Imagine the gall of Jonathan Turley, the brilliant law professor and legal scholar who helps open impeachment hearings against President Donald Trump by willfully misreading history.
I write this on Wednesday morning, Dec. 4, before Turley, a GOP witness, has even sat down before the House Judiciary Committee but already has gifted the nation with advance copies of his testimony.
Not to mention that we have access to his website in which he informs us that he is the second-most cited law professor in the country – they keep records on such things, professor? — and for the last five years has been named one of the 100 top Irish lawyers in the world.
Well, good for you, professor, however the gods of ranking may compile such lists.
My problem is the professor’s sense of right and wrong, not his ability to pat himself on the back.
“If the House proceeds solely on the Ukrainian allegations,” Turley says in his prepared remarks, “this impeachment would stand out among modern impeachments as the shortest proceeding, with the thinnest evidentiary record, and the narrowest grounds ever used to impeach a president.”
Uh, Jonathan Turley, meet Bill Clinton.
Oh, wait, they’ve already met.
Turley testified during Clinton’s impeachment hearings two decades ago, at which time he declared, “The House should not falter in maintaining a bright line for presidential conduct.”
So, let’s see…
Donald Trump’s accused of selling out the country, of seeking dirt on a political opponent in exchange for money designed to save human lives in the midst of a war.
Clinton was impeached for lying about a sexual tryst with a young woman named Monica Lewinsky.
Turley calls the current proceedings “slipshod.” And he warns that they do not “bode well for future presidents who are working in a country often sharply and, at times, bitterly divided.”
Turley has a point there. If we set the impeachment bar too low, what’s to keep future legislators from plunging into such hearings? But wasn’t that the precise problem with the Clinton impeachment, that they attempted to remove a president over a matter that should have been strictly between Clinton and his own wife?
That’s not the case here.
As Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerold Nadler opened today’s hearings, he cited a President Trump who “compromised our national security for personal political gain.”
And “intimidated witnesses.”
And “obstructed without precedent.”
And “welcomed foreign interference in 2016, and demanded it in 2020.”
And demanded it from a “vulnerable ally.”
Let’s not forget the last part of it. We use such familiar language as “quid pro quo” to describe Trump’s proposed swap with Ukraine. But such wording hides the raw cruelty behind the deal.
Trump wanted Ukraine to announce they were investigating Joe Biden, mainly because the former vice president is the leading Democratic presidential contender. They didn’t even have to investigate – Trump just wanted the announcement, so he could keep that phony narrative alive through the election campaign.
But until he got that announcement, Trump was willing to hold off on $391 million in aid to Ukraine as they struggle to hold off Russian incursions that have already cost roughly 14,000 lives.
Turley calls this “the narrowest grounds” ever to impeach a president.
Turley must not have seen the Ukrainian burial grounds.
A former Baltimore Sun columnist and WJZ-TV commentator, Michael Olesker is the author of six books. His most recent, “Front Stoops in the Fifties: Baltimore Legends Come of Age,” was reissued in paperback by the Johns Hopkins University Press.