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Legal scholar calls Sondland testimony ‘most chilling’ evidence Trump used power of office for private ‘political benefit’

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Stanford Law School professor Pamela Karlan on Wednesday told House impeachment investigators that the “most chilling” evidence that President Donald Trump was pursuing his own political gain in Ukraine came from the November 20 testimony of Gordon Sondland, the U.S. Ambassador to the European Union.

Karlan, one of four legal scholars to testify during Wednesday’s Judiciary Committee hearing, said she spent her entire Thanksgiving break reading transcripts from previous public impeachment hearings in the House Intelligence Committee.

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The “most striking” line from the witness testimony, said Karlan, was Sondland’s claim that Trump did not care whether Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky actually opened an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden.

“He had to announce the investigations. He didn’t actually have to do them, as I understood it,” Sondland told impeachment investigators last month. “The only thing I heard from [Trump’s personal attorney Rudy] Giuliani or otherwise was that they had to be announced in some form, and that form kept changing.”

Karlan told the Judiciary Committee that Sondland’s testimony undermines the Republican narrative that Trump’s behavior toward Ukraine stemmed from genuine concerns about corruption.

“What I took that to mean was this was not about whether Vice President Biden actually committed corruption or not,” Karlan said. “This was about injuring somebody who the president thinks of as a particularly hard opponent. That’s for his private beliefs.”

“There’s a lot to suggest here that this was about political benefit,” Karlan added. “What the Constitution cares about is that we have free elections. And so it is only in the president’s interest, it is not the national interest, that a particular president be elected or be defeated at the next election. The Constitution is indifferent to that.”

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Three of the four legal scholars who testified Wednesday, including Karlan, said they believe Trump committed the “impeachable high crime and misdemeanor of abuse of power” by soliciting Ukrainian interference in the 2020 presidential election.

The lone outlier was George Washington University professor Jonathan Turley, who was called to testify by Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee.

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During her opening remarks (pdf), Karlan said the evidence that has emerged from the House impeachment inquiry into Trump “reveals a president who used the powers of his office to demand that a foreign government participate in undermining a competing candidate for the presidency.”

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“And it shows a president who did this to strong-arm a foreign leader into smearing one of the president’s opponents in our ongoing election season,” said Karlan. “Put simply, a candidate for president should resist foreign interference in our elections, not demand it. If we are to keep faith with the Constitution and our Republic, President Trump must be held to account.”

Karlan asked viewers to “imagine living in a part of Louisiana or Texas that’s prone to devastating hurricanes and flooding.”

“What would you think if you lived there and your governor asked for a meeting with the president to discuss getting disaster aid that Congress has provided for?” Karlan asked. “What would you think if that president said, ‘I would like you to do us a favor? I’ll meet with you, and send the disaster relief, once you brand my opponent a criminal.’”

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Watch:

Impeachment HQ, a joint project of progressive groups Stand Up America and Defend the Republic, said in an email to supporters Wednesday that the first impeachment hearing in the House Judiciary Committee “has been absolutely devastating for Donald Trump.”

“The country’s leading constitutional scholars testified under oath that Trump’s conduct meets the constitutional standard for impeachment,” the groups said.

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2020 Election

Lindsey Graham keeps begging Fox Views viewers for donations: ‘They’re killing me money-wise’

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Embattled Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham went on Fox News multiple times on Thursday to beg their right-wing audience for campaign donations.

Graham started his day on the Fox News show "Fox and Friends" -- where he begged for money.

“My opponent will raise almost $100 million in the state of South Carolina,” said Graham.

“The most money ever spent in the state on a Senate race was by me in 2014 when I spent $13 million. He raised $6 million from the time Justice Ginsburg passed away, within 72 hours and God bless Justice Ginsburg. We’re celebrating her life. I appreciate waiting ’til Saturday to announce her replacement. But I am being killed financially," he admitted. "This money is because they hate my guts.”

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‘Breonna’s Law’ legislator arrested by Louisville police for first-degree rioting: report

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A spokesman for a police union in Louisville announced on Thursday that the only black woman in the Kentucky legislator had been arrested while protesting the lack of charges for the killing of Breonna Taylor by the Louisville Metro Police Department.

"Kentucky State Rep. Attica Scott, author of legislation known as "Breonna’s Law," was arrested with others Thursday evening during protests demanding justice for Breonna Taylor," WDRB-TV reports. "Scott, a Louisville Democrat, was among a group of individuals arrested near the main branch of the Louisville Free Public Library and First Unitarian Church at the intersection of South Fourth and York streets, according to Tracy Dotson, a spokesman for Louisville Corrections Lodge #77 Fraternal Order of Police union. Scott was charged with first-degree rioting and failure to disperse, Dotson said."

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2020 Election

WATCH: Late-night hosts go off on Trump for ‘chilling’ plan ‘to steal the election’

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Late-night television hosts harshly criticized President Donald Trump for refusing to say there would be a peaceful transition of power if he loses the November election.

"In one of the more chilling moments of his presidency -- and they've been a few -- Donald Trump refused to commit to a peaceful transition of power as Republicans formulated the plan to steal the election through the courts," Seth Meyers explained.

"We're as close as we've ever been to losing our democracy and watching our government transform into an autocratic regime," he continued. "It's happen right in front our eyes right now, you don't need to wait for Trump to roll down Pennsylvania Avenue on a tank in green fatigues with a long chin-beard -- especially since if he did try to grow one he'd probably just look like a very sick chihuahua."

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