The GW Commencement Controversy: A Response To Rep. Susan Wild

This weekend, I was unable to attend our law school graduation after traveling to Utah to speak to the Federal Bar Association. I have only missed a couple of graduations in almost 30 years of teaching. I soon, however, received emails from students and colleagues that made me somewhat thankful that I was unable to attend.

This year’s commencement speaker was Rep. Susan Wild (D) who represents the 7th District in Pennsylvania and is a distinguished graduate of our law school. Wild chose the commencement address to launch into a personal attack that accused me of being an example of the use of law for “wrongful ends.” She falsely accused me of changing a critical legal point in my testimony in the Clinton and Trump impeachment hearings on whether impeachable conduct must be indictable crimes. I felt that a response was warranted.

Rep. Wild surprised many in the political tenor of her remarks, despite her other positive and inspiring points. These commencements are celebrations for our community as a whole, including students and family members who hold opposing views. While a minority to be sure, George Washington does have Republican, libertarian, and conservative members as well as those who subscribe to pro-life positions. As someone who has spoken at such commencements, it is a time when most of us avoid political partisanship and focus on the accomplishments of the students and our shared values.

Rep. Wild had many of the traditional and inspiring elements of a commencement speech. However, she suddenly and surprisingly veered off with an attack on my character, academic integrity, and scholarship. She made no effort to reach out to me before the commencement and clearly made no effort to confirm the underlying allegation. Indeed, she had every reason to expect me to be there (as I often am) and to just sit silently as she attacked my character. If Rep. Wild believes that I have misused my academic position for “wrongful ends,” this was the wrongful means to raise such false allegations, particularly without a modicum of research.

Here is the passage:

“You must be wary of those seeking to use their influence and their expertise to wrongful ends. GW Law, for example, has a tenured professor who is without question well versed in constitutional law but has recently made a name for himself on cable news and social media by undermining his own past well documented scholarship. A law professor who at one time strenuously advocated that a president need not commit an indictable offense to be impeached and in just this past year argued the opposite for a president more to his liking. A president no less who instigated an insurrection and a bloody assault on our democratic process and the rule of law.”

While probably unsurprising for many in our age of rage, the use of a commencement to attack a faculty member was unprecedented at our graduation ceremonies. What was equally astonishing is that a member of Congress would use such an occasion to make a claim that is not only demonstrably untrue but easily confirmed as untrue.

I did indeed testify at both the impeachment of President Bill Clinton and the first impeachment of President Donald Trump. Remarkably, everything else that Rep Wild said in that statement was overtly false.

First, it is not true that my testimony was influenced by my preference of Trump over Clinton. To the contrary, in the Clinton hearing, I testified that I voted for Bill Clinton. In the Trump hearing, I testified that I voted against Donald Trump. None of that had bearing on my constitutional views, but the suggestion that I favored a president “more to [my] liking” is absurd. Indeed, in the Trump hearing, I criticized the call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and noted my disagreement with the positions of President Trump.

That brings us to the thrust of Rep. Wild’s accusation that I changed my position on whether impeachment articles must be based on indictable crimes.

I repeatedly stated in both the Clinton and Trump hearings the same position on indictable offenses. I expressly stated that impeachment articles do not have to be based on criminal or indictable acts. I have argued that past Congresses have often looked to the criminal code and cases as a measure of alleged impeachable offenses –  a practice that I support. However, I emphasized that indictable criminal acts are not required by the Constitution.

Since Rep. Wild focuses on how my Trump testimony changed on this issue, I will focus on the Trump hearing to keep this response reasonably short. I will note, however, that Bill Clinton was accused of a criminal act: perjury. Democrats agreed (as did a later federal judge) that Clinton knowingly committed perjury under oath, but Democratic witnesses like Professor Laurence Tribe insisted that impeachment was simply not that broad. I disagreed and still do.

In the Trump impeachment, I will note at the outset that not only did I repeat my position from the Clinton impeachment, but the House managers repeatedly relied on my position to support their articles of impeachment. Indeed, they cited that position in both impeachments, including featuring a statement in the second trial where I maintained that articles of impeachment do not require criminal or indictable acts.

In my written testimony, I repeatedly stated the exact opposite of what Rep. Wild claims. Here are a couple of examples:

“As I have stressed, it is possible to establish a case for impeachment based on a non-criminal allegation of abuse of power. However, although criminality is not required in such a case, clarity is necessary”

“As discussed below, the strongest claim is for a non-criminal abuse of power if a quid pro quo can be established on the record.”

“While all three acts in the impeachment standard refer to criminal acts in modern parlance, it is clear that “high crimes and misdemeanors” can encompass non-criminal conduct. It is also true that Congress has always looked to the criminal code in the fashioning of articles of impeachment.”

I repeatedly made the same point in my oral testimony. For example:

“There’s a reason why every past impeachment has established crimes, and it’s obvious. It’s not that you can’t impeach on a noncrime, you can. In fact, noncrimes have been part of past impeachments, it’s just that they have never gone up alone or primarily as the basis for impeachment. That’s the problem here. If you prove a quid pro quo, you might have an impeachable offense. But to go up only on a noncriminal case would be the first time in history. So why is that the case?”

