Constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe gave Turley poor marks, commenting on Twitter that Turley’s “call for solid evidence was a truism. He gave no reason at all to regard the evidence gathered by [Rep. Adam B. Schiff] as insufficient to establish impeachable offenses.” Tribe also tweeted that Turley made a fatal error in pointing out a “French mistress” would be a “thing of value” in a bribery case. Tribe observed, “Fake dirt on Biden was of way more value to Trump than any number of French (or Russian) mistresses. [Turley] has cooked Trump’s French goose.”
Turley made some arguments that frankly do leave one wondering why Republicans thought he would be valuable. For example, Turley acknowledged, “[Trump’s] call was anything but ‘perfect’ and his reference to the Bidens was highly inappropriate.” It was highly “inappropriate” because we do not invite foreign governments to investigate political rivals. The “ask” was in and of itself a serious and impeachable act, especially given Trump’s own statements that he will continue to invite foreign meddling.
Turley also confessed, “The use of military aid for a quid pro quo to investigate one’s political opponent, if proven, can be an impeachable offense.” And we would assume that conditioning a White House meeting desperately needed by an ally could also be an impeachable act. Well, we had multiple witnesses including Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland testify to precisely that. Experienced prosecutors, I am quite certain, could get a conviction under the criminal standard, beyond a reasonable doubt.
Even Turley’s primary excuse for not proceeding to impeachment is helpful to Democrats. They cannot, he says, do a thorough investigation without the testimony of key senior officials. Hmm, doesn’t that mean Trump has obstructed Congress in a way Richard Nixon never did? (Turley incorrectly asserted that Nixon defied court orders; in fact, the third of his impeachment articles referenced refusal to respond to subpoenas.)
Turley would prefer Congress wait for the testimony of figures such as former national security adviser John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. Conservative lawyer and Trump antagonist George Conway suggests, “In the spirit of compromise, which I think is missing from this age, may I suggest this: Let’s impeach him now but keep investigating, and if we find more evidence, impeach him again.”
That shouldn’t be taken merely as a taunt. Why not impeach Trump now for inviting a foreign power to investigate an individual to further the president’s reelection spots and hold off until we get definitive rulings on witnesses who would bolster an article of impeachment based on the quid pro quo (aid and a meeting for dirt)? Even without additional witnesses, Congress could still impeach on the quid pro quo based on earlier testimony.
In short, Republicans once more appear to be their own worst enemies. “Ultimately, [Turley’s] presence is a reminder of the hypocrisy of the Republican position. He testified before Congress to advocate for Bill Clinton’s impeachment,” former prosecutor Joyce White Vance tells me. “But now, he’s concerned about the country’s future if we impeach a president who endangered our national security to [get] extra help with his campaign from a vulnerable ally.” If Turley is an example of the type of witnesses they think helpful, perhaps Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) should allow them to call many more.