NYU Law experts assess impeachment trial as it happens

The January 29 Latham & Watkins Forum turned an eye on President Trump’s impeachment in the middle of the Senate trial. Moderated by Dean Trevor Morrison, the discussion included Distinguished Scholar in Residence and Adjunct Professor of Law Preet Bharara; Professor of Practice and Distinguished Scholar in Residence Anne Milgram ’96; and Michael Waldman ’87, president of NYU Law’s Brennan Center for Justice. 

Michael Waldman, Anne Milgram, Preet Bharara, and Trevor Morrison.
Michael Waldman '87, Anne Milgram '96, Preet Bharara, and Trevor Morrison

The panel of experts analyzed the key arguments of the defense and the prosecution, how the proceedings compared with a court trial, the strategic considerations involved in drafting the articles of impeachment, and contested definitions of executive privilege.

Selected remarks from the conversation:

Anne Milgram ’96: “Every single element of bribery is actually in Article I of impeachment for abuse of power. It’s an interesting question of why they chose not to specifically name it…. I think what they were trying to do was go very broad, go very simple for the American public to understand bribery. You know, when you get into ‘Was there quid pro quo? Was there not?’ people seem to be a little confused publicly with just the dialogue, so I think they went for simplicity.” [video 17:19-17:56]

Preet Bharara: “The vast majority of Democrats, including the leadership…most importantly the boss, Nancy Pelosi, the speaker, [were] against impeachment. [She] bucked her own party and a lot of her constituencies for months and months and months during the Mueller investigation. …. On July 24 Bob Mueller testifies, and it went a particular way. And then the very next day Donald Trump decides to make this phone call which is the nub of the impeachment inquiry, and I feel like Nancy Pelosi and others in some ways acted the way that I have seen judges act…. I’ve seen judges in court be convinced, ‘Well, I don’t know if this is such a bad person. I’m going to give this person a break at sentencing….’ And then you see that person commit another crime or violate probation or supervised release, comes back in the courtroom, and then the judge is like, ‘What am I going to do with this guy? I need to make a strong statement.’” [video 33:48-34:59]

Michael Waldman ’87: “It is also the case that we are using impeachment more than we have in the past. There was one…presidential impeachment in the first 180 years of the Constitution, and then there’ve been three in the last 50 years…and no presidents removed. So there is a reality that it is becoming a little bit ‘normalized.’ But that may not be the end of the world, because there are few other mechanisms for a full airing of charges in our Constitution.” [video 35:34-36:05]

Watch the full video of the discussion (1 hr, 4 min):

Posted March 9, 2020