Impeachment hearing didn't go as Chairman Nadler planned

The House Judiciary Committee hearing featuring four law professors — three of them urging the imminent impeachment of President TrumpDonald John TrumpKaine: Obama called Trump a 'fascist' during 2016 campaign Kaine: GOP senators should 'at least' treat Trump trial with seriousness of traffic court Louise Linton, wife of Mnuchin, deletes Instagram post in support of Greta Thunberg MORE — did not go as Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerTrump defense team signals focus on Schiff Impeachment has been a dud for Democrats Nadler calls Trump a 'dictator' on Senate floor MORE (D-N.Y.) planned. Instead of a panel featuring reasoned analysis by liberal academic rock stars, the country witnessed exaggerations and the ridicule of a child’s name, all tinged with a tone of obsession and mania by the majority’s witnesses.

The hearing might also leave many Americans wondering what in the world is being taught at elite law schools.

First, the exaggerations. 

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Harvard Law professor Noah Feldman compared Trump’s behavior to the Democratic Party’s dusty old boogeyman, Richard Nixon. As president, Nixon, according to Feldman, “sent burglars” into the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters in 1972.

Nixon, of course, did no such thing and didn’t even know about the break-in until after it happened. Either Feldman was recklessly exaggerating the facts of Watergate or he doesn’t know his history. Neither possibility helps the House impeachment train.  

Next came Stanford Law professor Pamela Karlan. Karlan served in the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) Civil Rights Division, as I did, and has a reputation among Democrats as a top-shelf expert on voting rights. Had Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonKaine: Obama called Trump a 'fascist' during 2016 campaign Clinton says Zuckerberg has 'authoritarian' views on misinformation Des Moines Register endorses Elizabeth Warren as Democratic presidential nominee MORE won the presidency in 2016, Karlan would certainly have been nominated to the federal bench.

To those on the right, however, Karlan represents what has gone wrong in the nation’s elite law schools. By the end of the hearing, Karlan effectively became a Republican witness, turning off viewers to any impeachment of Trump that enjoys a credible basis in law.  

Karlan was bitter, detached and radical. Her testimony provided a glimpse of what is occurring inside law schools, where students today are treated to ideologically saturated political law. She showed viewers in mainstream America what some of us have been warning them about for years — that a detached group of academic legal elites have profound hostility to “flyover country” values and are willing to use their intellectual skills and tenured perches to get their way, no matter what.

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Karlan also has a troubling academic record when attacking Republicans. In the Duke Journal of Constitutional Law and Public Policy, she incorrectly smeared the George W. Bush DOJ’s Civil Rights Division record of voting rights enforcement. She wrote that “for five of the eight years of the Bush Administration, [the Civil Rights Division] brought no Voting Rights Act cases of its own except for one case protecting white voters.”  

Karlan wasn’t telling the truth then, and hasn’t corrected the record since I first published an article about her false scholarship back in 2013. 

Doubt it? Just go to the DOJ’s website. Numbers don’t lie: The Bush Justice Department, in fact, brought 16 cases under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act — three in 2001, one in 2002, one in 2003, three in 2005, three in 2006, one in 2007 and four in 2008.

The same Bush Justice Department brought even more cases to protect language minorities during that same time period. Ironically, Karlan’s tenure at the Justice Department overseeing voting rights enforcement during the Obama administration saw a fraction of the Section 2 cases filed compared to the Bush years.

When I wrote the Duke Journal of Constitutional Law and Public Policy about the incorrect scholarship, editors said it was up to Karlan to retract her work. She hasn’t.

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Just like her testimony before the House providing legal justifications for impeachment, Karlan’s incorrect Duke Journal article was designed to package a smear of Republicans in the fancy dress of a respected academic.  

For good measure, Karlan revealed in her testimony that she is so unsettled by the results of the 2016 election that she has to cross Pennsylvania Avenue to avoid passing the Trump International Hotel. And if that wasn’t enough, Karlan’s nasty ridicule of the president, using his son’s name as a prop in a quip about royalty, was something most parents would find grotesque. First lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump beefs up impeachment defense with Dershowitz, Starr Trump welcomes LSU to the White House: 'Go Tigers' The Hill's Morning Report — President Trump on trial MORE did, taking to Twitter to scold the professor’s cold incivility.

As I said, this hearing did not go as planned.

Chairman Nadler knows when things are going badly. I have testified before him numerous times, both as chair and during his time as the ranking minority member. Lately, Nadler has become the relative voice of reason among the majority on the House Judiciary Committee. 

As a witness before him, I’ve seen what C-SPAN cameras miss: Nadler rolling his eyes at some of the more unhinged statements of his fellow Democrats on the committee.

Nadler has enough sense to know when things aren’t going as planned. So do the smarter, less unhinged Democratic members. Don’t expect to see professors Karlan or Feldman showing up again on Capitol Hill anytime soon.

J. Christian Adams is a former Justice Department lawyer and president of the Public Interest Legal Foundation, which focuses on assisting states in election laws and practices. In 2017 he was a member of President Trump’s advisory commission on election integrity.