Harvard Law School professor John Coates said on Friday that President Donald Trump committed an impeachable offense during former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch’s testimony before Congress, reports Newsweek.
“Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad,” Trump tweeted during the hearing, proceeding to question the ambassador’s career and credentials.
“She started off in Somalia, how did that go? Then fast forward to Ukraine, where the new Ukrainian President spoke unfavorably about her in my second phone call with him,” he added, arguing that he has the right to appoint ambassadors as he sees fit.
According to Coates, Trump’s attempt to defend himself against Yovanovitch’s claims is in and of itself an impeachable offense.
According to the legal expert, the president not only attacked a Congressional witness, but also intimidated her, while spreading false information about her record.
“And now the President of the United States is publicly attacking a witness in a Congressional impeachment hearing while she is testifying. He is lying about her, her record, and the Constitution, and is threatening her — itself an independent impeachable offense,” Coates commented.
During the hearing, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, who is leading the impeachment probe, revealed to Yovanovitch that the president is attacking her, asking her to comment on whether the attacks are affecting her willingness to share information with the lawmakers present at the hearing.
Yovanovitch said that she found the attacks to be “very intimidating.”
According to Coates, the tweets also demonstrate that the president’s “instinct” is to go on the attack whenever he feels threatened.
The legal expert compared the president’s behavior to that of a mobster.
“Once caught in a crime, Trump’s mob-schooled instinct is to intimidate witnesses — yet another crime,” he said, suggesting that the president is guilty of witness tampering.
Not all legal experts agree with Coates’ assessment, however. Jordan Libowitz, a spokesman for the watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), refrained from describing Trump’s attacks as an impeachable offense.
He called the tweets a “serious optical issue,” opining that they are not criminal.
Right now, President Trump is watching our hearing and tweeting baseless attacks against Ambassador Yovanovitch.
This is witness intimidation in real time. And we won’t stand for it. pic.twitter.com/2MngDNJUaw
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) November 15, 2019
Some legal experts claim that Trump should have been impeached much earlier. For instance, former President Richard Nixon’s White House Counsel John Dean said in a recent interview that Trump “should have been impeached the day he walked in.”
According to Dean, Trump should have been impeached for using the office of the presidency to enrich himself, and for obstructing justice during former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference.