the scholars asserted.

The signees include professors and other experts from an array of academic institutions such as Columbia, Berkeley, Harvard, Yale, George Washington University and the University of Michigan, among many others. Their message was spearheaded by the Protect Democracy Project, a nonprofit created in 2017 with the goal of holding the White House “accountable to the laws and longstanding practices that have protected our democracy through both Democratic and Republican Administrations.” 

Since the impeachment inquiry began in late September, House investigators have heard from a number of witnesses both in private and in public who have painted a fuller picture of Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.

According to sworn testimony from U.S. foreign policy officials, Trump threatened to withhold millions of dollars in military aid in exchange for investigations that would help his reelection campaign, and conditioned a White House meeting with Ukraine’s president on a public announcement of those investigations.

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On Tuesday, a panel of four constitutional law experts took questions from the House Judiciary Committee over whether the president’s alleged offenses were serious enough to warrant articles of impeachment ― or a formal description of impeachable misconduct. Three of the four experts said Trump’s behavior was clearly impeachable, while a fourth dissenting in part because he believed more testimony was needed.

In their letter, the legal experts said Trump’s “conduct is precisely the type of threat to our democracy that the Founders feared when they included the remedy of impeachment in the Constitution.”

They also noted that “conduct need not be criminal to be impeachable.”

“Whether President Trump’s conduct is classified as bribery, as a high crime or misdemeanor, or as both, it is clearly impeachable under our Constitution,” the signees concurred.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday asked that articles of impeachment against Trump be prepared, saying the president’s actions have left “us no choice” 

If the articles are passed in the Democratic-controlled House, the process moves to the Republican-controlled Senate, where it is not likely to result in Trump’s removal from office.

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Texas Cop Reportedly Shoots Black Man In The Head As Questions Go Unanswered

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Here we go again. A Texas police officer has reportedly killed a Black person under suspicious circumstances, and all indications point toward a possible coverup. Sound familiar?

The mother of a young Black man killed by police claims a detective said that her son was shot in the head even though he didn’t have a gun or pose a threat to the officer involved. Michael Dean was killed on Monday, according to Temple Daily Telegraph. But days later, there are still a handful of unanswered questions.

“If my son was in the wrong, so be it,” Christine Dean said on Wednesday. “But why is he dead? He didn’t deserve to be shot down. Nobody can give me answers. If he was in the wrong there would [be] a whole story out there, wouldn’t there?”

Temple Police shared only basic details about the incident and directed media questions to the Texas Department of Public Safety. The investigation was transferred to the Texas Rangers and the Bell County District Attorney’s Office. The officer, who has nine years of experience on the force, had not been identified as of Friday afternoon.

“At this time the investigation is still ongoing; any new information will be released when warranted as to not compromise the investigation.” DPS Sgt. Bryan Washko said.

Dean’s mother said a police detective initially told her that her son didn’t pull over right away and when he exited the car, he walked toward the officer, who then shot him.

“Things just don’t add up. He knows not to get out of a car when he’s pulled over. And people said they saw the police officer pull him (Michael) out of the car,” she said.

Christine Dean said the people who should be giving her answers, the Temple Police Department, are refraining to do so. “Temple has washed their hands of it. We’re told to contact the Texas Rangers,” she said.

The Temple Police Department didn’t release info that someone was killed in an officer-involved shooting until Tuesday afternoon. When questioned as to why this was omitted from the initial news release after Dean had already been declared dead, spokesman Chris Christoff said the incident occurred in public, “meaning that the vehicle had the potential of being easily recognizable. We wanted an opportunity to notify Dean’s family prior to releasing the information to the public.”

Christine Dean said the cops didn’t tell the family that Michael was dead until about 1:30 a.m., which was more than five hours after he was shot. He was pronounced dead at 8:26 p.m., shortly after he was shot at around 8:15 p.m.

