Thursday, December 5, 2019

Jonathan Turley Whiffs Vs. More Learned Constitutional Scholars At House Judiciary Hearing

"We don’t need Professor Turley’s hand-wringing performance to scare us away from defending our democracy through the exercise of our political power to hold an oligarchic authoritarian accountable. Exercising our accountability muscle will make a stronger, not weaker in the future. It will make us more familiar with the source of our political authority and power and will protect us against further abuses in the future, not make us vulnerable to them, as Professor Turley suggests.

President Trump needs to be impeached for his shocking and multi-dimensional misconduct. But the people need him held accountable for another reason: We need him held accountable to reconnect with the underlying authority on which our democracy is based and to start cleansing our society of the noxious false relativism infecting our public debate, such as we witnessed yesterday in Professor Turley’s performance." -    Hank Edson, 'Professor Turley Is Dead Wrong On Impeachment, And Here's Why', (link at bottom)

"The Republicans are arguing that if a president stands in the middle of Fifth Avenue, fires a gun and misses someone, just leave him alone. He didn't do anything wrong. That's an insane argument!"

Chris Mathews last night, MSNBC, 'Hardball'

As I watched the next phase of the impeachment inquiry unfold yesterday,  with the House Judiciary Committee  hearings featuring four constitutional scholars,  the Reeptard minority didn't waste time wasting time .  Almost before  Chairman Jerry Nadler could get the first words out of his mouth, e.g.

Never before has a president engaged in a course of conduct that included all the acts that most concerned the framers,

The bankrupt Reeps resorted to procedural objections and high-temperature harangues in an effort to protect Traitor Trump.   It was as if the imbeciles knew in advance their case would be skewered by the 3 real constitutional scholars the Dems had selected as witnesses. (Noah Feldman of Harvard, Pamela Karlan of Stanford, Michael Gerhardt of the University of North Carolina.)

 So what does an imbecile do confronted by such intellectual firepower?   And when they only have in their corner a William Barr crony and pal like Jonathan Turley?  Well, they must resort to chaos and impotent huff and puff to try to impede or distract.

 Thus the hapless Reepos lodged a series of rapid-fire interruptions and parliamentary "inquiries" as the hearing began, interrupting the first witnesses and leading Nadler to resort repeatedly to his gavel.  At one point I actually thought Nadler would use his gavel on one of their heads.  Aside from the typical Reepo clown show, the other farce was the interminable grandstanding. Thus, one beheld Georgia congressman Doug Collins, the top Republican on the committee, accusing Democrats of moving to impeach Trump,   “because you just don’t like the guy”.

Uh, no, lunkhead, it's because they don't want our nation ruled by some halfwit, half mad wannabe King.  Especially a two bit former Queens lowlife,  grifter, real estate chiseler and former reality show mutt who fancies himself a latter day monarch.   The cornpone Collins then burped out perhaps the most presumptuous bark of all: 

The American people is [sic] really gonna look at this and say, ‘Huh? What are we doing?’” .

Nope. That take would apply for the lower half of the IQ curve, in the parlance of Harvard prof Harvey Mansfield - referring to those who voted Trump in 2016.  The rest of the people, I am confident, have enough brain cells to see what the House is doing is impeaching a thug who thinks he can rule the nation like he ran his scam real estate properties and fraudulent fronts like "Trump University".
The cornpone congress critter then yapped sarcastically:

We’ve got law professors here.  What a start to a party!"
But not a "party" for the Reeptardos who the three actual scholars beat down mercilessly - especially in one exchange when Stanford Professor Pamela Karlan directly challenged the Georgian dolt when he claimed the scholars "didn't do their homework".

Looking back on the nine hours of testimony and questioning it's a pity that  professor  Karlan never had George Washington University "scholar"  Jonathan Turley as a student.   She might have spared him from the display of rank sophistry he exhibited in his assorted turns to speak during the  hearing yesterday.    

The three professors called by Dems were on the mark in presenting coherent, well -argued cases that Trump's abuses of power  offered  the textbook case for impeachable offenses as defined in the Constitution.  