While emphasizing that past Congresses have relied on the criminal codes and cases as an objective measure of impeachment allegations, I repeatedly and unambiguously maintained that impeachment articles could be based on non-criminal claims.

I disagreed with my fellow witnesses in opposing the proposed articles of impeachments on bribery, extortion, campaign finance violations or obstruction of justice. I argued that these alleged impeachable acts were at odds with controlling definitions of those crimes and that Congress has historically looked to the criminal code and cases for guidance on such allegations.

The committee ultimately rejected articles based on those theories and adopted the only two articles that I noted could be legitimately advanced: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Chairman Jerrold Nadler even ended the hearing by quoting my position on abuse of power. The House managers also relied on my view that such a non-criminal article of impeachment was permissible under the Constitution.

Nevertheless, I opposed impeachment on this record as incomplete and insufficient for submission to the Senate. I argued for the House to wait and complete the record to support such claims. Ironically, this is the very issue with which I had a long disagreement (here and here and here and here) with Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz and my opposing position was featured by the House managers in the second impeachment.

Over the decades, my views on constitutional interpretation have changed with a greater emphasis on textual authority. I am not alone in such natural evolution of views, even on impeachment. However, my views on impeachment have not changed significantly with the exception of retroactive trials. That was not an issue in the Clinton impeachment or prior presidential impeachments before Trump’s second impeachment.

It is, of course, ironic that Rep. Wild would instruct our graduating class on being righteous lawyers by making a demonstrably false allegation against one of their professors. Her attack on use of the law for “wrongful ends” is clearly based on her disagreement with my views. However, rather than simply disagree with those views in a respectful and factual way, she made false public allegations against my character and academic integrity.

I hope that Rep. Wild will now have the integrity to make an equally public apology for her false statements.

Here is the commencement address. The key passage is found around 1:05: https://law.commencement.gwu.edu/

160 thoughts on “The GW Commencement Controversy: A Response To Rep. Susan Wild”

  1. Fans of Tucker Carlson like to think they are so smart, but, if put to the test, you would discover that they are not.

    1. Have you put any “to the test?” Didn’t think so. But you run along and think that what you are told to think is the right thing, you are very useful that way..there is a term for that kind of person…

    2. The people that follow entertainer Tucker Carlson are pathetic and are swayed too easily. It’s almost like his followers are mindless. If Tucker says something is true, it’s true! If Tucker says something is false, it’s false! I don’t believe I have ever heard him or any of his followers use an argument that is grounded in fact or reality. They want to live in an echo chamber, so they can feel cozy.

      1. @Brian – What a silly mistake: you misspelled CNN/MSNBC as Tucker Carlson. I’ve spent the past few years wishing Mr. Turley would add an “Edit” button so posters can correct goofy little typos and such like this. Maybe someday…

  2. While our leftists defend the criminality seen in this past election (2000 Mules), insults made to our host, and the loss of parent’s rights, Americans are suffering, and it looks like things are getting worse.

    “A poll from NBC News asked Americans, “Do you think that your family’s income is … going up faster than the cost of living, staying about even with the cost of living, or falling behind the cost of living?”

    In response, 65% said they are falling behind, and 28% said they are staying about even with the cost of living. Only 6% said their income is going up faster than the cost of living.”

    Will Americans remain as silent as they have and permit the ruination of our Constitutional Republic or will they start to resist?

    1. Sooooo what are you insinuating? That Americans aren’t getting paid enough to keep up with inflation? Looking for someone to blame perhaps?

      Maybe American are just not working hard enough. They may be slacking off due to COVID. No?

      How about taxes? Too high? Low? Trump’s taxes are still in effect. Should they be cut more?

      1. Trump’s tax measures put more money into my pocket, whereas printing money out of thin air, as noted recently by Musk and Bezos, created our current inflationary environment.

      2. Svelaz, let me deal with you being a waste of time. Below is enclosed my response to you on another subject. You goofed, as usual, but I am holding you to your words. You ran away from dozens of prior false claims proven wrong in the past.

        Why do you continue to demonstrate your ignorance? Is it masochism, or are you too Stupid to recognize your foolishness?

        Svelaz, I am just ensuring you had access to this earlier reply. When I use that reply to show how you run away after acting dopey, I want to avoid your excuse that you never saw the response. Enjoy.

        “Why don’t you post the original claim”
        Svelaz, what do you think was said? Tell us, and I will send the first post.
        The author of an article you linked to thought Howard Zinn wrote an excellent textbook on American history. If he is an excellent textbook writer, he would be an accurate textbook writer, which he is not. That was my point throughout.

      3. This present comment of yours is more of the same Stupidity.

        Here is part of the quote: “In response, 65% said they are falling behind, and 28% said they are staying about even with the cost of living. Only 6% said their income is going up faster than the cost of living.”

        You can figure out the rest for yourself, but you will likely be wrong based on your history.

