PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Do President Trump’s alleged actions — trading American military aid in exchange for a Ukrainian investigation of a political opponent and intervention in the 2020 election — amount to an impeachable offense?
That was the focus of legal scholars at the first hearing of the House Judiciary Committee on impeachment on Wednesday.
“What has happened in the case today is something that we have never seen before, a president who has double-downed on violating his oath,” testified Professor Pamela Karlan of Stanford Law School.
“President Trump has committed impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors by corruptly abusing the office of the presidency,” said Professor Noah Feldman of Harvard Law School.
Lots of opinions but not unanimous.
“If you’re going to accuse a president of bribery, you need to make it stick,” noted Professor Jonathan Turley of George Washington University Law School.
Former law school dean and now Duquesne University President Ken Gormley, an expert on impeachment, says when it comes to treason, bribery and high crimes and misdemeanors, “There is broad discretion in the House and the Senate to figure out how to apply that.”
WATCH: KDKA’s Jon Delano Reports
Gormley says the founders were rightly concerned about presidents conspiring with foreign leaders to interfere in American public affairs.
“If you asked any of the framers of the time, absolutely it was viewed as not permissible to use foreign governments to get entangled in our elections which are the most sacred part of our democracy,” Gormley told KDKA political editor Jon Delano.
“For sure, we’re in a zone that clearly was contemplated by the framers when you’re talking about the allegations, whether they’re proven or not, against President Trump in terms of his alleged interference with Ukraine.”
At issue is whether the president tried to bribe a foreign leader with military aid to interfere in the 2020 election.
To some, Wednesday’s Judiciary Committee hearing was strictly an academic affair.
“I’m a political junkie. I really like history. I’m a lawyer. To me, I’m having fun,” said U.S. Rep. Guy Reschenthaler, a Peters Republican and the only local member of the Judiciary Committee.
“I think it’s interesting, but it’s not doing anything to move the agenda forward in DC either for the Democrats or the Republicans.”
Despite a 300-page report from the House Intelligence Committee claiming otherwise, Reschenthaler insists, “The problem the Democrats are having is that they cannot make out an underlying crime.”
So Reschenthaler has concluded, “The president didn’t do anything wrong.”
That is what the whole House will need to decide in the days ahead.