Meanwhile, CBS legal  analyst and GWU prof Turley tried to use language parsing and hair splitting  to argue there was an insufficient threshold to impeach.  (This is the same turkey who - some 20 years earlier- said that Bill Clinton had to be impeached for a sexual peccadillo. Oh wait! I forgot, he lied about having a sex act! My bad! But hey, he didn't try to barter away the upcoming 2000 election for a "favor, though"!)

According to Turley there was no real bribery by Trump, i.e. that met the standard for impeachment, nor any obstruction.  Evidently Turley believed for the latter to genuinely happen the Dems would have to produce "real" evidence - given that what existed didn't count. (Hours of witness testimony, including first hand listening in to the call, the call transcript itself- released I might add, after the whistle got blown, Mulvaney's own admission of quid pro quo etc.)  Bottom line, this existence of actual evidence isn't rocket science or quantum physics, for Pete's sake.  Any brainless zombot ought to be able to figure it out, without a constitutional law degree.

So in other words, we have more than ample 'there,  there' - the proverbial smoking gun if you will- without going further as Turley demands. As Michael Gerhardt, the University of North Carolina law professor made clear:

 If what we’re talking about is not impeachable, then nothing is impeachable,” 

As for bribery,  Prof. Karlan also had to correct Turley on  his truncated take by using a 1792 definition from  dictionary by Samuel Johnson.   My primary complaint with Turley has to do with his use of sophisticated  language manipulation, or what one blogger (P.M. Carpenter) called "fussiness".   In this case, one found abundant "Turleyisms" popping up comparable to the "Posnerisms" exposed by serious JFK assassination researchers  from Gerald Posner's book, 'Case Closed".  

Twelve of the most serious “Posnerisms”  are documented here:

Those who take the time to examine, study the examples in the link will become aware of an unnerving lack of attention to detail and a penchant for what appears to be deliberate misrepresentation.  Turley,  by contrast,  doesn't employ deliberate misrepresentation but rather technical twisting of aspects of the law (in relation to the Constitution and impeachment powers therein)  leading to obfuscation.  An obfuscation of the meaning of "bribery" and an obfuscation of the meaning of "obstruction".  Of course, his expansive, I'd say preposterous, interpretation of executive privilege lies at the heart of both obfuscations.

In regard to the "high crimes and misdemeanors" cited in the Constitution, Turley asserted (my paraphrasing) 'Yeah, but I would prefer a felony as a prerequisite".   That, my friends, is a Turleyism.  The reason is that the Constitution makes no such requirement. As MSNBC legal guru Ari Melber put it in the discussion during the lunch break: "If that's what Turley demands he needs to write an amendment and add it to the Constitution".  

Ari went on to expatiate:

"There's a larger stupidity here which is important, because Americans are watching this. You don't need an underlying crime to remove a president. And the reason is very simple; There's all sorts of things that are criminal but are not an abuse of power. It is a felony to deface a mailbox. But definitely not impeachable. I don't think you'll find serious scholars who'd suggest otherwise. And yet, that would be the needed crime in what Turley said was the extra prerequisite he wants to add.

And on the flip side you have abuses of power that may not be a felony, which is important for everyone to understand.  Why? Because most citizens don't have those powers to wield. So you don't have laws that say 'you can't steal money from the OMB to give to a foreign country'  because most people aren't in any position to seize and appropriate those funds.  So for this professor Turley to say no, you still gotta double back to the courts, well that's just not what the Constitution says. "

Prof. Kaplan also used the example of the vandalism of a mail box, a specified felony.  If a president were to commit such a felony - while a serious statutory crime - it would still not be impeachable. Why not? Because there is no linkage to an abuse of the power of his office, as Ari Melber explained. What's he gaining in terms of his self-interest by wrecking a mail box? Only a lot of bad press.

We can also reference a divergence from what Turley himself once opined in a WaPo piece ('Five Myths About Impeachment')

"While there's a high bar for what constitutes impeachment, an offense does not have to be indictable. Serious misconduct or a violation of the public trust is enough."

Well, at least for one time in one political epoch you got it right, son.  

So it was kind of mind boggling to then see Turley babbling:

"There's  difference between requesting investigations and  a quid pro quo. You need to stick the landing on the quid pro quo. You need to get the evidence to support it. It may be out there, I don't know, but it's not in this record."

