Former acting attorney general defends Trump: 'Abuse of power is not a crime'

Former acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker on Tuesday night defended President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump second-term plans remain a mystery to GOP Trump to hold outdoor rally in New Hampshire on Saturday Eighty-eight years of debt pieties MORE amid a House impeachment inquiry into his administration's dealings with Ukraine, arguing that Democrats needed evidence of a crime and that "abuse of power" didn't qualify as one. 

"What evidence of a crime do you have? Abuse of power is not a crime," Whitaker, who served as acting head of the Justice Department between November 2018 and March, said on Fox News's "The Ingraham Angle."

Whitaker went on to say that "the Constitution is very clear" when it comes to impeachment, asserting the step could only be taken due to "some pretty egregious behavior."

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"[House Democrats] cannot tell the American people what this case is about because they have to do it in secret," he added, referring to the private hearings a group of House committees are conducting as part of the inquiry. 

A president can be impeached and removed from office on conviction of treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors, according to the Constitution. Federalist Papers No. 65 notes that impeachment can involve "abuse or violation of some public trust.”

Articles of impeachment against former President Nixon were premised on abuse of power. 

"Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiRussian bounties revive Trump-GOP foreign policy divide On The Money: Breaking down the June jobs report | The biggest threats facing the recovery | What will the next stimulus bill include? Military bases should not be renamed, we must move forward in the spirit of reconciliation MORE and the Democrats are convinced they're going to impeach the president. They think this is the next best thing after the Mueller investigation," Whitaker said, before labeling Trump a "warrior" who would "fight this."

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A wave of revelations regarding Trump's interactions with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky led Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to launch a formal impeachment inquiry into the president last month. A whistleblower complaint accusing Trump of pressuring Ukraine to open an investigation into former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump second-term plans remain a mystery to GOP Susan Rice: Trump picks Putin over troops 'even when it comes to the blood of American service members' Does Donald Trump even want a second term? MORE, a leading Democratic presidential candidate, and his son Hunter is at the heart of the inquiry. 

A White House memorandum of the president's July 25 phone call with Zelensky confirmed several aspects of the complaint, including Trump's request to open an investigation into the Bidens. 

Whitaker's comments Tuesday came the same day a top U.S. diplomat gave revealing testimony to Congress regarding the Trump administration's efforts to open investigations into the Biden family and the 2016 election. 

William Taylor testified, among other things, that he was told military aid to Ukraine was conditioned on the nation publicly declaring probes into the Bidens and Ukraine's alleged involvement in 2016 election interference. 

Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, told Taylor “that Trump wanted President Zelensky ‘in a public box’ by making a public statement about ordering such investigations," Taylor said in his opening statement.