Christoff’s excuse for the late family notification was “The area was subject to extensive investigative procedure to include stabilizing the scene; maintaining the flow of traffic; contacting and the arrival of all the necessary resources and off-duty personnel to include justice of the peace; contacting all of the investigators to the scene to include the Texas Rangers; and confirming the identity of the deceased and the identifies/contact inform for next of kin.”

The officer-involved shooting also wasn’t listed on LexisNexis Community Crime Map, which is what Temple Police Department uses to inform the public of incidents in the neighborhood.

Bell County Justice of the Peace Ted Duffield issued the order for an autopsy, and explained that the body was sent Tuesday morning to the Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences. Dean’s body has yet to be returned by press time Wednesday, Duffield said. Dean was shot in the head, according to Duffield.

Michael was adopted by his family at four years old along with his four siblings. “He’s not a criminal. He wasn’t out there committing crimes,” his mother said. “They’re making it seem like he was a bad person.”

“I feel like someone messed up. I really do,” Christine said. “I want to know why my son died on the concrete. I’ve never heard of anyone not giving information about their loved one. If he did something wrong and you had to do it, so be it — but tell me.”

Dean leaves behind three elementary-age children.

 

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Romney Breaks With GOP Colleagues: ‘No Evidence’ Of Ukrainian Meddling

 

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The Utah senator dismissed conspiracy theories that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election, calling out Russia as the culprit.

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) distanced himself from some of his GOP colleagues on Tuesday, stating that there was no sign of Ukrainian meddling in the 2016 election.

“I saw no evidence from our intelligence community, nor from the representatives today for the Department of State, that there is any evidence of any kind of that suggests that Ukraine interfered in our elections,” he told reporters on Capitol Hill. “We have ample evidence that Russia interfered in our elections.”

Romey’s statement follows testimony from Under Secretary for Political Affairs David Hale, the third-highest ranking State Department official. Hale told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Russian meddling was not a “hoax,” and that he knows of no evidence implicating Ukraine.

The remarks are a stark contrast to those of Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), who on Monday told NBC News that there was no “question that elected officials in Ukraine had a favorite in the election,” promoting a debunked conspiracy theory.

“Every elected official in the Ukraine was for Hillary Clinton,” the Senate Intelligence Committee chair said. “Is that very different than the Russians being for Donald Trump?”

The comments echoed Sen. John Kennedy’s (R-La.) claims on Sunday, when he speculated during a “Meet the Press” appearance that “both Russia and Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election,” and that “it’s been well documented.”

The U.S. intelligence community has dismissed rumors of any role by Ukraine, reportedly briefing senators in November that the allegations are a talking point touted by Russia to divert attention from its own interference in the U.S. election.

Less than two weeks ago, Kennedy suggested on Fox News that Ukraine may have perpetrated the 2016 Democratic National Committee server hack that exposed party emails. The senator’s claim promulgated a lie often peddled by President Donald Trump while blatantly ignoring American intelligence officials’ conclusion that it was Russia behind the hack.

Kennedy recanted shortly after, telling CNN, “I was wrong.”

“The only evidence I have, and I think it’s overwhelming, it that it was Russia who tried to hack the DNC computer. I’ve seen no indication that Ukraine tried to do it,” he said.

On Tuesday, Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), a member of the Intelligence Committee, denounced the erroneous claims, telling CNN that he hasn’t seen the slightest indication of Ukrainian involvement.

“I bet I sat through 25 hearings, briefings, meetings, probably more on the question of what happened in 2016,” he said. “In none of those meetings was there ever a hint, a breath, a suggestion, a word that somehow Ukraine was involved.”

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'Serious misconduct' by Donald Trump takes center stage at hearing

The House Judiciary Committee is moving swiftly to weigh findings by fellow lawmakers that President Donald Trump misused the power of his office for personal political gain and then obstructed Congress' investigation as possible grounds for impeachment.

Responsible for drafting articles of impeachment, the Judiciary Committee prepared Wednesday morning for its first hearing since the release of a 300-page report by Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee that found “serious misconduct” by the president.

