Davis: Congressman Will Hurd, If not now, when?

Davis: Congressman Will Hurd, If not now, when?
© Greg Nash

Texas Republican Rep. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdHouse Democrats launch effort to register minority voters in key districts Hurd says Democrats, media are being manipulated by Iran Bottom Line MORE has achieved a reputation for being an independent Republican with intellectual integrity. He has also indicated he won’t be running for reelection. Recently he said he was not yet willing to vote for impeachment based on the evidence developed so far in the public record. He did not explain why other than to say he did not think there was sufficient evidence that Mr. Trump had committed a crime.

I start with the definition of an impeachable offense in the Constitution. Article Two, Section 4 states that a president should be impeached by the House and removed by the Senate if he is guilty of “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

“Treason” and “Bribery” are well-defined under the law. But here is how Hamilton defined the latter vague phrase, “high Crimes and Misdemeanors” in Federalist Paper No. 65: “….those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or in other words, from the abuse or violation of the public trust…[and] relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself.” (Emph. added). Note Hamilton does not mention the commission of a crime.

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So, I ask Rep. Hurd, respectfully, to answer three questions.

First, do you agree that the following facts have been proven beyond any dispute? (If not, which ones do you dispute?)

Trump’s own words. President TrumpDonald John TrumpSanders apologizes to Biden for supporter's op-ed Jayapal: 'We will end up with another Trump' if the US doesn't elect progressive Democrats: McConnell impeachment trial rules a 'cover up,' 'national disgrace' MORE, in his July 25, 2019, telephone phone call to Ukraine President Zelensky, asked the leader of a foreign government to investigate an opposition party and his possible political opponent in the 2020 presidential campaign. That is an indisputable fact. Period. Mr. Trump also tied the provision of military aid to Ukraine to Zelensky’s willingness to announce investigations of Democrats. Immediately after President Zelensky mentioned such aid on the July 25 phone call, President Trumps said: “do me a favor, though.” (The meaning of “though” is akin to the word “however,” or “but”). Actually, in the call Mr. Trump asked for two favors: first, to investigate Democrats for working with Ukraine to help Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDemocratic debates are magnet for lobbyists NYT editorial board endorses Warren, Klobuchar for Democratic nomination for president Sanders v. Warren is just for insiders MORE defeat Mr. Trump in the 2016 election. Second, a few minutes later, he said “one other thing” – note the word “other” – i.e., he sought corruption investigations of former Vice President Joseph Biden and his son. See here.

Testimony by Trump Administration Officials. Trump’s political appointee and mega-donor, EU Ambassador Gordon SondlandGordon SondlandTrump lawyers urge senators to swiftly acquit Trump in impeachment trial Parnas pressure grows on Senate GOP Five takeaways from Parnas's Maddow interview MORE, told the House Intelligence Committee under oath that, after his many personal conversations with Mr. Trump, he knew there was, in fact, a “quid pro quo” in Mr. Trump’s demands on President Zelensky. He meant that Mr. Trump would only release military arms to Ukraine IF Mr. Zelensky made a public announcement of investigations of the Democrats concerning the 2016 election and regarding corruption by Vice President Biden and his son.

So, my second question for Mr. Hurd is: Based on these indisputable facts regarding Mr. Trump’s words and conduct, and testimony by Ambassador Sondland, who talked many times, directly to Mr. Trump, do you agree that this indisputable evidence meets the legal definition of the crime of attempted bribery of Mr. Zelensky: i.e., Mr. Trump’s offer of a “thing of value” (the release of the military aid and a White House meeting with President Trump) was made in order to induce the Ukrainian president officially to announce publicly Democratic investigations? If you see no crime, then at the very least do you agree that when Mr. Trump’s request of Mr. Zelensky to interfere in our presidential elections for Mr. Trump’s personal political benefit fits Hamilton’s definition of an “abuse or violation of a public trust” and “injuries done immediately to the society itself?

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And the third question I ask of Rep. Hurd is the most important: If these are the constitutional standards for impeachment, and these are the indisputable facts, why would you not vote for impeachment? Specifically, my question is: If not now, then when?

I hope you respond. Even if we disagree, it will improve the process of dialogue and understanding that the American people need … now more than ever.

Lanny Davis, an attorney in Washington, served as President Clinton’s special counsel from 1996-98 and was a member of President George Bush’s Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board in 2006-07. He is co-founder of the law firm of Davis Goldberg Galper PLLC and the strategic media and public affairs firm of Trident DMG. He authored, “Crisis Tales: Five Rules for Coping with Crises in Business, Politics, and Life” (2013). He has been an opinion columnist for The Hill for over 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @LannyDavis.