Jonathan Turley, a professor at George Washington University Law School and self-described “liberal,” warned Saturday that Democrats would damage the Constitution if they impeach President Donald Trump over the deadly riots at the U.S. Capitol last week.
What’s the background?
After the riots, Democrats, and many Republicans, placed blame for the violence on Trump. Now, Democrats are pushing an expedited effort to impeach Trump for a second time.
In fact, according to the Washington Examiner, 180 House Democrats support impeaching Trump for “willfully inciting violence.” Indeed, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Friday that if Trump does not resign, the House will immediately begin impeachment proceedings against him.
However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell indicated in a memo circulated among Senate Republicans that, even if the House does impeach Trump, the Senate will not have time to hold an adequate trial prior to President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20.
What did Turley say?
According to the constitutional law professor, Democrats will “gut” the Constitution’s free speech protections and its impeachment standard if they move to impeach Trump over last week’s violence.
Turley explained in an essay for The Hill:
The author Franz Kafka once wrote, “My guiding principle is this. Guilt is never to be doubted.” Democrats suddenly appear close to adopting that standard into the Constitution as they prepare for a second impeachment of President Trump. With seeking his removal for incitement, Democrats would gut not only the impeachment standard but also free speech, all in a mad rush to remove Trump just days before his term ends.
Democrats are seeking to remove Trump on the basis of his remarks to supporters before the rioting at the Capitol. Like others, I condemned those remarks as he gave them, calling them reckless and wrong. I also opposed the challenges to electoral votes in Congress. But his address does not meet the definition for incitement under the criminal code. It would be viewed as protected speech by the Supreme Court.
Not only did Turley write that Democrats are “now seeking an impeachment for remarks covered by the First Amendment,” Turley explained many Democrats are guilty of the exact same accusations they are throwing at Trump.
“Democrats are pushing this dangerously vague standard while objecting to their own remarks given new meaning from critics. Conservatives have pointed to Maxine Waters asking her supporters to confront Republicans in restaurants, while Ayanna Pressley insisted amidst the violent marches last year that ‘there needs to be unrest in the streets,’ and Kamala Harris said ‘protesters should not let up’ even as some of those marches turned violent,” Turley wrote. “They can legitimately argue their rhetoric was not meant to be a call for violence, but this standard is filled with subjectivity.”
Turley went on to say the “damage” done to the Constitution if Democrats move forward with impeachment will “pale in comparison” to the damage caused by the U.S. Capitol riots.
“The damage caused by the rioters this week was enormous, however, it will pale in comparison to the damage from a new precedent of a snap impeachment for speech protected under the First Amendment. It is the very threat that the framers sought to avoid in crafting the impeachment standard,” Turley explained.
“In a process of deliberative judgment, the reference to a snap impeachment is a contradiction. In this new system, guilt is not doubted and innocence is not deliberated,” he continued. “This would do to the Constitution what the violent rioters did to the Capitol and leave it in tatters.”