The report did not render a judgment on whether Trump’s actions stemming from a July 25 phone call with Ukraine's president rose to the constitutional level of “high crimes and misdemeanors" warranting impeachment. That is for the full House to decide. But its findings involving Trump's efforts to seek foreign intervention in the American election process provide the basis for a House vote on impeachment and a Senate trial carrying the penalty of removal from office.

"The evidence that we have found is really quite overwhelming that the president used the power of his office to secure political favors and abuse the trust American people put in him and jeopardize our security,” Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., told The Associated Press.

“It was a difficult decision to go down this road, because it's so consequential for the country," Schiff said. But “the president was the author of his own impeachment inquiry by repeatedly seeking foreign help in his election campaigns."

Schiff added: “Americans need to understand that this president is putting his personal political interests above theirs. And that it's endangering the country."

The session Wednesday with legal scholars will delve into possible impeachable offenses, but the real focus will be on the panel, led by Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., and made up of a sometimes boisterous, sharply partisan division of lawmakers.

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“It is not wrong because President Trump is right," according to Turley. He calls Trump's call with Ukraine “anything but 'perfect," as the president claims. “A case for impeachment could be made, but it cannot be made on this record," he says.

The remaining three witnesses, all called by Democrats, will argue for impeachment, according to statements obtained by theAP.

Michael Gerhardt of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill argues, “If Congress fails to impeach here, then the impeachment process has lost all meaning."

The political risks are high for all parties as the House presses only the fourth presidential impeachment inquiry in U.S. history.

In a statement, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said, “Chairman Schiff and the Democrats utterly failed to produce any evidence of wrongdoing by President Trump.” She said the report "reads like the ramblings of a basement blogger straining to prove something when there is evidence of nothing.”

Trump, attending a NATO meeting in London, called the impeachment effort by Democrats “unpatriotic” and said he wouldn't be watching Wednesday's hearing.

The "Trump-Ukraine Impeachment Inquiry Report” provides a detailed, stunning, account of a shadow diplomacy run by Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, resulting in layers of allegations that can be distilled into specific acts, like bribery or obstruction, and the more amorphous allegation that Trump abused his power by putting his interests above the nation.

Based on two months of investigation sparked by a still-anonymous government whistleblower's complaint, the report relies heavily on testimony from current and former U.S. officials who defied White House orders not to appear.

The inquiry found that Trump "solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, to benefit his reelection," Schiff wrote in the report's preface. In doing so, the president “sought to undermine the integrity of the U.S. presidential election process, and endangered U.S. national security,” the report said. When Congress began investigating, it added, Trump obstructed the investigation like no other president in history.

Along with revelations from earlier testimony, the report included previously unreleased cell phone records raising fresh questions about Giuliani's interactions with the top Republican on the intelligence panel, Rep. Devin Nunes of California, and the White House. Nunes declined to comment. Schiff said his panel would continue its probe.

For Republicans falling in line behind Trump, the inquiry is simply a 'hoax' 

Republicans defended the president in a 123-page rebuttal claiming Trump never intended to pressure Ukraine when he asked for a “favor” — investigations of Democrats and Joe Biden. They say the military aid the White House was withholding was not being used as leverage, as Democrats claim — and besides, the $400 million was ultimately released, although only after a congressional outcry. Democrats, they argue, just want to undo the 2016 election.

For Republicans falling in line behind Trump, the inquiry is simply a “hoax.” Trump criticized the House for pushing forward with the proceedings while he was overseas, a breach of political decorum that traditionally leaves partisan differences at the water’s edge.

House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy called on Democrats to end the impeachment “nightmare." He said, “They’re concerned if they do not impeach this president they cant beat him in an election."

Democrats once hoped to sway Republicans to consider Trump's removal, but they are now facing a ever-hardening partisan split over the swift-moving proceedings that are dividing Congress and the country.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi faces a critical moment of her leadership as she steers the process ahead after initially resisting the impeachment inquiry, warning it was too divisive for the country and required bipartisan support.