Which makes one wonder what 'record'  Turley is accessing, or if he's tripping out on MJ candies when he does. As Caroline Frederickson of the American Constitution Society pointed out after the hearings, on 'Hardball':  "Professor Karlin described what is the essence of an impeachable offense. Going to a foreign government and saying 'we're not gonna give you money unless you say you're gonna investigate my political rival.'  This is absolutely the essence of an impeachable offense."

That offense, I might add, lies right in the open in the transcript of the July 25th phone conversation, in tandem with the timeline (only released after the whistleblower's whistle), pointing unambiguously to Trump's grievous misconduct. One doesn't need an advanced degree in political science or government to figure that out - it's out in the bloody open!

 If instead of the existing record, Turley is  referencing the gaps inferred from unsubpoenaed witnesses with material evidence,”  that's also a joke.   As former Watergate prosecutor Richard Ben -Veniste put it on 'Hardball":

"This is a most amusing argument given the president has ordered the very witnesses Mr. Turley is talking about not to cooperate. This is like a defendant who's convicted of poisoning his parents, throwing himself on the mercy of the court, because he's an orphan."

In other words, an out and out "Turleyism" on a par with Posner's Posnerisms.

As for Turley's obsession with the Dems'  "speed" (his stated dismay with the abbreviated period of this investigation”), this is irrelevant, because the Constitution makes no demand on whether the impeachment process ought to be slow or fast.  In fact, one can conceive of occasions where speed in acting is imperative. Say a deranged president holding up critical disaster relief unless the governor of a state complies with a demand to slime his political opponent.  

Even more powerful was Harvard Prof. Lawrence Tribe's observation last night (MSNBC, 'Last Word'):

"Obviously, what he's trying to do is drag this out so there's no time left to a potentially corrupted 2020 election. That is a prescription for disaster. The idea that we need to have this thing saturate and pickle for a while longer is just crazy. When you have a president  who orders the entire executive branch to stonewall, then whenever any subpoena ends up in court and says 'now you got to wait til the courts decide' that's a prescription for not having an impeachment power."

Law professor Paul Butler last night also diced Turley's "too hasty" argument (from a historical perspective)  by noting this impeachment process will already take longer than either that for Andrew Johnson or Bill Clinton.  Adding: "This is going to be the most scholarly, well developed impeachment inquiry in our history".  So much for Turley's insipid claim of a "slipshod impeachment."  Maybe Turley needs to get Prof. Butler to give him some remedial  historical impeachment tutoring. 

Turley also showed he was prepared to award Trump unlimited Executive Privilege, by asserting he was opposed to  Article 3 of the Nixon impeachment. What was that? Refusing to turn over items, e.g. the tapes, in response to lawful subpoenas. This prattle alone showed Turley's arguments were basically sophomoric compared to the three other genuine constitutional law scholars.

In effect, if one accepts Turley's spurious claim then it follows any president who's willing to dig in and stonewall subpoenas for documents and testimony can use the courts to run out the clock, undermining the House’s ability to use its impeachment power in practice. Indeed, another Harvard constitutional law professor - Lawrence Tribe- appearing on 'All In' (Nov. 21) scuttled this nonsense one time:

"This unprecedented erection of a stone wall in which he directs everybody connected to the White House and State Department not to testify, not to comply with subpoenas.  That amounts to contempt of congress - a far more sweeping  violation of separation of powers than even Richard Nixon was guilty of, cited in impeachment article 3."

Basically then, Trump and his Reep cult participated in the stonewalling, but they're now trying to blame the results of their subpoena blockade on the Democrats.  Meanwhile, Turley is trying to argue that  the House Dems are stuck with the stone walling,  so they ought to suck it up. There is "not enough evidence to impeach" without the added witnesses, documents, but the Trump stone walling won't allow it. And oh, Trump is justified in doing this. This is nuts, madness. It is essentially asserting there is NO impeachment power, period.

I suspect Prof. Tribe and the three professors featured yesterday as pro-impeachment know a tad more than Mr. Turley.  As P.M. Carpenter put it (see first link in previous blog post) comparing the different presentations:

"Turley was just as singular in message, but somewhat comical in substance; his testimony had none, in terms of addressing the president's many unmistakable abuses of power"

However, Turley does get some performing credit for being facetious, i.e.  at the time when he blurted:

 "We are all mad. ..My kids are mad. My wife is mad ... even my dog, a golden doodle".  


