ABC’s Abrams Claims ‘Anything in Theory Can Be Impeachable’

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Appearing on Monday’s Good Morning America, ABC News chief legal analyst Dan Abrams adopted a remarkably flexible standard for what can justify removing a duly elected President of the United States from office, arguing that “anything” could be deemed an impeachable offense. That’s certainly much looser than the “high crimes and misdemeanors” standard laid out in the Constitution.  

Asking about “the White House defense strategy,” co-host George Stephanopoulos observed that it “seems like they’re moving back towards this idea that their strongest defense would be that there was no explicit quid pro quo in the phone call.” Abrams agreed, but tried to dismiss that defense of President Trump’s July phone call with the president of Ukraine:

 

 

The problem with that is twofold. Number one, as a legal matter, you don’t need a quid pro quo. To have a campaign finance violation, all you need is the solicitation. The asking, the request. That in and of itself could be determined to be a crime. And number two, for impeachment you don’t even need to have a technical violation of a statute. I mean we talk, for example, about abuse of power. That’s not a specific violation of a crime, but that has been determined in the past to be an impeachable offense.

First off, he seemed to forget that the Justice Department already investigated the possibility of a campaign finance violation in the call and determined that there was no evidence of a crime. Secondly, while impeachment is a political process and not a legal one, some proof of “high crimes and misdemeanors” should be presented to the American people before overturning presidential election results.

Stephanopoulos admitted that “we’re really just at the beginning of this process” and “We have no idea what we don’t know as this begins.” Abrams seemed to take that as a challenge to come up with other potential impeachable offenses:

So all we can start with today is we’ve got the Ukraine issue. You gotta see if they bring up any of the Mueller issues. But with all these witnesses that are gonna come forward, there’s always the potential to get more. More information, more questions. When you look at The Washington Post story that clearly emerged from what we learned today about this notion that in a 2017 conversation with the Russians, the President may have minimized significantly Election interference. And, remember, Robert Mueller indicted two dozen Russians for that crime. So imagine the idea of the President basically saying criminal conduct doesn’t matter. I mean, could that be deemed to be impeachable?

He then proclaimed: “Look, anything in theory can be impeachable. The question becomes, does the Congress want to move forward with an impeachment proceeding on that?”

It’s hard to imagine the media accepting such a lax standard during a Democratic presidential administration. In fact, one doesn’t have to imagine. Leading up to Bill Clinton’s impeachment, the press constantly trashed Special Counsel Ken Starr and rushed to excuse Clinton’s scandalous behavior, including perjury.

After claiming that Trump could be impeached for “anything,” Stephanopoulos and Abrams fretted over the possibility that Republicans would not go along with the radical action being undertaken by Democrats. “And even if the House does move forward with impeachment, even if there’s a majority for impeachment, no guarantee that there will be a Senate trial,” Stephanopoulos worried. Abrams lamented that the GOP “could end it”:

The other thing is, they could just delay. I mean, remember what happened in 2016 with President Obama’s selection for a Supreme Court nominee. It had always been the case that the Senate would at least take it up. And they decided, “No, we’re just not going to even vote on it.” Is it possible they could delay long enough not to vote? It depends when it comes forward.

Stephanopoulos added: “And what the public opinion is like at the time.”

It’s clear the media are eager to remove Trump from office whether there evidence of an impeachable offense or not.

In sharp contrast to Abrams, on CBS This Morning, constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley made it clear that Democrats had not justified impeachment: “You have to prove it. You got to get a quid to go with the pro quo....You really do, if you’re going to take down a president, you’re going to need to show that he made that linkage.”

Here is a full transcript of Abrams on the September 30 GMA:

7:09 AM ET

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to bring in our chief legal analyst Dan Abrams for more on this right now. So we see elements of the White House defense strategy coming into play. A lot of lashing out at opponents, at Joe Biden. But it also seems like they’re moving back towards this idea that their strongest defense would be that there was no explicit quid pro quo in the phone call.

DAN ABRAMS: Right, I think you’re going to see two prongs here, one is going to be sort of led by the President, maybe led by Rudy Giuliani, which is attack, attack, attack, then number two I think is going to be a more legalistic defense, which is going to be to say that there was never an agreement in place. There was never a quid pro quo. There was never a demand specifically.

The problem with that is twofold. Number one, as a legal matter, you don’t need a quid pro quo. To have a campaign finance violation, all you need is the solicitation. The asking, the request. That in and of itself could be determined to be a crime. And number two, for impeachment you don’t even need to have a technical violation of a statute. I mean we talk, for example, about abuse of power. That’s not a specific violation of a crime, but that has been determined in the past to be an impeachable offense.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And as we see by that schedule I just outlined, we’re really just at the beginning of this process. We have no idea what we don’t know as this begins.

ABRAMS: Right. So all we can start with today is we’ve got the Ukraine issue. You gotta see if they bring up any of the Mueller issues. But with all these witnesses that are gonna come forward, there’s always the potential to get more. More information, more questions. When you look at The Washington Post story that clearly emerged from what we learned today about this notion that in a 2017 conversation with the Russians, the President may have minimized significantly...

STEPHANOPOULOS: “Don’t worry about election interference.”

ABRAMS: ...election interference. And, remember, Robert Mueller indicted two dozen Russians for that crime. So imagine the idea of the President basically saying criminal conduct doesn’t matter. I mean, could that be deemed to be impeachable?

Look, anything in theory can be impeachable. The question becomes, does the Congress want to move forward with an impeachment proceeding on that?  

STEPHANOPOULOS: And even if the House does move forward with impeachment, even if there’s a majority for impeachment, no guarantee that there will be a Senate trial.

ABRAMS: That’s right. There are two avenues here. Number one is they could make a motion to dismiss in the Senate, which requires a majority and that could just –  

STEPHANOPOULOS: So if Republicans hold together, that’s it.

ABRAMS: They could end it. The other thing is, they could just delay. I mean, remember what happened in 2016 with President Obama’s selection for a Supreme Court nominee. It had always been the case that the Senate would at least take it up. And they decided, “No, we’re just not going to even vote on it.” Is it possible they could delay long enough not to vote? It depends when it comes forward.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And what the public opinion is like at the time.

ABRAMS: Exactly.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Dan Abrams, thanks very much.

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