Turley advises House Judiciary Committee on impeachment

GW Law School Professor Jonathan Turley will appear before the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee Monday morning as impeachment hearings get underway on Capitol Hill.

Turley was contacted by Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde (R-Ill.) to participate in the legislature’s determination of an impeachment standard.

Turley, who has become a familiar face on political talk shows during the course of the yearlong Clinton scandal, said he has conducted extensive research on the history of the impeachment clause in the U.S. Constitution.

Turley will be one of a series of scholars who will aid the committee in deciding which presidential actions will be included under the phrase “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

Turley said most of his testimony will be confined to historical and legal foundations for the impeachment standard. But he said he knows it will be impossible not to apply the findings to Clinton’s actions.

The U.S. Constitution is intentionally vague in its standards for removing a president from office, Turley said. The document says only high crimes and misdemeanors are cause for impeachment.

“The committee is most concerned with how the actions of President Clinton fit into the concept of `high crimes and misdemeanors,’ ” Turley said. “That’s part of what I have to do.”

Turley said he finds laughable the accusations of Clinton supporters that he has a partisan bias.

“I don’t know where the idea came from that I am some kind of a right-wing extremist,” Turley said. “I have always been a liberal Democrat and I voted for Bill Clinton.”

Turley said Congress has became more tame over the course of 200 years, with less partisan bickering tainting the process.

“If people think that the Republicans and Democrats are vicious today, they should take a glance at the conduct of the Federalists and (anti-Federalists) in the 1700s,” Turley said. “If anything, the attacks by the Jeffersonians on people like Hamilton make the Beltway look like a playground.”

Turley said he has looked at the history and facts, and said he feels it is not clear-cut whether Clinton’s actions can be considered impeachable offenses.

“In my view there is no clear, original intent of the (Framers of the Constitution) when it comes to impeachment,” Turley said. “In my view, it is an evolutionary phrase that was intended to change with time. As our values change, so too does the meaning.”

But the most important outcome of the impeachment inquiry is not the removal of Bill Clinton from office, Turley said. “I believe it’s more important how we decide this issue than what we decide.”

Turley said he will warn legislators against dismissing the inquiry because it would set a dangerous precedent. If the Senate does not get to vote on the issue, he said it would be a miscarriage of justice because the Senate will not be fulfilling its constitutional duty.

The definition of an impeachable offense would be so narrow, Turley said, that future presidents may not be allowed to take necessary actions.

In addition to his oral testimony, Turley said he will submit a 70-page written testimony in hope of cutting through party lines.

“I still believe my testimony will stand or fall on its own merits,” he said.

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