Citing Nothing but a Few Talking Points, Legal Scholars Conclude Trump Engaged in Impeachable Conduct

December 16, 2019 Updated: December 16, 2019

Commentary

As the impeachment fiasco continues, legal scholars have weighed in and taken sides. Most recently, one such group enlightened everyone with a joint letter supporting the president’s impeachment.

While the letter made for some fairly interesting reading, its drafters ultimately reached an incorrect conclusion.

In a letter signed by many self-proclaimed legal scholars, the “factual” basis for impeachment was summed up as follows:

“In light of these considerations, overwhelming evidence made public to date forces us to conclude that President Trump engaged in impeachable conduct. To mention only a few of those facts: William B. Taylor, who leads the U.S. embassy in Ukraine, testified that President Trump directed the withholding of hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid for Ukraine in its struggle against Russia — aid that Congress determined to be in the U.S. national security interest — until Ukraine announced investigations that would aid the President’s re-election campaign. Ambassador Gordon Sondland testified that the President made a White House visit for the Ukrainian president conditional on public announcement of those investigations. In a phone call with the Ukrainian president, President Trump asked for a ‘favor’ in the form of a foreign government investigation of a U.S. citizen who is his political rival. President Trump and his Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney made public statements confirming this use of governmental power to solicit investigations that would aid the President’s personal political interests. The President made clear that his private attorney, Rudy Giuliani, was central to efforts to spur Ukrainian investigations, and Mr. Giuliani confirmed that his efforts were in service of President Trump’s private interests.”

According to these scholars, the so-called “facts” referenced in their letter support their conclusion that the president engaged in impeachable conduct. However, the “facts” that they referenced were selective in nature and incomplete. A review of the testimony of the various witnesses reflects the flaws in their reasoning and analysis.

In their letter, these scholars used Taylor’s testimony in an effort to establish Trump’s alleged impeachable conduct. However, they omitted the fact that Taylor didn’t speak to, or have any direct communication with, the president regarding the requests for investigations, and that much of his testimony was based on what former U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations Kurt Volker and Sondland told him. In other words, Taylor relied on hearsay evidence and what others allegedly told him, which is inherently unreliable.

Epoch Times Photo
Gordon Sondland, the U.S ambassador to the European Union, testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill on Nov. 20, 2019. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

To further bolster their conclusion, these legal scholars conveniently pointed to one specific portion of Sondland’s testimony. However, they seemingly overlooked Sondland’s subsequent testimony.

Specifically, when questioned by Republican counsel Steve Castor, Sondland stated, “I never heard from President Trump that aid was conditioned on an announcement of [investigations].” Sondland made further concessions when further questioned:

Steve Castor: “The president never told you about any preconditions for the aid to be released?”

Gordon Sondland: “No.”

Mr. Castor: “The president never told you about any preconditions for a White House meeting?”

Mr. Sondland: “Personally, no.”

Additionally, Sondland admitted that his initial testimony about the existence of a quid pro quo “arrangement” was based on his “beliefs” or “assumptions” as opposed to any direct evidence. During his testimony, he also confirmed that the president personally told him, “I want nothing, I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo,” which was consistent with his prior deposition testimony, where he said Trump told him, “I want nothing. I don’t want to give them anything and I don’t want anything from them.”

Finally, their reliance on the president’s request for a “favor,” as set forth in the transcript of the telephone call between Trump and the president of Ukraine, is petty and, in and of itself, doesn’t constitute impeachable conduct (the transcript speaks for itself). Moreover, the fact that Giuliani may have played a role in the president’s desire to investigate corruption in Ukraine doesn’t constitute impeachable conduct, as the president is entitled to investigate such corruption.

While it’s not unusual for people to reach different conclusions on a given set of facts, it’s vital to consider all of the facts when doing so and not let personal animus cloud one’s judgment. In this case, there was no direct or firsthand evidence of any impeachable conduct. Rather, there was testimony that amounted to nothing more than speculation, conjecture, assumptions, and hearsay.

It goes without saying that such so-called evidence shouldn’t form the basis of a presidential impeachment, no matter how much those on the left and some in academia want it to, because of their strong dislike of the president (i.e., Pamela Karlan, who recently testified as an impeachment expert and agreed that impeachment was warranted, “previously told a 2017 American Constitution Society panel that she couldn’t stomach walking past the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.,” according to Fox News).

As a matter of fact, it wasn’t too long ago when more than 1,700 law professors nationwide signed a letter urging the Senate to reject Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh:

“Judge Kavanaugh exhibited a lack of commitment to judicious inquiry. Instead of being open to the necessary search for accuracy, Judge Kavanaugh was repeatedly aggressive with questioners. Even in his prepared remarks, Judge Kavanaugh described the hearing as partisan, referring to it as ‘a calculated and orchestrated political hit,’ rather than acknowledging the need for the Senate, faced with new information, to try to understand what had transpired. Instead of trying to sort out with reason and care the allegations that were raised, Judge Kavanaugh responded in an intemperate, inflammatory and partial manner, as he interrupted and, at times, was discourteous to senators.”

Kavanaugh was ultimately confirmed, despite the partisan attacks and incorrect conclusions reached by some in academia.

While professors and legal scholars are free to form their own opinions, they should do so objectively and in a manner in which they consider all of the facts, as opposed to those selective “talking points” that appear to support their desired conclusions.

In this case, the recent letter supporting Trump’s impeachment was “incomplete” and unsubstantiated. Sadly, the alleged “facts” cited in the letter appear to have been selectively chosen in an effort to paint a grim picture of the president’s alleged conduct.

In reality, the testimony, when considered in its entirety, painted an entirely different picture that easily refuted this unsubstantiated conclusion.

Elad Hakim is a writer, commentator, and attorney. His articles have been published in The Washington Examiner, The Daily Caller, The Federalist, The Algemeiner, The Western Journal, American Thinker, and other online publications.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.