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Hundreds of Legal Scholars: Trump’s Conduct ‘Precisely the Type of Threat’ to Democracy the Founders Feared


Days after three out of four prominent legal scholars agreed at a congressional hearing that it’s been shown that President Donald Trump committed impeachable offenses, hundreds of legal scholars–and counting–have signed their names on an open letter to Congress.

The letter was published Friday on Medium by the Protect Democracy Project, which styles itself as a nonpartisan, nonprofit group “dedicated to fighting attacks, from at home and abroad, on our right to free, fair, and fully informed self-government.” It’s reminiscent of a letter signed by hundreds of former federal prosecutors months ago, which said that Trump would have been charged for obstructing the Mueller Probe if he wasn’t the president.

“We do not reach this conclusion lightly. The Founders did not make impeachment available for disagreements over policy, even profound ones, nor for extreme distaste for the manner in which the President executes his office. Only ‘Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors’ warrant impeachment,” the scores of undersigned legal scholars said. “But 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.”

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said earlier on Friday that he, too, believes the evidence is “overwhelming.”

“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,” the letter continued. “Ultimately, whether to impeach the President and remove him from office depends on judgments that the Constitution leaves to Congress. But if the House of Representatives impeached the President for the conduct described here and the Senate voted to remove him, they would be acting well within their constitutional powers. Whether President Trump’s conduct is classified as bribery, as a high crime or misdemeanor, or as both, it is clearly impeachable under our Constitution.”

Many of the 500-plus names signed on this letter are familiar: Harvard Law Prof. Laurence Tribe, Vermont Law Professor Jennifer Taub, Associate Professor of Law at Fordham University Zephyr Teachout, Fordham Professor of Law Jed Shugerman, UC Berkeley’s Dean and Jesse H. Choper Distinguished Professor of Law Erwin Chemerinsky, George Mason University Antonin Scalia Law School Prof. J.W. Verret, and University of Alabama School of Law Distinguished Professor of the Practice of Law Joyce Vance, to name a few.

[Image via Nicholas Kamm/Getty Images]

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Matt Naham is the Senior A.M. Editor of Law&Crime.