House Democrats, on the second day of their opening arguments at the Senate impeachment trial, used a familiar face to make their case against President Donald Trump. In a 1999 video clip played on the Senate floor, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a close ally of the president, can be seen directly contradicting a core plank of Trump’s current defense.
So far, Trump’s counsel has argued that his actions do not constitute a crime or a violation of the law, and as such, do not meet the threshold that’s needed for impeachment. This reasoning is flawed for a variety of reasons, as Vox’s Ian Millhiser has explained, and it appears Graham once agreed.
In a clip introduced by House impeachment manager Jerry Nadler, Graham is seen explaining — during President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial in 1999 — why an abuse of power by the president qualifies as a “high crime and misdemeanor.”
“What’s a high crime?” Graham says in the video. “It doesn’t even have to be a crime. It’s just when you start using your office and you’re acting in a way that hurts people, you’ve committed a high crime.”
The two articles of impeachment passed by the House last December charge Trump with abuse of power in his alleged efforts to obtain political favors in exchange for military aid to Ukraine, and obstruction of Congress.
As Millhiser wrote, Trump counsel’s pushback on these charges isn’t exactly backed by legal experts or existing precedent:
And Nadler, for much of his Thursday remarks hammered on this exact point, citing testimony from numerous legal scholars including Jonathan Turley, an expert witness called by House Republicans last year.
“Everyone except President Trump and his lawyers agree that presidents can be impeached for abuse of power,” Nadler emphasized. Everyone, it seems, including Graham’s younger self.