    2. S. Meyer,
      Well, the best way this American knows how to “resist,” is I saw the inflationary train wreck coming last year, raised two hogs, expanded the gardens, making an additional payment on the house principal every month, my only debt. Get as self reliant, self resilient as possible, and depend on the government for a little as possible. Despite all that, I know when I fill up the tank, or look at the grocery bill, we are falling behind.
      Otherwise, vote!

      1. “Otherwise, vote!”

        We did vote, and the Democrats criminally stole the election. There is little doubt that the facts provided by 2000 Mules show more than enough votes to change the winner, and that is when the strictest of statistical measures are used.

        We do not hear enough news about 2000 Mules either on the MSM or Fox.

        Your suggestion to vote is perfect, but only if the elections are not lawless. If you haven’t already seen 2000 Mules, see it and encourage everyone else to do it. We need people to be angry at the leftist criminals so that legislatures in all the states don’t permit your vote to be wasted.

        Votes don’t count when there is voter fraud. Make your vote count 2000 Mules.

        1. Meyer says:

          “We do not hear enough news about 2000 Mules either on the MSM or Fox.”

          I wish Turley would just stop talking about “2000 Mules” already. It seems he can’t plug it enough among his followers. He must believe it is all too true.

          1. I don’t think Turley will discuss 2000 Mules until a legal case of significance is involved, either directly or indirectly. That is not his turf, something you do not understand.

            However, 2000 Mules is reasonably accurate, and the data it shows is incredible. From the statistical and selection viewpoints, they were right on target. I doubt they will be proven wrong and suspect that eventually, 2000 Mules will rock. Of course, that won’t happen with Democrats in control because they successfully distort the truth and lie.

            Biden should not be President for two reasons:
            1) He barely knows where he is
            2) Without illegal ballots, he would have lost.

            Why did Democrats want the election process to be insecure?

            Because if the election was not secure, they could win by cheating which they did.

            This hasn’t benefited the people of this nation; High prices, Inflation, Wars (Now they are sending soldiers to Somalia), Rioting, ever-increasing Racism and Tribalism, etc.

            See 2000 Mules.

            Vote the Democrats out and then work on voting a lot of Republicans out as well. We need our country back.

            1. Meyer says:
              “We do not hear enough news about 2000 Mules either on the MSM or Fox.”

              I wish Turley would just stop talking about “2000 Mules” already. It seems he can’t plug it enough among his followers. He must believe it is all too true.

              1. Have you seen 2000 Mules? If so, tell us what is wrong. If not, why not?

                Biden lost the election, and 2000 Mules proves it. Some of it was funny. I loved the one where the guy couldn’t stuff in all the ballots at once and dropped a bunch on the floor. You might enjoy that.

                I would love it if Turley commented on 2000 Mules, but as we both know his interest is in civil liberties, we must wait until some civil liberty claim is attached to 2000 Mules.

  3. Instead of destroying bridges to halt a Russia advance, why not just bomb the Russian forces at their source? That way, the bridges do not need to be rebuilt. Ukrainians should be trained on how to fly B-52s, which could have fighter escorts.

    ***

    Isolationists: their anti-war rhetoric is, ironically, prolonging the war. Wars persist and grow when warmongers such as Putin are not dealt with decisively from the start. Going to war to stop a war that has already been started by someone else is not the same context as starting a war. This should matter. To be taken seriously, one must know how not to take things out of context. Tucker Carlson does not know how not to take things out of context. Taking things out of context is a fallacy of logic. People who commit fallacies of logic are not rational people. People who commit fallacies of logic at the pleasure of their audience are rabble-rousing demagogues. This is pretty much how witch hunters operate. This is how Frankenstein-hunting villagers with torches and pitchforks operate. The fans of Tucker Carlson are simple-minded fools who cannot think critically.

    1. If you want a war, convince Congress to declare war you pathetic war monger. Did Smedley Butler, then the all time most decorated US Marine lie when he declared that, “War is a racket,” and “All wars are banker’s wars?” (Needless to say he repented of the five wars and “military conflicts” in which he fought valiantly.)

      You must be so happy to see a former Raytheon CEO/now the “Defense Dept.” Chief (formerly and more accurately War Dept.) sending billions of dollars to his prior company.

      If war is so great why can its death promoters and blood-letters like you not take the stage and convince the populace of the wars great benefits and declare war against nuclear armed Russia. If you want to fight for “democracy” how do you justify the US being bedmates with the Al Saud Krime Syndikat who beheads more citizens than does Isis?

      Did Obama and the current CIA Chief lie when they stated their current position which is that Ukraine means nothing to US security and that Russia would fight to the death a NATO-aligned Ukraine?

      Do you really love the Nazi-lead Azov Battalion having access to US-made weapons? Is anyone tracking what happens to US weaopnns once they entier Ukraine?

      Do you trust brain-dead Biden to make such decisions?

      How has the US war in Ukraine benefitted any American except for those in the MIC and to help hide Biden’s abject failures at home?

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