A group of 16 law professors from Texas universities were among hundreds of legal scholars who signed an open letter stating President Donald Trump has "engaged in impeachable conduct."
The letter, which was addressed to Congress, was posted Friday on Medium. In the letter, the legal experts say they take no position on whether Trump committed a crime, but say that the president's conduct wouldn't necessarily need to be criminal in order to be impeachable.
In the letter, the legal scholars write that there is "overwhelming evidence" that Trump engaged in impeachable conduct — namely, that he withheld millions of dollars of aid to Ukraine and tried to use it as a bargaining chip to extract political favors from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky:
We do not reach this conclusion lightly. The Founders did not make impeachment available for disagreements over policy, even profound ones, nor for extreme distaste for the manner in which the President executes his office. Only “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors” warrant impeachment. But there is overwhelming evidence that President Trump betrayed his oath of office by seeking to use presidential power to pressure a foreign government to help him distort an American election, for his personal and political benefit, at the direct expense of national security interests as determined by Congress. His conduct is precisely the type of threat to our democracy that the Founders feared when they included the remedy of impeachment in the Constitution.
More than 800 faculty members from law schools across the country signed the letter, including six from Southern Methodist University's Dedman School of Law, four from the Texas A&M University School of Law, six from the University of Texas School of Law and one from the Texas Tech School of Law.
Dale Carpenter, an SMU professor of law, was among those who signed the letter. Carpenter said it was important that the letter doesn't take a position on whether Trump's actions amounted to a crime, but also argues that impeachable offenses could include conduct other than crimes. He also noted that the letter doesn't take a position on whether Trump should be convicted in the Senate and removed from office.
Carpenter received a copy of the letter last week when it was sent to law professors across the country. It's important for all citizens to speak up against abuses of power, Carpenter said, but especially those who have devoted careers to studying and writing about the U.S. Constitution.
Carpenter noted that the letter is limited to the Ukraine affair and doesn't deal with any of Trump's other conduct, including anything outlined in the Mueller report. He said it's important that the impeachment process remain as narrowly tailored as possible in order to avoid setting an overly broad precedent for impeachment.
"This is an extraordinary moment in American history, and it should not be taken lightly," Carpenter said.
On Tuesday morning, House Democrats unveiled two articles of impeachment against Trump: one for abuse of power, in connection with his efforts to coerce Ukrainian officials to open an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden's son Hunter Biden; and a second for obstruction of Congress, related to his directing White House staffers to ignore congressional subpoenas.
The House is expected to vote on the articles of impeachment next week. If approved, the articles would then go to the Senate, where a trial is expected to begin next month.