More than 500 legal scholars have signed on to an open letter asserting that President Trump committed “impeachable conduct” and that lawmakers would be acting well within their rights if they ultimately voted to remove him from office.
The signers are law professors and other academics from universities across the country, including Harvard, Yale, Columbia, the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Michigan and many others. The open letter was published online Friday by the nonprofit advocacy group Protect Democracy.
“There is overwhelming evidence that President Trump betrayed his oath of office by seeking to use presidential power to pressure a foreign government to help him distort an American election, for his personal and political benefit, at the direct expense of national security interests as determined by Congress,” the group of professors wrote. “His conduct is precisely the type of threat to our democracy that the Founders feared when they included the remedy of impeachment in the Constitution.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced Thursday that lawmakers would begin drafting articles of impeachment against Trump, a day after the House Judiciary Committee heard testimony from four constitutional scholars on the matter. Three law professors who were called for that hearing by Democrats argued that Trump’s behavior was impeachable, while one invited by Republicans argued that the process was moving too quickly.
Those who signed on to the letter said they “take no position on whether the President committed a crime.” Earlier this year, Protect Democracy gathered signatures for a similar letter, in which hundreds of former federal prosecutors signed on to a statement asserting that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s findings would have produced obstruction charges against Trump — if he were not a sitting president.
“But conduct need not be criminal to be impeachable,” the group of professors wrote. “Impeachment is a remedy for grave abuses of the public trust.”
The group noted in particular that Trump’s conduct seemed to be directed at affecting the results of the 2020 election, and thus it was not a matter that could be left to voters at the polls.
The impeachment inquiry has focused on what Democratic lawmakers say were Trump’s efforts to pressure his Ukrainian counterpart to announce an investigation into a potential 2020 rival, former vice president Joe Biden, in exchange for a White House meeting and the release of hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid. Trump has rejected Democrats’ allegation that he engaged in any sort of corrupt quid pro quo.
“Put simply, if a President cheats in his effort at re-election, trusting the democratic process to serve as a check through that election is no remedy at all,” the professors wrote. “That is what impeachment is for.”
Because Democrats control the House, Trump will almost surely be impeached. The matter would move then to the Senate for a trial to see if he should be removed from office. There, it seems unlikely that Trump would be ousted. The Senate is GOP-controlled, and two-thirds of senators would have to vote against the president.
On Thursday, Trump suggested on Twitter that even impeaching him would set a dangerous precedent.
“This will mean that the beyond important and seldom used act of Impeachment will be used routinely to attack future Presidents,” he wrote. “That is not what our Founders had in mind. The good thing is that the Republicans have NEVER been more united. We will win!”