WASHINGTON (CN) – High crimes and misdemeanors. Bribery and extortion. Impeachment and removal. These words and more will dot the landscape of a hearing hosted by the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday to explore – and square off – over the constitutional grounds for impeaching President Donald Trump.
For House Democrats, the theme will be substance. They must juxtapose key moments of testimony from senior Trump administration officials delivered during the House Intelligence Committee’s blitz of public and private inquiry hearings last month with the opinions of constitutional law experts offered Wednesday.
The House Judiciary Committee will not rehash the content of those hearings where senior Trump administration officials testified of a culture of concern over the president abusing his office for his own political and personal benefit while leveraging some $400 million in taxpayer-funded military aid to an American ally.
Instead, Wednesday’s hearing will be for constitutional and legal scholars to provide lawmakers and the public with information about the very rarely invoked and solemn process of impeachment, laid out in context for the nation to consider.
For House Republicans, the theme on Wednesday will be process and rejection. For weeks, Republicans have moored themselves to the argument that the impeachment inquiry is an unfair, politically motivated sham born from a long-simmering Democrat-led desire to remove Trump from office in any way possible.
The GOP’s intent for Wednesday’s hearing – likely the same as a potential trial in the Senate – was previewed in an inquiry report of their own issued Monday night. Published a day before House Democrats prepared to release their report on Tuesday night, the 123-page Republican missive amounted to a resolute and full-throated defense of the president’s engagement with Ukraine.
Firsthand accounts of members of the White House’s National Security Council as well as testimony from senior diplomatic officials at the State Department indicated that Trump not only put Ukrainian national security interests at risk by leveraging – and withholding – military aid, he also put U.S. national security interests at risk by leaving Ukraine vulnerable and underfunded in the midst of a hot war with the Kremlin.
These details have been relegated by Republicans as bureaucratic musings from unelected officials. For Democrats, the details are inculpatory evidence and the lifeblood of the inquiry.
Between these two disparate ideas, four scholars will have the Herculean task of delivering pertinent information about the framework of impeachment even as lawmakers will likely debate bitterly before, during and after rounds of questions.
Noah Feldman, a Harvard Law School professor who has been openly critical of the president, will testify. In October, Feldman wrote in Bloomberg News that Trump’s conditioning of military aid in exchange for political investigations was quid pro quo that warranted impeachment. In another piece for The New York Times, Feldman’s described the impeachment showdown between an unrepentant president and a deeply divided Congress at its center as a “constitutional crisis.”
Pamela Karlan, a public interest law professor and co-director of the Supreme Court Litigation Clinic at Stanford Law School will testify as well. Questions directed at Karlan could go beyond the scope Trump’s engagement with Ukraine and extend to Trump’s obstruction during Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.