"Will a slipshod impeachment make us less mad or will it only give an invitation for the madness to follow in every future administration?”

Prof. Tribe, I imagine, would respond to Turley here by telling him any impeachment of a president is going to make somebody, some group mad. Mainly because impeachment is more a political process than a legal one. Thus, the Trumpie dolts - those who voted for this disgusting, worthless imp-  will certainly be "mad" as impeachment progresses.  (And oh, even as Trump takes their food stamps away by April 1st.) Why mad?  Not because anyone is trying to "redo the 2016 election" but because their little bitch will finally be held to account, as they will - as the 'minority faction" Hamilton and Madison warned us about. The lot of reckless fools who blindly put a demagogue into power.

Turley claimed before any charge for obstruction is offered, it must first go through the courts.  Each court decision must be rendered in turn, and all exhausted, finally (presumably) ending up at the Supreme Court. Only then in the final ruling stage, if Trump refuses to comply, can  charge of obstruction be leveled.

Again, if one accepts this codswallop, it means he also accepts any president can use a total blockade of lawful subpoenas in tandem with the courts,  to "run out the clock" -  thereby rendering one branch of government redundant.   This is in direct contradiction to the Article 1 powers allotted congress by the Constitution. As Michael Tomasky so aptly put it: "Are the Democrats supposed to wait until next October to make sure they don’t miss anything?"

On the plus side-   like Bob Mueller- Turley did not assert Trump did nothing wrong, as his hard-core zombies have done. He said that the July 25th  call in which Trump pressured Ukraine’s president Zelenskiy to announce investigations that could benefit him politically “was anything but perfect,” and that Congress had a legitimate reason to scrutinize it.  Wow, will wonders never cease.  But the thing is that call amounted to an extortion, or a bare bones bribe and congress had an absolute duty to not only investigate but impeach.  In any case, Turley's modified statement doesn't redeem his sophomoric attempts to rescue Trump, or the GOP's specious case.

As for the Dems they need to move on the articles of impeachment in an expeditious manner and avoid the temptation to overthink - in which case they may end up not far from Turley's twaddle.  As Michael Tomasky put it in his NY Times piece yesterday:

"I’m not convinced that the American public will find seven articles of impeachment more persuasive than two."  

Adding: .

"His violations matter more than the specific degree to which the Democrats officially remonstrate with him for them. ...There’s a decent argument for throwing the hot potato to Mitch McConnell and shaming him, and the Senate Republicans, for abasing themselves with a blanket exoneration of Mr. Trump."

With which I agree. And also, in the process, shaming transparent  twits and sophomoric lackeys like Jonathan Turley.

Update - Addendum: To show how marginal Turley's arguments are, 500 constitutional scholars have since signed a letter attesting to their agreement with the arguments made by the three Democratic witnesses, Profs. Karlan, Gerhardt and Feldman.

See also:


"In his opening statement emphasizing the importance of legal standards, George Washington University constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley claimed that impeaching, “a president on this record would expose every future president to the same type of inchoate impeachment” and warned, “I hope you will consider what you will do when the wind blows again perhaps for a Democratic president.”

In making this argument, Turley might just as well have argued that the founding patriots should not have declared independence because once they were in power, the people might declare their independence from them. The founding patriots, after all, were not asserting a codified legal standard in declaring their independence, they were asserting their political power. The source of the people’s political power sufficient to overthrow codified law, the Declaration itself announced, was not the written codes authored by human beings, but the “self-evident” truths describing natural law. 

Faced with Turley’s argument, our founding patriots might well have said, “If we, as governors of the people, deserve it, let the people declare their independence from us.” Indeed, Thomas Jefferson famously welcomed such exercise of the people’s authority under natural law to assert their political power when he said, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” But Jefferson and the other founding patriots were also wise enough to allow for a process that would avoid the need for such bloodshed in the assertion of the people’s authority and power under natural law to remove an illegitimate government. They gave us impeachment."


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