On the first day of impeachment hearings taking place in the House Judiciary Committee, where members are considering whether or not to file official articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, one legal scholar, whose presence was requested by Republicans, took aim at Democrats.
Jonathan Turley, a professor at George Washington University Law School, was critical on Wednesday of Democrats for not using the courts to make Trump comply with subpoena orders they had issued, and for saying that the president’s refusal to hand over documents or allow witnesses Congress had subpoenaed to testify was itself an impeachable offense.
Turley said Democrats should have gone to the courts, and their refusal to play by that standard set dangerous precedent, the Washington Times reported.
“If you impeach a president, if you make a high crime and misdemeanor out of going to the courts, it is an abuse of power — it’s your abuse of power. You’re doing precisely what you’re criticizing the president for doing,” Turley said.
But other legal experts disagreed with Turley’s assessments, including Fox News’ Andrew Napolitano. Noting that he’s worked with Turley in the past (“I’ve worked with him, I’ve testified alongside of him,” Napolitano said), the Fox News personality nevertheless called out his colleague for his errant views of the law.
Fox News' Judge Napolitano crushes Turley: "The House has sole power of impeachment. It does not need to go to a court… When the president receives a subpoena, Mick Mulvaney, Mike Pompeo receive a subpoena and they throw it in a drawer… that is the act of obstruction." pic.twitter.com/WjoKgkvImS
— Jesse Lee (@JesseCharlesLee) December 4, 2019
“He is forgetting that the House has the sole — S-O-L-E — power of impeachment. It doesn’t need to go to court for approval. It doesn’t need to go to court to get its subpoenas enforced,” Napolitano explained to Fox News viewers.
Napolitano went on, describing that the action the administration was taking definitely could be described as obstruction.
“When the president receives a subpoena, Mick Mulvaney, Mike Pompeo receive a subpoena and they throw it in a drawer, they don’t comply or challenge, because the president told them to, that is the act of obstruction,” he said.
Other experts, expressing their views on social media, made similar judgments in assessing Turley’s theory. Susan Hennessey, Lawfare’s Executive Editor and National Security and Legal Analyst for CNN, chimed in that Turley’s statement seemed to be entirely made up on the spot.
I cannot emphasis enough that Turley is literally just making things up right now. Claiming that impeaching on obstruction without waiting for the courts to weigh in is abuse, that's literally just a thing he's saying with no precedent or constitutional grounding whatsoever.
— Susan Hennessey (@Susan_Hennessey) December 4, 2019
“I cannot emphasize enough that Turley is literally just making things up right now,” Hennessey wrote in a tweet. “Claiming that impeaching on obstruction without waiting for the courts to weigh in is abuse, that’s literally just a thing he’s saying with no precedent or constitutional grounding whatsoever.”
Notably, Turley was also present during the impeachment hearings of President Bill Clinton. During his testimony then, Turley encouraged the Republican-led Congress to vote to impeach to prevent “expand[ing] the space for executive conduct” among future presidents.