Professor Martin Flaherty is quoted in a Quartz article that attempts to distinguish what is an impeachable offense and what is against the law within the context of the current investigation into President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.
Did the president break any laws?
To be impeachable, a presidential action does not need to break a law. Still, in this case, his actions might have. If the investigation found that Trump abused his position to gain competitive advantage over his adversary in the election, that would amount to soliciting a valuable contribution to his campaign from a foreign entity, which is forbidden by campaign finance laws. In order to be a criminal violation, a contribution needs to be more than $2,000. But for it to be a civil violation, any amount—monetary or otherwise—will do.
“In this case you have the president having authorized a private individual, Rudy Giuliani, outside any government accountability, to run basically a private or personal investigation,” McCallion said, adding that this is outside any due process.
“The phone call was through these private parties to further the goals of the Trump 2020 campaign,” McCallion said.
Even if the objective wasn’t to advance his career, the president can’t just personally pursue justice through private citizens outside his administration. While maybe not as egregious an an abuse of power, such behavior is problematic and shows contempt of due process, said Martin Flaherty, a law professor at Fordham and Princeton.
“The ordinary way is to go through the department of justice,” Flaherty told Quartz. “The president acted outside the internal executive guidelines.”
But is acting outside of accepted guidelines a crime? It’s not.