ABC offered long hours of coverage of the first day of the impeachment trial, Tuesday, dissecting every moment of the effort to remove the President. At 3:05 PM, Melissa Murray fretted that making the wrong decisions during this trial could lead to the end of “democracy.” (What didn’t get discussed was whether such grandiose pronouncements on the end of democracy might be overstated.)
The ABC News analyst described the main focus this way: “This is the big question. Is the President going to be above the law? That's the whole point of this impeachment hearing.” Murray, contributor Kate Shaw and George Stephanopoulos were discussing witnesses and the various procedural motions. Murray warned of the possibility of democracy ending:
We are supposed to use impeachment as a last resort against abuses of power that can't be checked in the ordinarily political or the ordinary judicial process. That's where we are. The whole question of whether the President can stonewall ever every avenue of resolution is one that this body has to take seriously. Because if they can't resolve it here, then we don't have a democracy. We have something else.
In December, Murray lauded Speaker Nancy Pelosi as the “proponent of originalism this morning” during the impeachment hearings. She cheered:
This is exactly what the framers contemplated--Adam Schiff reiterated that--the framers said there would be a president at some point in history whose ambitions would exceed the oath of office, would go beyond what the oath of office required and there had to be a congressional remedy to check that and that remedy was impeachment. This is not political, this is not a witch hunt, this is their solemn duty.
A transcript of the exchange is below. Click "expand" to read more.
ABC Live coverage
KATE SHAW (ABC News contributor): As to the outside witnesses question, Schiff interestingly invoked not just the previous presidential impeachment trials, but impeachment is available for other kinds of officials. In 2010 there was a federal judge impeached over a dozen new witnesses called in the Senate. So, they are drawing on other lines of precedent besides these two presidential impeachments. As to courts, I think there is some irony in the president's lawyers arguing it should have been allowed to run its course in the courts for a couple of reasons. Because, obviously, they were stonewalling, essentially all document and witness production. But two, in some court cases that are ongoing right now the White House lawyers are arguing that courts actually have no role at all in resolving disputes between the President and congress, and so in some ways it feels like they are trying to foreclose all kinds of resolution avenues and at that point if no one is going to force testimony, the president ultimately wins.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And, of course, we have seen the Justice Department having the guidance that is a sitting president cannot be indicted. An the argument from the President's private attorney, even if he shot somebody on Fifth Avenue, that is not something that could be investigated and prosecuted while he is in office.
MELISSA MURRAY (ABC News contributor): Again, this is the big question. Is the president going to be above the law? That's the whole point of this impeachment hearing. We are supposed to use impeachment as a last resort against abuses of power that can't be checked in the ordinarily political or the ordinary judicial process. That's where we are. The whole question of whether the President can stonewall ever every avenue of resolution is one that this body has to take seriously. Because if they can't resolve it here, then we don't have a democracy. We have something else.