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Republicans' Impeachment Witness Is Getting Dragged for His Very Different Standard for Impeachment in 1998

Republicans' Impeachment Witness Is Getting Dragged for His Very Different Standard for Impeachment in 1998
Salwan Georges/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The House Judiciary Committee, in its public impeachment hearing against President Donald Trump on Wednesday, consulted four constitutional scholars for greater insight to the legal implications of the President's Ukraine scandal—and whether they merit impeachment.

Three witnesses, called by Democrats, each made compelling arguments for the articles of impeachment with which Trump could be charged.

George Washington University professor Jonathan Turley—invited by Republicans—was the lone dissenter.

Turley told lawmakers that impeaching Trump soon would be setting the standard too for impeachment, inviting future Congresses to impeach flippantly. He also said that the evidence against Trump—including multiple testimonies and text messages—wasn't enough to confirm that Trump withheld military aid from Ukraine to pressure its leaders into announcing an investigation into his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.

Now, Turley's opinion in a similar hearing from the 1998 impeachment inquiry against former President Bill Clinton is resurfacing for all the wrong reasons.

In his opening statement against Clinton, Turley said:

"In a government of laws, existence of the government will be imperiled if it fails to observe the law scrupulously. Our Government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example. Crime is contagious. If the Government becomes a lawbreaker; it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy."

That statement was more in line with the positions of the Democratic witnesses against Trump: that withholding crucial aid in exchange for political investigations weakens the United States by tarnishing its reliability, its perception abroad, its legitimacy as a democracy, and its very national security.

Lying about it and withholding information from a body designed for oversight of the President sets a dangerous precedent as well.

Turley went on to say in the 1998 hearing:

"The allegations against President Clinton go to the very heart of the legitimacy of his office and the integrity of the political system. As an individual, a president may seek spiritual redemption in the company of friends and family. Constitutional redemption, however, is found only in the company of representatives of all three branches in the well of the Senate."

It wasn't just in 1998 that Turley's position was different, but in 2014 as well.

Turley's position in an op-ed that year was that an impeachable offense doesn't have to be a violation of criminal law—a reversal from his words to the Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

People had trouble considering Turley unbiased after his evolution on impeachment was uncovered.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced Thursday morning that she's asked the House to move forward with articles of impeachment.