New York: As the impeachment alarm has engulfed President Donald Trump's White house and a second whistleblower has come forward about the former's dealings with Ukraine and asking for dirt on his political opponent Joe Biden, Americas top legal minds weighed in on the big questions that were consuming Washington D.C.: Is Trump asking for dirt from a foreign country an impeachable offence? Was this about personal interest or foreign policy? Does the House have enough evidence to impeach Trump? What does this moment mean in the wide arc of Americas history? Is this what impeachment was made for?
"I think this ranks with or right above Watergate, just historically speaking," Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize-winning and New York Times bestselling presidential historian and journalist, told MSNBC on Sunday night. We bring you headline takeaways from legal experts' and historians' comments to US networks on Sunday.
Jon Meacham, presidential historian:
"It was not about feelings. It's not about opinion. It's about fact, one of the questions we have to resolve in the country, and we're kind of in an unfolding civics lesson about it is, are we willing to acknowledge fact for what it is, as opposed to interpreting it? I would say this is more serious than Andrew Johnson. The issues that surrounded the Andrew Johnson impeachment are existential. It was about white supremacy, was about the verdict of the Civil War. I think this ranks with or right above Watergate, just historically speaking. This is what impeachment was created for. Art Buchwald, the great humorist, was never better than during Watergate. And as I think he later put it, he didn't have to work that hard. This is the kind of period that we write books about, and shape generations of politicians Watergate shaped a generation of politicians, McCarthy shaped a generation of politicians, the New Deal, there are there are these important inflection moments that live far beyond where we are. And I think we're unquestionably right in the middle of one of those."
Eugene Robinson, Washington Post columnist:
"It provides a test to the system because here is someone (Trump) who lies all the time and sometimes blurts out important truths. And so how seriously does the House does the whole process take? I guess we'll test the proposition of whether we can take the President's words seriously at all, which is a ridiculous question to have to ask about for the United States. You cannot take someone seriously if you cannot believe a word they say. Yet, that will be part of the defence."
Maya Wiley, former counsel to the New York Mayor:
"It's a confession that the thing is both happening and bad, which was not where he (Trump) was 10 days ago. You know, it does seem to say, 'Oh, I have to get away from the set to blame somebody'."
Melissa Murray, Law Professor, New York University:
"The Constitution says nothing about how the (Senate) vote should happen. But generally these kinds of things are done called voice for roll call vote, where you name the senators name, then you actually provide your vote. There is no secret vote in the Senate rules."
John Flannery, former federal prosecutor:
"This wasn't about foreign policy. This was about personal interest. This was about his election. This was about having dirt on what appeared to be one of his principal topics in the general election. There's a big difference between talking about policy and talking about what favours him and an election. We have evidence independent of what started this, which was the whistleblower. This is one of those cases in which the entire nation knows."