Possible grounds for impeachment are focused on whether Trump abused his office as he pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to open investigations into Trump’s political rivals. At the time, Trump was withholding $400 million in military aid, jeopardizing key support as Ukraine faces an aggressive Russia at its border.

The report also accuses Trump of obstruction, becoming the “first and only'' president in U.S. history to "openly and indiscriminately" defy the House's constitutional authority to conduct the impeachment proceedings by instructing officials not to comply with subpoenas for documents and testimony.

For Democrats marching into what is now a largely partisan process, the political challenge if they proceed is to craft the impeachment articles in a way that will draw the most support from their ranks and not expose Pelosi’s majority to messy divisions, especially as Republicans stand lockstep with the president.

While liberal Democrats are pushing the party to go further and incorporate the findings from former special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election and other actions by Trump, more centrist and moderate Democrats prefer to stick with the Ukraine matter as a simpler narrative that Americans understand.

Democrats could begin drafting articles of impeachment against the president in a matter of days, with a Judiciary Committee vote next week. The full House could vote by Christmas. Then the matter moves to the Senate for a trial in 2020.

The White House declined an invitation to participate Wednesday, with counsel Pat Cipollone denouncing the proceedings as a “baseless and highly partisan inquiry.” Cipollone, who will brief Senate Republicans on Wednesday, left open the question of whether White House officials would participate in additional House hearings.

House rules provide the president and his attorneys the right to cross-examine witnesses and review evidence before the committee, but little ability to bring forward witnesses of their own.

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Kamala Harris Dropping Out Of Presidential Race

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The California senator struggled to gain traction in recent months.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) is dropping her presidential bid. She informed her staff on Tuesday.

Harris held a call with her team in Iowa on Tuesday, saying that she had made the decision because of financial struggles experienced by the campaign.

“I don’t think anyone on my team was expecting this,” said one staffer, who said they were completely shocked by the news. 

Harris will be going to New York City and Baltimore to inform staff there, and she intends to travel to the four early states where she has a campaign presence to be with her team there as well this week.

On Tuesday afternoon, Harris emailed her supporters that she was withdrawing from the presidential race: 

My campaign for president simply doesn’t have the financial resources we need to continue.

I’m not a billionaire. I can’t fund my own campaign. And as the campaign has gone on, it’s become harder and harder to raise the money we need to compete.

In good faith, I can’t tell you, my supporters and volunteers, that I have a path forward if I don’t believe I do.

So, to you my supporters, it is with deep regret ― but also with deep gratitude ― that I am suspending my campaign today.

The news came just as a super PAC reserved airtime in Iowa for an ad blitz, set to begin on Tuesday, meant to bolster the candidate. (It quickly cancelled the spots after Harris’ announcement.) Harris’ team had been upfront about its financial issues and had cut staff in New Hampshire in order to double down on the caucus state

Presidential hopeful and former Vice President Joe Biden, speaking to reporters after a town hall in Iowa, said he was disappointed the California senator had been forced out of the contest. 

“She’s a first-rate candidate and a real competitor and I have mixed emotions about it because she is really a solid, solid person and loaded with talent,” he said. 

Harris entered the race as a top-tier candidate, drawing more than 20,000 people to a kickoff rally in Oakland. She faced immediate progressive scrutiny of her record as a prosecutor in California. Throughout the campaign, she struggled to weave together her progressive positioning as a senator and presidential candidate with the more traditional stances she held during her decades as a prosecutor.

The high point of her campaign came during the first presidential debate, when she attacked Biden for his stance on desegregation efforts in the 1970s. She skyrocketed in the polls, but was unable to sustain her place in the field as the Biden campaign aggressively fought back and Harris struggled to explain her own views on mandatory busing. 

As her poll numbers began to sink in the late summer and early fall, her campaign announced a renewed focus on Iowa, ditching a previous strategy of focusing on her delegate-rich home state of California and heavily African-American South Carolina. 

Harris was spending far more money than she was bringing in, and according to The New York Times, she made the final decision to drop out after a financial audit showed she would have to go into debt in order to stay in the race. 

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